Using the HALT Method to Overcome Drug Triggers and Cravings

Anyone recovering from addiction understands that recovery is a lifelong process. Therapy and addiction counseling can help people struggling with addiction overcome their substance abuse, but without long-term coping strategies, the path to recovery can nearly impossible to manage.

The key to lifelong addiction recovery is forming new, healthier coping strategies to handle life’s stresses without relapsing.

What Is the HALT Method?

HALT is an acronym that stands for:

  • Hunger
  • Anger
  • Loneliness
  • Tired

In recovery, people may confuse certain feelings or emotions with drug cravings. It’s easy to forget that hunger or feeling tired are natural feelings after extended substance abuse has left your internal signals confused.

Likewise, when people feel anger or loneliness, it accompanies loss of control and how their dependency provided them with a sense of control.

People in recovery must learn to HALT and consider the following when the feel the desire to relapse:

  • Are you hungry or thirsty? Drink some water first – dehydration can mask discomfort – then have a healthy meal or snack.
  • Is anger or loneliness affecting you? Find a friend or counselor to talk you through these emotions.
  • Have you had restful sleep? Your body is doing something very hard: It’s changing its chemical makeup. Treat it well by resting when you can to avoid triggering a relapse.

With the HALT method, those in recovery can respond to these common feelings without resorting to relapse. The method encourages recovering individuals to stop and assess their cravings to determine where they come from and how to react appropriately.

Recognizing Triggers

What Is The HALT Method? - The Treatment CenterWhile the HALT method offers a way to respond to triggers, individuals must also learn to identify their triggers if they hope to be successful in recovery.

Each person’s recovery journey is unique, so each individual’s triggers are likely to be just as personal and specific.

However, some triggers are fairly universal and situations everyone in recovery should avoid. Here are a few:

  • Social situations that include drugs or alcohol: This can be a particularly hard adjustment for those fresh out of recovery. In order to avoid these situations, individuals may have to ask old friends to meet them for a coffee instead of a beer or cut off ties with drug-using associates.
  • Becoming socially isolated: Loneliness is a quick-acting trigger. Those in recovery should reach out for new friendships with people who don’t abuse substances. Establishing a support system of friends who also in recovery is another effective strategy.
  • Excessive stress: Stress is a common motivator for people to drink or use drugs, even those who aren’t in the middle of a recovery journey. Learning techniques to manage anxiety is a critical step in recovery.
  • Pain or discomfort: When individuals are struggling with pain, resisting the urge to relapse can be especially difficult. It is important for patients to develop non-narcotic pain management strategies in treatment to foster long-term recovery.
  • Boredom, complacency or overconfidence: Though these are three separate emotions, they come from a similar place in the human mind. If left unchecked, each of these emotions can set up the individual for relapse.

Once individuals are familiar with their respective triggers, it is important for them to develop a plan to avoid cravings and stay drug-free.  Knowing how to respond to a trigger ahead of time can mean the difference between conquering it and falling victim to it.

Find Methods to Reduce Triggers at The Treatment Center

In substance abuse recovery at The Treatment Center, people struggling with addiction learn to identify and manage the unique triggers that lead to their cravings. For some, this can mean avoiding certain places and people from the past or steering clear of situations that can lead to drug or alcohol use. Studying the HALT method helps our patients to recognize, overcome and sometimes ignore triggers entirely.

We previously posted an article that covers the HALT method in full, so check it out if you would like to learn more. Our team develops customized treatment plans to help every patient overcome their addiction, and learning to identify and manage triggers is central to our treatment philosophy.