How can I stop using drugs?

If you’re reading this, drugs are probably a big part of your life—and they’re starting to take over. Fortunately, the big goal of stopping your drug use can be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps.

Manage withdrawal symptoms

This will be your first hurdle. Any time you cut back on a habit-forming substance, your body goes through withdrawals. Your body has adapted to the amount you’ve been drinking, so cutting back throws your body out of balance. This effect is temporary, but it can be miserable.

The exact withdrawal symptoms depend on the type of drug you’re using, but it’s common to experience things like anxiety, nausea, and trouble sleeping. The heavier your drug use, and the more quickly you stop, the more intense the symptoms will be.

Start by talking to a doctor, who can give you recommendations based on your unique biology and situation. There are also medications that can make it easier to quit taking certain drugs.

Learn your triggers

Triggers are things that remind you of drugs and make you crave them. Common triggers include places you’ve done drugs, friends you’ve used with in the past, or anything else that brings up memories of your drug use. You can also experience emotional triggers, like depression or anger. Everyone’s triggers are different. You’ll need to learn your own.

Early in the process, it’s best to avoid your triggers as much as possible—especially while you’re still in withdrawal. There may be some triggers you can’t avoid forever, and you’ll eventually need to learn coping skills to face them.

Address any underlying mental health needs

About half of people who are addicted to drugs also have another mental health condition. In fact, many people start taking drugs as a way of self-medicating for an underlying mental illness. Addressing your mental health needs can make it much easier to quit using drugs. If you haven’t yet, take one of our mental health screens to see if you are at risk for a mental illness.

Long-term recovery

Many people are able to get clean for a few months, but then go back to using drugs. This is called relapse. If this happens to you, that’s okay. For many people, relapse is a part of recovery—each time you relapse, you learn more about your triggers, and which coping skills aren’t working for you. The important thing is to keep trying.

Find help and support

It’s hard to quit using drugs on your own. Fortunately, you don’t have to! Supportive family and friends can be a great resource in recovery from drug use. There are also many quality treatment programs around the country who can help you through the steps we’ve laid out here. Many people find help through support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery.

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