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An important part of treatment is to learn how to manage cravings when they occur.  Cravings can be characterized as an intense desire to use a substance that can feel almost impossible to withstand.  Fortunately, if you have learned coping management skills, you can have the self confidence to make it through these intense periods of time.  

Cravings, Managing Your Cravings

SMART Recovery encourages individuals to “ride the wave” of craving.  They also recommend the DiSARM Method (see the SMART Recovery Workbook), in which one personifies their craving and “fights back” so to speak, against this craving.  

Many residents at AToN Center use the imagery that their craving is Darth Vader, and they are fighting against the craving (and Darth Vader!) with lightsabers.  While these cognitive skills are helpful, they do not address the physiological processes of the craving that occur out of one’s awareness.  Using these strategies with other physiological self management strategies can enhance success in managing cravings.

In recent years, some researchers have been analyzing the association between physiological stress management and craving intensity.  The specific modality being studied is Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback, which is offered as a treatment at the AToN Center.  

A new study published in the Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback Journal demonstrates some promise in the application of stress management utilizing biofeedback and the reduction of cravings.  In this study, the researchers implemented a three-session biofeedback protocol to a portion of residents in an inpatient substance misuse treatment facility.  In this very short intervention, the results were promising and warrant further investigation.  Specifically, those patients who participated in the protocol experienced a medium effect size greater reduction in craving in comparison to those patients who did not receive biofeedback as a part of their treatment.  Additionally, these patients also experienced improvements in mood stability.  

In recovery, it is important to use every tool available to enhance treatment outcomes.  At AToN, we believe that we offer a wide variety of treatments that can be tailored to individual needs.  In combining Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Relapse Prevention Skill Building and other modalities (heart rate variability biofeedback, hypnotherapy, EMDR, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, massage) we believe that we offer the very best that treatment available.  

If you are a loved one is struggling with substance misuse, and are looking for a program with an individualized approach – do not hesitate to call our intake line for further information.

Cassandra Cannon, Ph.D.
Clinical Director
AToN Center  888-535-1516


Reference:Eddie, D., Kim, C., Lehrer, P., Deneke, E., & Bates, M. (2014). A Pilot Study of Brief Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback to Reduce Craving in Young Adult Men Receiving Inpatient Treatment for Substance Use Disorders. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback,39(3-4), 181-192.