Addiction and Mental Health

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Taking Control of Cravings

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Taking Control of Cravings

by Julie Myers, PsyD, MSCP

Licensed Clinical Psychologist in San Diego;


Cravings for drugs or alcohol are controlled by a variety of brain chemicals, including norepinephrine, dopamine, and glutamate.  Many people describe their cravings as coming out of nowhere, as if these chemicals pop into their brains and create a cravings spontaneously.

These chemicals and the manifestations of cravings are actually triggered by stimuli from external environmental cues and internal mood states, particularly anxiety, irritability, and dysphoria.  Environmental cues can include familiar people, places or things, for e.g., being in a favorite place that you used to use.  Environmental triggers are often easier to identify than internal mood states, particularly if the moods are subtle.  For example, a mildly irritating discussion may be enough to trigger a craving, although it may be difficult to identify this discussion as the trigger.

So does this mean that you are at the mercy of the environment and your own internal mood states?  Absolutely not!   It means that you can minimize your cravings by employing ways to control your environment and modify your mood.  You have the power to choose what people, places and things you expose yourself to that might trigger a cravings.  You also have the power to recognize and change your own reactions, thereby changing your mood state.

The first step is to identify your specific triggers.  Try keeping a simple log of your cravings.  What environmental cue did you encounter?  What were you feeling?   Sit down and write it down.   Think about it backwards, from the time that the craving hit, backwards until you can identify something you believe triggered that craving.

If you can identify your triggers, you have taken the first step to taking control of your cravings.

Copyright (2011) Julie Myers, PysD:  Psychologist in San Diego.  All Rights Reserved.


Written by Julie Myers, PsyD, MSCP

December 4, 2011 at 9:22 pm

One Response

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  1. It’s good to know that there is a chemical basis for cravings and that they can be controlled, or at least decreased.


    January 6, 2013 at 8:29 am

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