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Alcohol Cravings: What They Are & How to Stop Them

Last Updated: January 15, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Cravings can pose a significant challenge during alcohol addiction recovery. That is why addressing them effectively is so crucial. 

If you're looking to stop drinking, managing cravings is an integral part of your recovery process. Severe withdrawal symptoms will require medical attention. However, remedies and medications are available to help curb alcohol cravings at home.

Understanding Alcohol Cravings

Alcohol cravings are a central element of addiction. In fact, they form part of the diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder. Cravings are defined as a compelling desire or drive to consume alcohol. They can induce stress and discomfort, potentially leading to relapse if not managed effectively.

Triggers for Alcohol Cravings

Identifying the triggers behind alcohol cravings is essential for effective management. Withdrawal symptoms can enhance cravings, especially in those who have tried detoxing multiple times.

External and internal triggers also play a role in having alcohol cravings. External triggers may include social environments or stress-inducing situations. On the other hand, internal triggers could be things like negative feelings the person wishes to escape.

Home Remedies to Reduce Alcohol Cravings

Nutrient-Rich Diet

A nutritious diet that helps with nutrient deficiencies from alcohol misuse can reduce cravings. Foods rich in thiamine, vitamin B12, and folate can support the body in managing the negative effects of alcohol misuse. These foods can include fish, chicken, eggs and dairy products.

Herbs, Vitamins and Supplements

Under medical supervision, certain supplements may help reduce alcohol cravings. They can include milk thistle, chamomile, ginkgo and St. John's Wort. These supplements can offer relief from discomfort, sedative effects and potential mood stabilization.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation have shown promise in reducing alcohol cravings. They do so by promoting awareness of the present moment. These practices help individuals attune to their bodily sensations and accept uncomfortable emotions.

Distraction

Distracting oneself during cravings can be effective until the urge to drink passes. You might try riding a bike, walking, calling a friend, playing a video game or engaging in a sport.

Knowing Your Triggers

Understanding and managing personal triggers can reduce the frequency and intensity of cravings. Avoiding locations you associate with drinking is a great start.

Stress Management

Practicing healthy stress management techniques is crucial in preventing stress-induced cravings. Engaging in hobbies, maintaining an exercise routine and practicing self-care are all great ways to combat stress.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Along with home remedies, some may benefit from medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to reduce alcohol cravings. Common medications include:

  • Acamprosate: Reduces the urge to use alcohol.
  • Disulfiram: Discourages drinking by inducing unpleasant symptoms if alcohol is consumed.
  • Naltrexone: Blocks the euphoric effects of alcohol, reducing the urge to drink.
  • Baclofen: Shown to significantly reduce severe alcohol cravings.
  • Topiramate: May help with alcohol cravings, especially when thoughts about drinking become obsessive.

While at-home remedies for alcohol cravings can be effective, severe withdrawal symptoms still require medical treatment. Reach out to a doctor or treatment facility before trying to manage cravings on your own. You may need one of the medications above or more intensive withdrawal management. For those seeking alcohol addiction treatment in the Kansas City, Missouri, area, The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab is here for you. Our physician-led team is dedicated to equipping individuals with the tools to overcome alcohol cravings. Contact a Recovery Advocate today to start your journey to recovery.

Sources

NIH National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol’s Effects on Health.” December 2023. January 10, 2024.

Bayard, Max; Mcintyre, Jonah; Hill, Keith, Woodside, Jack. “Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome.” American Family Physician, March 15, 2004. Accessed January 10, 2024.

Wiss, David; Waterhous, Therese. “Nutrition Therapy for Eating Disorders, Substance Use Disorders, and Addictions.” Eating Disorders, Addictions and Substance Use Disorders, January 1, 2014. Accessed January 10, 2024. 

National Library of Medicine. “B Vitamins.” September 23, 2021. Accessed January 10, 2024.

Chandurkar, Payal; Hedaoo, Sameer. “Herbal Remedies of Alcohol Addiction.” World Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2019. Accessed January 10, 2024. 

Tapper, Katy. “Mindfulness and craving: effects and mechanisms.” Clinical Psychology Review, February 2018. Accessed January 10, 2024. 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Medications, Counseling, and Related Conditions.” March 22, 2023. January 10, 2024. 

Rozatkar, Abhijit, et al. “Clinical experience of baclofen in alcohol dependence: A chart review.” Industrial Psychiatry Journal, 2016. Accessed January 10, 2024. 

Guglielmo, Riccardo, et al. “Topiramate in Alcohol Use Disorders: Review and Update.” CNS Drugs, May 2015. Accessed January 10, 2024. 

Ghiţă, Alexandra, et al. “Identifying Triggers of Alcohol Craving to Develop Effective Virtual Environments for Cue Exposure Therapy.” Frontiers in Psychology, January 29, 2019. Accessed January 10, 2024.