How to Deal With and Overcome Drug Triggers

Although we now know addiction to be a chronic, progressive brain disease, it wasn’t all that long ago that addicted people were seen as merely bad people. In fact, anyone who exhibited uncontrollable consumption was believed to be weak in character and likely lacking in closeness with God. As a result, those who would require medical and psychotherapeutic treatment today were relegated to prison or insane asylums.

The idea was that imprisonment would force them into sobriety while the fear of additional punishment would make them abstinent due to their wanting to avoid any additional incarceration. However, that was not the case. After their release, many of those who had been imprisoned for their substance abuse problems quickly returned to substance abuse in spite of knowing what repercussions they could face. It was clear that there was something more to substance abuse that could be seen on the surface. In effect, developing a substance abuse problem somehow caused people to actual in self-destructive ways that defied what was in their best interests.

Since then, ongoing research has afforded us a significantly more enlightened view of addiction, but we continue to learn more and more about it all the time. For instance, we’ve learned that there are many different effects that result from addiction, causing the deterioration of the body, mind, and even the spirit. Moreover, there are many different factors that have been identified as potentially contributing to a person’s becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs. These factors can include childhood trauma, childhood exposure to substance abuse, living in an environment or community in which substance abuse is extremely common, one’s social group, and many others. And there’s also the role that a person’s peer group has in his or her becoming addicted. When a person’s cohorts abuse alcohol or drugs, it’s much more likely for him or her to become addicted as well.

However, there’s been research into the other side of addiction as well. Specifically, the recovery side. Over the course of the past several decades, we have continued to refine the addiction treatments and therapies that are used in recovery programs. We still aren’t able to cure the disease of addiction, but the programs we’ve developed have allowed addicts to regain their health and independence to live lives free from substance abuse and its influences. But there are still certain things about addiction recovery that we’re still refining, including how to prepare people to deal with the temptation to use that they’ll inevitably encounter at various points in their recovery.

What Exactly Are Drug Triggers?

Every addict becomes addicted due to his or her own unique circumstances. Over the course of their addictions, they likely begin to exhibit certain patterns and routines with regard to their substance abuse. For instance, there may be specific places where they frequently get intoxicated on drugs, people with whom they frequently consume drugs, or other such situational factors. In short, each alcoholic and drug addict has certain people, places, things, and situations that they come to strongly associate with substance abuse.

This comes to pose a problem in later recovery because these things that the recovering addicts had come to associate with their drug use cause them to experience strong cravings for the drugs that they previously abused. However, these are typically much stronger than cravings with addicts actually feeling a strong compulsion to use drugs again. Called drug or relapse triggers, these people, places, things, and circumstances that cause recovering addicts to experience intense cravings and strong urges to use drugs are some of the most significant dangers to each person’s sobriety.

What Types of Drug Triggers Are There?

As mentioned previously, triggers that cause recovering drug addicts to experience strong cravings and potentially relapse are typically the people, places, things, and situations that the addicts had previously come to associate with their substance abuse. However, those people, places, things, and circumstances can be broken down into three different categories of triggers, which are environmental triggers, re-exposure triggers, and stress triggers. You can get the basic idea behind each type of trigger by just considering the names, but to be more specific, environmental triggers are such things as the events and places that can induce extremely strong cravings in recovering addicts; depending on the addict and the substance of his or her addiction, this might include bars, nightclubs, a certain bench in the park, a certain street corner, specific houses, and any other places or situations in which a person previously used drugs and become intoxicated.

Re-exposure triggers are a bit more specific than environmental triggers. While an environmental trigger refers to places that evoke memories of prior drug use and cause cravings, re-exposure triggers are instances in which those in recovery end up in close proximity to actual drugs. This is extremely dangerous because it significantly increases an addict’s chance of relapsing whereas when drugs aren’t in close proximity, there’s more of a chance that the trigger and its resultant cravings would pass before the person can obtain drugs. The third type of trigger is the aptly named stress trigger, which is usually related to a recovering addict’s return back into society and the stresses that result from that. For instance, stress triggers can include feelings of social anxiety or stress related to peer pressure that comes from cohorts that are still using drugs.

How Do You Deal With Triggers?

One of the best and most logical ways of dealing with drug triggers is to simply avoid them whenever and however, possible. This requires the person to be aware of at least most of his or her triggers, but it’s likely that each recovering addict has triggers that he or she isn’t aware of yet. It’s also good to have strategies to employ when confronted with a trigger, which can be some type of activity or distraction that can be immediately utilized until the trigger and its craving pass. Additionally, it’s important not to fear one’s triggers, but rather to accept and prepare for them so that they don’t make a person completely by surprise.

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