How Long Do Cravings Last After You Stop Using?

“I still have strong cravings to use, so my question is, does it get easier with time and treatment, or will I feel like this forever?”

The cravings that you feel should moderate soon.  It would be nice to be able to give you a simple yes or no, but you need to know a bit about what addiction actually is before you get our answer.

Drugs (including alcohol) make us feel good by imitating or increasing the levels of chemicals in the brain that act on the brain’s reward center. Different drugs do it in varied ways, but the overall effect is to overstimulate that part of the brain that gives us pleasurable sensations.

When over-stimulation occurs, our bodies try to bring things back into balance by reducing the natural production of those chemicals (neurotransmitters). Often, when the drugs wear off, we feel uncomfortable until the natural production of the chemicals resumes. We call this period of withdrawal a “hangover.”

With continued presence of the drugs, the body takes further steps: it begins to increase the number of receptor sites for the specific neurotransmitters in order to use up the surplus. Because of this, continued drug use causes “tolerance.” We need more of the drugs to fill up those extra hungry receptors, and we begin to feel uncomfortable when we don’t have them present in our bodies, or if they are present at too low a level. The process of addiction has begun.

Further drug use doesn't only increase the receptor sites. In its attempts to bring things back to normal, the brain slows production of the natural neurotransmitters. That means that when we stop the drugs, there are insufficient natural neurotransmitters, and we feel cravings and other symptoms of acute withdrawal. These vary, depending on how the drugs affected us to begin with, but they are generally the opposite of however we felt when we were using.

These feelings are most acute during the time the drugs are leaving our bodies, and begin to subside within days. However, the fun isn’t over. As George Carlin said, “Just because the monkey’s off your back, it doesn’t mean the circus has left town.” We will continue to feel discomfort until the body has shut down the extra receptor sites so that they are no longer begging for drugs, and until the natural production of neurotransmitters has resumed. This can take several months, and is referred to as Post-Acute Withdrawal.

Many authorities believe that the extra receptor sites just shut down, and don’t go away. They believe that they can easily be re-activated if drugs are reintroduced into the body.  That certainly seems to fit what we observe in real life.  That’s why we recommend abstinence. In most addicts, any drug use seems to slow and soon reverse the recovery process.

Because of this continued potential for discomfort, if we don’t take care of ourselves physically and mentally during the post-acute period, our risk of relapse is high. However, the discomfort tends to come and go, with good days and bad. Eventually the good days become more common, and the bad ones tend to occur less often and with reduced discomfort, until things are more-or-less back to normal.

You can most certainly look forward to a time when you no longer have the cravings, and those that you have will begin to ease off within a few more days. If you stay clean, eventually the discomfort will disappear entirely. Naturally, as addicts we want to feel better immediately, but it doesn’t work that way. We spent months or years getting our bodies used to drugs, so it’s hardly surprising that it takes quite a while to get over the effects.

Comments

  1. Going on three months sober now still have slight cravings how long do they last

  2. My body is sore and I can barely work. I’m shaky and my back pain is severe but what can I do to get through this?

  3. April swartz says:

    I was a addicted on adivan for 5 years it’s been almost 2months I didn’t just today started to crave again what she’ll I do not to relapse again

  4. Anonymous says:

    I am sober today 4 months and Istill you’re horrible cravings when I hear War Stories or see people I was involved wet at that time I was using I realize a lot of times I crave is because there was a trigger could be the littlest thing sometimes even dream about drugs it’s hard but I do know time goes on and one day I pray it stops and I can wake up in the morning just fine no cravings I saw it on my own no rehab just went to the doctor and went cold turkey had to be put on Suboxone and I don’t even want to take that but I do realize it’s a substitute for another drug every time you turn around there’s something that makes you want to do a drug or relapse and 99% do relapse and praying I’m not one of them but that’s will always be my choice God bless to all of you sincerely.. Gypsy

  5. Anonymous says:

    This. Sucks. Only been a week, one week and I’m seriously wondering if sobriety is worth it.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Yes it sucks you guys, Suboxone. I have a month and a half off from using 7 yrs. Its a nightmare but gets better

  7. Anonymous says:

    Take hot showers for the sore body, stay active; drink a lot of water. try and play sports, do not lay in bed it will feel much longer and painful than it has to be. try taking on your normal day activities while going through this phase as much as possible , like meet with a friend; even if its just to talk- you dont want to stay at home exhausting your thoughts. hope this helps.

  8. Ok guys I was on oyxicodone peracet for 6 yrs. yes I’m addicted. Having cravings bad. Mentally and physically drained. But I’ve had two neck surgeries and a fractured hip w a screw and a rod that goes to the knee. Very painful.. what do I take so I don’t have so much pain? I believe maybe some of my pain comes from the pills. I have legit pain.. I don’t want the ups and downs anymore.. please any advice would be helpful.. .Thank you

  9. mike howell says:

    was on oxyicotin for several for several years after the dr. started writing them to me. never once did he tell me the long range forcast. he was a butcher and kner it. he kept supplying the drug hoping i would go away or just die. never told me the long term results and now im paying for it. he butchered my spine and knew it. this was the only way to keep me shut up and again paying for it. been off oxys since oct 2017. but craving is still there along with my pain..

    randolph bishop my surgeon sucks!!!!!!!!!!! a butcher, druger dealer. even his wife was stealing his pads to write for her own pleasure untill the d,e,a, stopped.

    what can i do about the cravings????

    savannah georgia

  10. Poohmloh says:

    I’ve been using for two years and now taking methadone to stop using.. what makes me feel bad is that each day I drink methadone I still think about the drug and want to smoke again so I take here and there just to ease the cravings..I feel like once an addict always an addict,what can I do please help

  11. Im two weeks sober after being a regular drinker of 10/12 units per day for almost 50 years. Used to binge at 5pm over the last 4/5 years

    Did a home detox under medical supervision never had severe withdrawal symptoms just permanent discomfort

    Day 15 without a drink but i am unsteady on my feet and tend to shuffel walk, i guess its early days

    will keep going

Speak Your Mind