What Can Help With Alcohol Cravings?

Discover what can help with alcohol cravings, from coping strategies to dietary approaches and medications.

Understanding Alcohol Cravings

When battling addiction, understanding the nature and triggers of alcohol cravings can be critical. This knowledge can significantly aid in formulating strategies to manage and cope with these cravings, which is a vital part of recovery.

Nature of Cravings

Cravings for alcohol are common during the early stages of recovery, though they may persist for several years. Typically, a craving episode lasts only a few minutes but can trigger symptoms like anxiety, irritability, nausea, and headaches. It's important to note that craving can occur spontaneously, or it can be elicited by internal or external stimuli, known as cues. Internal cues may include emotional states like anxiety or symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal. On the other hand, external cues may include exposure to alcohol-related environments or objects, such as bottles of alcoholic beverages or advertisements.

Craving assessments can be conducted using various methods including single-item questionnaires, visual analog scales (VAS), multi-item questionnaires, physiological changes, or direct observation of drinking behavior. High levels of craving are associated with an increased probability of relapse, particularly during the early stages of the posttreatment period. Consequently, treatments that reduce craving have been shown to reduce subsequent alcohol use.

Triggers for Cravings

Different factors can trigger alcohol cravings. These include withdrawal symptoms, emotional triggers, and old habits. Withdrawal symptoms often include anxiety, irritability, nausea, and intense cravings for alcohol. Emotional triggers and situations, such as stress, can also lead to alcohol cravings. Additionally, habits like reaching for a drink after work or on weekends can act as cues to drink [1].

Recognizing these triggers can be the first step towards managing alcohol cravings effectively. The goal is to identify these triggers, understand their impact, and develop strategies to manage them. This proactive approach can be a key factor in reducing the risk of relapse and maintaining long-term sobriety.

By understanding the nature and triggers of alcohol cravings, individuals can better equip themselves to manage these challenges and continue on their path to recovery. The next sections will delve into coping strategies, professional help, dietary approaches, and medications that can help with alcohol cravings.

Coping Strategies for Alcohol Cravings

Alcohol cravings can be challenging to manage, especially in the early stages of recovery. However, there are effective strategies for dealing with these cravings. Here, we explore some of these coping strategies.

Acknowledging and Managing Cravings

One of the first steps in managing alcohol cravings is acknowledging them. Understanding that cravings are a common part of recovery can help reduce feelings of guilt or frustration. It is important to remember that a typical craving usually lasts only a few minutes and can trigger symptoms like anxiety, irritability, nausea, and headaches.

Once a craving is acknowledged, it can then be managed. Distracting oneself is a common and effective coping strategy. This could involve engaging in a physical activity like walking or jogging, or a mental activity like reading a book or solving a puzzle. The goal here is to divert attention away from the craving until it subsides.

Stress Management and Emotions

Stress and emotions can act as significant triggers for alcohol cravings. Learning to manage stress and emotions can be a helpful strategy. Techniques such as deep breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation can help reduce stress levels and promote emotional well-being. It’s also beneficial to have a strong support system in place. This can include trusted friends, family members, or a professional counselor or therapist.

Identifying and Avoiding Triggers

Alcohol cravings can be triggered by various internal or external cues. Internal cues may include emotional states like anxiety or symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal. External cues may include exposure to alcohol-related environments or objects, such as bottles of alcoholic beverages or advertisements.

Identifying these triggers can help individuals avoid situations that might provoke a craving. For example, if being in a certain environment (like a bar or a party where alcohol is served) triggers a craving, it might be best to avoid these places, especially in the early stages of recovery.

It's also crucial to note that high levels of craving are associated with an increased probability of relapse, particularly during the early stages of the posttreatment period. Therefore, treatments that reduce craving have been shown to reduce subsequent alcohol use.

In some cases, cravings can become overwhelming, and professional assistance may be needed. Seeking help from a specialist, GP, or contacting private providers like Priory for alcohol addiction treatment programs can provide round-the-clock support, therapy, family support, aftercare, and flexible treatment options.

Combining these strategies can significantly aid in coping with alcohol cravings. Remember, everyone's journey is unique, and what works for one person might not work for another. It's important to find what works best for you.

Professional Help for Alcohol Cravings

When it comes to understanding what can help with alcohol cravings, professional assistance often plays a pivotal role. This section delves into the importance of seeking specialist support and the benefits of professional assistance.

Seeking Specialist Support

Specialist support can be instrumental in managing alcohol cravings, especially when they become overwhelming Priory Group. This can include help from a General Practitioner (GP) or private providers like Priory that offer alcohol addiction treatment programs.

These programs provide comprehensive support, including round-the-clock assistance, therapy sessions, family support, aftercare, as well as flexible treatment options. They can be particularly beneficial for those who find it difficult to manage cravings on their own and need a structured and supportive environment to overcome their addiction.

Importance of Professional Assistance

Professional assistance is not only crucial in managing alcohol cravings but also plays a vital role in treating alcoholism as a whole. Treatments targeting the brain's reward system have been developed but are not always effective, with approximately three-quarters of individuals with alcohol dependency relapsing within the first year of treatment Imperial College London.

Three medications approved for treating alcoholism, naltrexone (ReVia™), acamprosate, and tiapride, are reported to reduce cravings. Additionally, disulfiram (Antabuse®) may also possess some anticraving activity source.

Moreover, professional assistance often includes the prescription of medications that can be used alone or in combination with counseling. These are usually prescribed by a primary care physician or other health professional NIAAA.

In conclusion, while self-help strategies can be effective in managing alcohol cravings, professional assistance from a healthcare provider or an addiction specialist can provide a more comprehensive and effective solution. Therefore, it is crucial to seek professional help if you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol cravings or dependency.

Dietary Approaches to Reduce Cravings

Diet plays a crucial role in managing alcohol cravings. Certain nutrients can support brain health and balance the body's chemistry, reducing the urge for alcohol. Let's explore how Vitamin B6, Omega-3 fatty acids, and maintaining a balanced diet can answer the question: 'What can help with alcohol cravings?'

Vitamin B6 and Alcohol Cravings

Vitamin B6 is a crucial nutrient that aids in the production of neurotransmitters, chemicals that transmit signals in the brain. Studies have shown that individuals with low levels of vitamin B6 may be more prone to experiencing alcohol cravings. Incorporating foods rich in vitamin B6, such as bananas, avocados, and chickpeas, into one's diet can support a healthier brain chemistry and reduce cravings [3].

Food Source Vitamin B6 Content
Banana 0.4 mg
Avocado 0.2 mg
Chickpeas 1.1 mg

Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Brain Health

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that play a significant role in brain health. They've been found to reduce alcohol cravings by supporting brain health and reducing inflammation. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds, can contribute significantly to reducing these cravings [3].

Food Source Omega-3 Content
Salmon 1.8 g
Walnuts 2.6 g
Flaxseeds 1.6 g

Importance of Balanced Diet

Eating regularly and maintaining a balanced diet can keep blood sugar levels stable, which may lessen alcohol cravings. High-protein foods, such as lean meats, fish, tofu, and legumes, can help stabilize blood sugar levels and provide amino acids necessary for neurotransmitter production, regulating mood and cravings.

Moreover, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, such as berries, leafy greens, and colorful bell peppers, can support brain health and reduce oxidative stress. This helps alleviate the physiological imbalances contributing to alcohol cravings [3].

In conclusion, a healthy and balanced diet is essential in managing alcohol cravings. Incorporating nutrient-rich foods into daily meals can be a simple yet effective strategy in combating alcohol cravings and promoting overall wellbeing.

Medications for Managing Alcohol Cravings

In addition to behavioral strategies and dietary approaches, medications can also play a crucial role in managing alcohol cravings. Several medications have been FDA-approved for this purpose, and others have shown promise in helping to reduce drinking.

FDA-Approved Medications

There are three FDA-approved medications to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD), namely Naltrexone (Vivitrol), Acamprosate, and Disulfiram.

Medication Formulation How It Works
Naltrexone (Vivitrol) Once-daily tablet or once-monthly injection Blocks the rewarding effects of alcohol
Acamprosate Tablet Helps reduce symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and lower cravings
Disulfiram Once-daily tablet Causes an unpleasant reaction when alcohol is consumed

Use of Naltrexone, Acamprosate, and Disulfiram

Naltrexone is an opioid blocker that reduces the rewarding effects of alcohol, making it less enjoyable and reducing cravings. It can be taken as a once-daily tablet or a once-monthly injection [4].

Acamprosate helps reduce symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and lower cravings. It is usually taken as a tablet and is meant to be started after quitting drinking.

Disulfiram is an alcohol blocker that causes an unpleasant reaction when alcohol is consumed, discouraging drinking. It is usually taken as a tablet once a day and should be started after being alcohol-free for at least 12 hours [4].

Other Medications for Alcohol Use Disorder

Although not FDA-approved for treating AUD, Topiramate (Topamax) and Gabapentin (Neurontin) have been shown to help reduce drinking.

Topiramate is thought to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms by balancing chemicals in the brain. Gabapentin, on the other hand, is thought to improve symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and normalize brain function [4].

Medication How It Works
Topiramate (Topamax) Reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms by balancing chemicals in the brain
Gabapentin (Neurontin) Improves symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and normalizes brain function

It's essential to discuss all medication options with a healthcare provider to understand the potential benefits, risks, and side effects. Medication, combined with other strategies such as behavioral therapy and dietary adjustments, can provide a comprehensive approach to managing alcohol cravings.

Seeking Assistance for Alcohol Cravings

Finding the right resources and assistance is a crucial part of managing alcohol cravings. This can involve reaching out to national helplines, exploring resources in different countries like Canada, and understanding the role of genetic factors in treatment options.

SAMHSA National Helpline

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a National Helpline (1-800-662-HELP) that provides free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year service. This helpline offers treatment referral and information for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders, such as alcohol cravings.

In 2020, the helpline received 833,598 calls, showing a 27% increase from 2019. It offers referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. The service operates in English and Spanish and provides an online treatment locator and a text messaging service for help.

For those without insurance or with insufficient insurance coverage, the SAMHSA Helpline can refer callers to state-funded treatment programs. They can also provide referrals to facilities that offer services on a sliding fee scale or accept Medicare or Medicaid [5].

Resources in Canada

For those residing in Canada, a wide range of resources is available for individuals struggling with alcohol cravings. These resources include overdose prevention and tobacco cessation services, accessible at any time.

Assistance can be sought by contacting the toll-free number 1-800-668-6868 or by texting 686868. Support for parents struggling with their child's substance use is available through the Parent-to-Parent Support service, which includes online support groups and an online contact form.

Harm reduction centers can also be found by contacting 1-902-470-8888 or 1-888-470-5888 for locations and support. Indigenous peoples in need of help with substance use, like alcohol cravings, can access culturally sensitive resources through programs like the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program and the National Youth Solvent Abuse Program.

Genetic Factors and Treatment Options

Understanding genetic factors can play a significant role in finding the best treatment options for alcohol cravings. Variations in genes can influence how a person responds to medications or therapies, making personalized treatment plans more effective. Genetic testing can help identify these variations, leading to more targeted and successful treatment strategies. It's important to consult with a healthcare professional or a genetic counselor to discuss these options and understand what might work best.

Remember, seeking professional help is crucial when dealing with alcohol cravings. Whether it's through a national helpline, local resources, or understanding your genetic makeup, taking the first step towards seeking help can make a significant difference.


[1]: https://www.priorygroup.com/addiction-treatment/alcohol-rehab/alcohol-cravings

[2]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6760374/

[3]: https://compassionbehavioralhealth.com/blog/7-foods-that-can-help-stop-alcohol-cravings/

[4]: https://www.goodrx.com/conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/which-medications-are-the-best-to-stop-drinking

[5]: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

[6]: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/get-help-with-substance-use.html

Don't Wait. Healing is a Phone Call Away.

Arista Recovery is here to help. We are committed to healing everyone who enters our doors from the inside out. No matter what stage our guests enter treatment, we strive to meet them right where they are.

Get Help Now