Alcohol is an influential substance in society, and its use dates back thousands of years. The earliest traces of alcohol use are from  between 7000 and 6600 BC in China. In ancient India, between 3000 and 2000 BC, alcoholic beverages were called “sura.” In the 16th century, alcohol was used medicinally in Great Britain, and by the 18th century, gin consumption had become widespread. Since then, alcohol has become commonplace, and despite its potential for harm, society still ritualizes its use. 

Statistics from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in 2019 revealed that 86% of people in the United States aged 18 and over have consumed alcohol at some point in life. Twenty-six percent of people 18 and over engaged in monthly binge drinking. Moreover, a total of 14.5 million people had an alcohol use disorder that year. Since then, national consumption has increased, and the Covid-19 pandemic saw a major boom in alcohol sales

Alcoholism is a serious illness that ruins lives, yet experiencing alcohol cravings today is almost considered normal. If you’re experiencing alcohol cravings, this may indicate that you’re developing an addiction. In this article, we’ll discuss what alcohol cravings feel like, what causes alcohol cravings and how to beat the urge to drink alcohol. 

What Do Alcohol Cravings Feel Like?

Alcohol cravings are strong urges to drink, and they can be triggered by internal or external circumstances. For example, if you’re feeling down, you may decide having a drink will help. You may also crave it as a way to escape feeling bad. Being around other people who are drinking might also trigger alcohol cravings.

Alcohol cravings can be very intense, and people who experience them may feel unable to control their urges. They may experience a strong need to drink, even if they’re not thirsty. The thought of alcohol may become all-consuming and they might find it difficult to think about anything else. Craving alcohol can also cause physical symptoms, such as a racing heart or increased anxiety.

Some people may feel like they’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as shaking or sweating. They may have extreme discomfort and restlessness. Alcohol cravings can be difficult to resist, but there are ways to manage them. If you’re struggling with alcohol cravings, it’s important to seek professional help. Many resources are available to assist you in overcoming your urges and staying on the path to recovery.

Because alcohol cravings can be so intense and difficult to resist, alcohol addicts in recovery often descend into relapse. That’s why getting help and learning proper coping strategies is paramount to successful recovery. 

Cravings vs. Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol cravings are often misconstrued as alcohol withdrawal symptoms. This might be because they often go hand in hand. When somebody who’s heavily addicted to alcohol experiences withdrawal, it often manifests in the form of cravings. The key difference is that alcohol cravings can occur anytime, even if you haven’t had a drink for a whole year. Withdrawal symptoms, on the other hand, can last up to one week after having your last drink. 

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Anxiety
  • Shaky hands
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Confusion
  • Racing heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Heavy sweating
  • Hallucinations 

It’s worth pointing out that severe alcohol withdrawal can be fatal, and severe symptoms are considered a medical emergency. Alcohol cravings can’t cause death and aren’t considered dangerous. 

What Causes Alcohol Cravings?

A person dealing with these feelings might wonder, “Why am I craving alcohol?” The fact is, the triggers for alcohol cravings can be different for each person. It really depends on what your brain associates with alcohol and how much your brain considers alcohol to be a reward. 

While the sound of music and people chatting might trigger a craving for one person, a difficult day at work might be a trigger for another. Your history with alcohol and what external and internal events lead your brain to expect it are association-based triggers and are a result of classical conditioning.

While some people respond intensely to alcohol, others might only feel mildly good from drinking it. This all comes down to individual differences in the neuropsychopathology of addiction.

3 Ways to Combat Alcohol Cravings 

Alcohol cravings can be persistent and are the bane of anyone in recovery. That’s why it’s important to have strategies in place to better handle it when you’re craving a drink. Here are some tips you can use to combat your cravings:

1. Identify Your Personal Triggers

To do this, ask yourself, “Why do I crave alcohol?” Was it the sound of a friend cracking open an ice-cold beer? Or did having a bad day at work set you off? Without doing this introspective investigation, you won’t be able to find what triggers you. It might be helpful to keep a diary and note your surroundings every time you get a craving. You’ll surely find a pattern that’ll give you insight into what you should avoid. 

2. Get Into a Routine

Having a solid daily routine that keeps you busy and happily occupied will help you steer away from alcohol. It’s less likely that you’ll run into triggers if you’re in the gym every day after work or reading your favorite author with a warm cup of tea. Find a routine that keeps you away from anything that might trigger you. The more you engage in a healthy routine, the easier it’ll become. 

3. Find a Supportive Community

Support communities are scientifically proven to be beneficial for people in recovery. If you’ve just left a clinic and worry that you won’t be able to handle your alcohol cravings alone, it’s helpful to share with people in a similar position. Alcoholics Anonymous or other support groups give you the chance to feel understood and share coping strategies. 

Get the Help You Need

Alcoholism is a serious condition, and people in recovery are often set back by being unable to handle cravings. It’s a major reason for falling back into relapse. If you’re struggling to cope with cravings alone, reach out to us. Sunlight Recovery is a leading mental health facility with experts who are ready to help. Contact us today at (888) 402-3647 for assistance with your recovery needs.