All recovering addicts experience some degree of temptation. It’s best to think of temptations as cravings. While it can seem very complex, the science behind cravings and addiction relapse is quite simple. Most recovering addicts experience drug cravings.
The temptation to use drugs or alcohol can be much stronger for some individuals than others. Today, scientists view addiction as a relapsing, chronic disease. In most cases, a massive amount of effort must be exerted to beat an addiction, and the effort must be distributed over a long period of time.
Some scientists view addiction in the same way that they view hypertension. Both lifestyle changes and medication are needed to control hypertension, and the same can be said for addiction.
The process of beating an addiction is not like breaking a bone. When a person breaks a bone, the bone will heal and can be forgotten. While the battle against addiction can get progressively easier, most people spend many years fighting it and addiction relapse is always a clear and present danger .
The Temptation to Addiction Relapse
Some people are able to seek treatment and get clean for life. However, most people seek treatment, get help and must fight their addiction for many years.
Fortunately, many tools can be used to fight an addiction. The greatest risk factor for addiction relapse is temptation or cravings. It’s not uncommon for some people to need multiple treatments, which are spaced out over a period of time.
Almost 80 percent of individuals who detox from drugs relapse within the first year, which means only 20 percent of individuals achieve long-term abstinence.
Currently, scientists are actively researching what makes people more prone to addiction relapse. It’s well-known that the main cause of addiction relapse is craving or temptation. Put simply, cravings represent a person’s hunger for drugs or alcohol.
How Long Does Temptation Last?
Everyone is different, so some people experience much stronger cravings than others. Studies show that many recovering addicts experience cravings months after becoming sober.
However, it’s quite common for individuals to experience temptation years after they’ve achieved total abstinence. A lot of recent research shows that it’s very likely that cravings are linked to some sort of physiological process.
It’s well-known that addiction physically alters the brain, and depending on the situation, these changes can last many years. What happens is that the brain becomes physically accustomed to functioning while drugs are present.
Once drugs are no longer present, the brain has difficulty functioning, so it attempts to convince the body to seek the substance. Cravings can be thought of as the brain’s last-ditch effort to obtain the drugs that it has grown accustomed to.
A Conditioned Response
Temptations or cravings can also be viewed as conditioned responses. These responses can occur when a recovering addict is exposed to strong environmental cues, such as syringes or people. A person can experience cravings whenever he or she is exposed to cues that are associated with drug use.
The cues cause the individual to experience powerful emotions, which remind him or her of the high produced by the drugs. A simple memory of drug use can create temptation that is almost irresistible and lead to addiction relapse.
Even when a person is no longer using drugs, powerful environmental and social cues can cause cravings. Studies show that addiction relapse is almost always preceded by a depressed state, which can be caused by negative life circumstances.
Temptation is strongest when an individual is depressed or exposed to environmental or social triggers. The temptation to use drugs or alcohol can last a lifetime, but most people agree that the cravings become easier to ignore over time. If you or someone you know needs help, it’s important to get that help sooner rather than later.