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How You Deal With Stress Can Reduce Cravings

By June 29, 2010

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If you are trying to maintain a clean and sober life and you have a tendency to deal with stressful situations by avoiding them, you could be setting yourself up for a relapse. Researchers have found that addicts who deal with problems by avoiding them experience twice the number of cravings for drugs during a stressful day than those who use coping skills to work through their problems.

Recovering addicts who avoid coping with stress give in more easily to cravings and therefore are more likely to relapse during recovery.

Researchers studied 55 college students who were in recovery from substance abuse - alcohol, cocaine or club drugs. Each student was given a PDA device and asked to record their daily cravings and the intensity of any negative social experiences, as well as their strategies for coping with stress.

Stress Linked to Cravings

First, the researchers found that the number of stressful experiences the recovering addicts had during the day was directly related to the number of cravings they experienced on a daily basis.

They also found that link between experiencing stress and the level of the cravings they experienced was related to the students' reliance on "avoidance coping."

"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," said Penn State's H. Harrington Cleveland in a news release. "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."

Avoiding Stress Doesn't Work

The authors of the study concluded that trying to avoid stress does not work for addicts, simply because it is impossible to completely avoid all stressful experiences. Avoiding problems end up just multiplying those problems, causing even more stress.

Those in the student who were more likely to remain in recovery without relapse were those who used coping skills to work through a problem head on, rather than trying to avoid it.

The study was published in the journal Addictive Behaviors.

Related Information

Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Addiction
Cognitive-behavioral coping skills treatment is a short-term, focused therapeutic approach to helping drug-dependent people become abstinent by using the same learning processes the person used to develop alcohol and drug dependence initially.

Early Abstinence From Drugs and Alcohol
Professional treatment and rehab programs teach alcoholics and addicts the coping skills they need to maintain a sober lifestyle.

How to Tackle Problems Head On
Sometimes it's more effective to focus on the problem at hand than to focus on trying to control your emotions about the problem, according to About.com Guide Kristalyn Slaters-Pedneault.

Photo: PhotoXpress.com

June 29, 2010 at 2:10 am
(1) oldmom22 says:

Dear Buddy,
I know i avoided coping with stress by drinking and doing a variety of drugs. I learned coping skills in AA by working the steps and having a sponsor and LISTENING at face to face meetings. My very wise sponsor told me early on that I didn’t know anything worth saying so I should shut up and listen. He had no sympathy for my delicate feelings. For once in my life I listened. The more I listened the more I learned and one day I realized that I had made it through a minor crisis with out even thinking of drinking to make it easier. What you say is true and I am always grateful for you and your honesty and for your hard work in keeping up with this site.
Ive been a fan for over 10 years – keep it up.

July 5, 2010 at 10:22 am
(2) Jacke says:

I believe a wise sponsor would/SHOULD NEVER tell anyone to shut up. My sponsor is my equal; he is not on a pedestal or superior in any way. He is as close to drinking as I am and enjoys only the same daily reprieve. Good luck!!!

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