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.
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.