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By Ignoring Stress Recovering Addicts Suffer More Cravings

By KingMe, Jun 25, 2010 | | |
  1. KingMe
    Recovering addicts who avoid coping with stress succumb easily to substance use cravings, making them more likely to relapse during recovery, according to behavioral researchers.

    "Cravings are a strong predictor of relapse," said H. Harrington Cleveland, associate professor of human development, Penn State. "The goal of this study is to predict the variation in substance craving in a person on a within-day basis. Because recovery must be maintained 'one day at a time,' researchers have to understand it on the same daily level."

    Cleveland and his colleague Kitty S. Harris, director, Center for the Study of Addiction and Recovery, Texas Tech University, used data from a daily diary study of college students who are recovering addicts to identify the processes that trigger cravings and prevent some addicts from building a sustained recovery.

    The researchers found that how addicts cope with stress -- either by working through a problem or avoiding it -- is a strong predictor of whether they will experience cravings when faced with stress and negative mood.

    "Whether you avoid problems or analyze problems not only makes a big difference in your life but also has a powerful impact on someone who has worked hard to stay away from alcohol and other drugs," explained Cleveland. "When faced with stress, addicts who have more adaptive coping skills appear to have a better chance of staying in recovery." The findings appeared in a recent issue of Addictive Behaviors.

    Researchers supplied Palm Pilots to 55 college students who were in recovery from substance abuse ranging from alcohol to cocaine and club drugs. The students were asked to record the their daily cravings for alcohol and other drugs, as well as the intensity of negative social experiences -- hostility, insensitivity, interference, and ridicule -- and their general strategies for coping with stress.

    "We looked at variations in the number of cravings across days and found that these variations are predicted by stressful experiences," said Cleveland. "More importantly, we found that the strength of the daily link between experiencing stress and the level of cravings experienced is related to the participants' reliance on avoidance coping."

    Statistical analyses of the survey data suggests that the magnitude of the link between having a stressful day and experiencing substance use cravings doubles for recovering addicts who cope with stress by avoiding it.

    "We found that addicts who deal with stress by avoiding it have twice the number of cravings in a stressful day compared to persons who use problem solving strategies to understand and deal with the stress," explained Cleveland. "Avoidance coping appears to undercut a person's ability to deal with stress and exposes that person to variations in craving that could impact recovery from addiction."

    According to Cleveland, the findings suggest the impulse to avoid stress is never going to help recovering addicts because stressful experiences cannot be avoided.

    "If your basic life strategy is to avoid stress, then your problems will probably end up multiplying and causing you more problems," he added.

    Article Date: 25 Jun 2010
    Copyright: Medical News Today
    Not to be reproduced without permission of Medical News Today


  1. missparkles
    I think this research may be onto something, cos Sparkles knows when she deals with shit in her life (in recovery) she feels she's actually achieving something, and that feels good. It raises her levels of confidence and self esteem, and it re-enforces the belief that she can cope. When she ignores stuff that really needs to be done, she feels kinda guilty, beats herself up, and that can really lower her mood. And that's exactly when she starts thinking about taking heroin to elevate it.

    Rinse and repeat a few times, let things slide for too long and she gets out of the habit of dealing with the stressful things in life, then she's really in big trouble, relapse wise. Perhaps it has something to do with addicts using substances as a way of avoiding painful stuff, be those emotional, or situational? When stress is not dealt with in the usual way, without drugs, it has to be dealt with another way. Usually the only way an addict knows how, self medication.

  2. varuka
    I agree. I've been on suboxone for 17 days now, my cravings aren't nearly as bad as they were. I can go hours now without think about my DOC but I've definitely noticed when i get upset, taking a pill us the only thing i can think of. Maybe because i was so numb all my life that i don't know how to deal with these feelings? and its so Easy to get stressed now, too! Before, it was, Got a headache? Tramadol for that! Back ache? Take a muscle relaxer. Stressed? Here's a xanax! Al bases covered to make you feel all right! Now? Fuck you, deal with it. I wonder if eventually your body and mind go back to Normal, whatever that is...
  3. DiabolicScheme
    Absolutely agree, avoidance has been my method of dealing with problems for most my life, now that drugs became a 'solution' its what I think of every time a stressful event happens because I never learned how to appropriately respond to stress.

    I think maladaptive behaviors in dealing with stress is the leading cause of addiction.
  4. derpahderp
    Interesting. I agree as well. Interesting article, when speaking in retrospect.

    That has been my main trigger in the past.. Instead of thinking, grieving and getting over my anger issues normally. It became an ever increasing want for any pressures or pain to be released by my stimulant of choice(Numb out the world by faux-euphoria).
  5. headfull0fstars
    I couldn't agree more. I started using heroin because I couldn't handle what was going on in my life. I went into treatment and got on methadone 3 years ago and I have out A LOT of work into my recovery. Now that I am tapering off the methadone and have a benzo script for anxiety whenever I get stressed or overwhelmed my first thought is to reach for a pill and take some more methadone.

    That is frightening to me because it shows that I still have that maladaptive behavior in dealing with stress (and pretty much every other negative emotion) even after 3 years of counseling, group therapy, and my self help efforts. It seems like once you fall into that pattern of avoiding emotions rather than dealing with them and taking substances to avoid them it is very difficult to change. I've been working for years in on it and I still struggle.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk 2
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