Addiction Recovery – How Long Do Drug Cravings Last?

The intensity of some drug and alcohol cravings drives many addicts to continue their abuse. The more physically addictive the drug, the stronger the cravings tends to be. Even if the drug is not physically addictive, mental dependencies can cause the same drug-seeking behavior. How long do drug cravings last after a person has stopped their use? The answer can vary wildly depending on the substance and how intense the addiction has become.

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In this article, we will look at the most abused addictive substances in America and how long do drug cravings last in each case.

Origins of Physical Drug Cravings

To understand why the body craves addictive substances, we must understand the changes the body and mind goes through when a person frequently abuses a substance. The excessive use of a drug such as opioids causes changes to occur in the person’s brain chemistry. The unnatural amount of the drug in the body causes the brain to release large amounts of dopamine and serotonin, chemicals that cause euphoria. As the addiction grows, the body tries to counteract the impact the substance has by reducing or even stopping its own production of the same chemicals.

When the person stops using opioids, there is an imbalance left behind that causes cravings because the only way the person can function at that point is to use more opioids. While other substances may not affect the same areas of the brain, the way cravings and other withdrawal symptoms form is much the same. How long do drug cravings last if they are only physical? In general, once the body has detoxified, the physical cravings stop, but the mental cravings can continue for years to come regardless of the type of substance that was abused.

Most Abuse Physically Addictive Substances

Even though marijuana had as many as 4.3 million abusers in 2012, we will only look at substances that are physically addictive. Alcohol was the most abused substance in America in 2012, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In the same period, opioid pain relievers accounted for 2.06 million abuse cases and cocaine another 1.12 million cases.

Do Alcohol Cravings Ever Go Away?

Most commonly understood as a drug, alcohol dependence can be a life-long condition that requires constant maintenance. How long do drug cravings last in the case of alcohol addiction? Generally, the strongest cravings are experienced during the early stages of recovery. Cravings decrease over time and are more manageable after the detox period, which usually last for about one to two weeks.

Do alcohol cravings ever go away? For most recovering alcoholics, cravings can be present for many years.

Cravings for Opioids/Opiates

Even though opioids have a clear medical benefit, they are among the most addictive substances. How to stop mental cravings for opiates and opioids can involve the use of treatments that medicate the individual, such as methadone treatment. As with alcohol dependence, the strongest cravings appear during initial recovery.

Mental cravings never fully go away. Most users report that as time goes by, cravings for the substance becomes less frequent and easier to handle. At this point, how to stop mental cravings for opiates is based on using relapse prevention techniques.

Cocaine Cravings

The initial intense cravings for cocaine tend to subside after about three weeks. In this period, a person usually goes through detox. The mental craving aspect, as with other substances, can be a life-long experience. With cocaine, in particular, vivid memories about cocaine abuse can surface that can cause severe cravings even years after stopping.

The sooner the abuse of drugs and alcohol stops, the sooner a person can resume a normal way of life. With relapse prevention strategies, cravings can be managed over the long term.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.