If you're trying to quit a drug or you're coming down from a binge, drug cravings are an expected reaction. Withdrawal from some drugs, such as heavy alcohol use, benzodiazepines and, in some cases, meth or opiates, can be risky without medical help. See your doctor or check into detox if this applies to you.
But if you've been clean for a while or aren't a heavy user, the following tips can help you ride out the urge to use without falling off the wagon.
1. Take a Walk
Almost any form of exercise will help you get through a bout of cravings. Walking tops the list. There are so many benefits of walking - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual - that taking a walk is guaranteed to make you feel better. Even if you aren't physically able to walk, try and have someone take you out in a wheelchair.
Getting outside and taking in some of the world around you, with no particular purpose other than to feel better, really works. The gentle, bilateral stimulation of walking is great for calming down an agitated mind. And with walking's positive effects on breathing and the nervous system, you'll find the cravings will subside considerably after 15 to 30 minutes.
2. Talk it Out
For many people, talking about how they feel when they are having cravings can help them feel more in control. It's great to have a companion when you're quitting or coming down from drugs; if you do, this is a good time to let them know how you feel. Tell them they don't have to say anything, that it would help just to have them listen to you.
Don't have anyone you can trust? There are plenty of places to turn for a sympathetic ear. Some outpatient drug treatment centers allow people to drop in, offer emergency appointments or have daily or weekly intake sessions. You might not be able to talk to someone immediately, but it is worth checking out. If you can afford to pay, many private counselors and psychologists will be able to see you at short notice. They are listed in the phone book or online.
If you don't want professional help but just want someone to talk to, there are plenty of options. Just look in your phone book or on the Web and you'll find a crisis line in your area, where people are trained to listen and help those in need of kind and understanding human contact. Another option is to talk to your doctor, who might even prescribe something to help. Even if you aren't religious, churches are often staffed by people who have a deep capacity for compassion and caring.
It may be important for you to talk to someone who understands your particular situation. This is where self-help groups can help. But sometimes they can be quite triggering, especially if they like to share "war stories." So, don't go to an NA group when you are having cravings unless it's a group you know well and you know provides a safe space.
Drug helplines are often the best of both worlds. You won't have to listen to anyone talking about getting high. Instead, you'll talk to a trained counselor or volunteer who knows what you're going through - and who may have been through it as well.