Nirvana Recovery

Managing Heroin Cravings: Strategies to Stay Clean

Managing Heroin Cravings - Strategies to Stay Clean

Being stuck in the whirlwind of heroin addiction can be a scary experience. Maintaining sobriety while facing cravings can test your resolve and leave you feeling empty. This tumultuous experience can be intensely challenging, but overcoming it and facing the cravings is possible with the right strategies and support. Nirvana Recovery is Phoenix’s luxury drug rehab center. We are committed to providing the guidance and support you need to navigate this journey toward a healthier, drug-free life in Arizona. Here, our expert shares 7 effective strategies to manage heroin cravings and stay clean on the path to recovery. 

What Are Heroin Cravings?

Heroin abuse creates a strong physical dependence due to its powerful effects on the brain’s chemistry. When a person quits heroin, their body may experience intense physiological cravings as it adjusts to the absence of the drug. These cravings are often accompanied by heroin withdrawal symptoms that can be both painful and challenging to manage.

Recognizing Craving Triggers

You can increase the effectiveness of your management by recognizing triggers or cues that indicate the likelihood of a craving. These triggers or cues can occur at any time, therefore being aware of what they are for you specifically can either help you avoid them or help you to prepare yourself to cope with them when they occur. This step is vital in managing heroin cravings effectively. The triggers or cues will be unique to you and you may have to do some self-reflection to help you identify them. These triggers might include:

  • Environmental Triggers: Certain locations in Phoenix or settings where heroin was used previously may cause a craving to be experienced.
  • Social Triggers: Interactions with people who are still using drugs or those associated with past drug use could be a trigger. You might also find certain events, such as the trip to work, or a party could also trigger a craving as it has been previously linked with heroin usage.
  • Emotional Triggers: Feelings of anxiety, loneliness, depression, or even happiness that previously led to drug use could trigger a craving. Our emotional responses to events that cause us stress or discomfort may also add to the occurrence of a craving.

By identifying these cues, individuals can begin to develop avoidance strategies or coping mechanisms to deal with triggers as they arise. This can increase your self-confidence in maintaining your recovery.

Seven Effective Strategies to Manage Heroin Cravings

When you think about cravings you may think that these are beyond your control and you will need to fight them for the rest of your life. This can lead to a negative view of these experiences which can cause frustration and a lowered self-concept. Accepting that cravings are a normal part of recovery and believing that you can manage these can reframe the experience into a more empowering one, which decreases frustration and builds your self-concept.

Understanding what cravings are can help you begin to develop your management strategies.

#1 Understand Craving is Temporary

It’s vital to recognize that cravings, however intense, are not permanent. They often last for a few minutes to a few hours. It’s important to remind yourself that these feelings are in your head and will pass during the time. Keep saying to yourself, “You are in control”. Even though you are experiencing a strong urge to burn out, you can respond in a controlled manner and prevent a relapse.

#2 Practicing Easy Coping Mechanisms

Developing small and easy coping mechanisms that you practice daily will help you keep these cravings in hand and easily access them.

  • Practicing mindfulness and engaging in deep breathing exercises can significantly help manage the discomfort of cravings. 
  • Grounding exercises (like noting five things you can see, four you can touch, three you can hear, two you can smell, and one you can taste) can also provide immediate relief and distract from the urge to use heroin.

#3 Replacing Negative Behaviors to Positive ones

You can also decrease the number of cravings you experience by replacing your behaviors with ones that promote recovery. The idea is to fill the time that might otherwise be spent thinking about or seeking heroin is crucial. 

Engaging in activities that keep you busy and bring joy and satisfaction can significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of cravings. Think of hobbies, activities, or tasks that you enjoy and increase your motivation. These could include dancing, painting, gardening, doing crossword puzzles, etc.

#4 Engage in Activities To Boost Dopamine Levels

Finding activities that naturally boost dopamine levels is a great strategy to manage cravings and stay clean. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a major role in feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Here are some healthy activities that can help increase dopamine levels and support your recovery:

  • Activities like running, cycling, swimming, or even walking can increase dopamine secretion, improve mood, and reduce stress.
  • Eat dopamine-boosting foods like bananas, nuts, eggs, and dark chocolate.
  • Involve in meditation and yoga to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Creative activities like painting, writing, music, or any form of artistic expression can be fulfilling and help release dopamine.
  • Participate in community events, join clubs, or volunteer your time to connect with others.
  • While you sleep, your brain replenishes neurotransmitters, including dopamine. 
  • Listen to music to boost dopamine levels and improve your mood.
  • Sunlight Exposure maintains dopamine levels and also helps regulate your circadian rhythm, which affects your mood and sleep patterns.
  • Activities like gardening, hiking, photography, or bird watching can keep you engaged and improve your overall mental health.

#5 Utilizing a Support Network in Arizona

You don’t have to fight heroin cravings alone. Reaching out to a sponsor therapist or attending support group meetings can give you the support and encouragement needed to get through tough moments. Remember that this journey is a long-term one and you will need to create support structures to help you through difficult times and celebrate your achievements.

Here are some resources for finding support networks in Phoenix to fight against heroin cravings:

  • Arizona Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention (ACSAP): ACSAP is a statewide organization that provides support and resources for people struggling with addiction. Its helpline can connect you with treatment centers, support groups, and other resources in your area. You can call them at 1-800-NEXT-STEP (1-800-639-8783).
  • The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD): NCADD is a national organization that provides support and resources for people struggling with addiction. They have a chapter in Phoenix that offers support groups, educational programs, and advocacy. You can find more information on their website at
  • Psychology Today: Psychology Today has a searchable database of therapists and support groups in your area. You can search for therapists who specialize in addiction treatment and support groups for specific substances. You can find their directory here:
  • SAMHSA National Helpline: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7 service that can provide information and support for people struggling with addiction. You can call them at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

In addition to these resources, there are many other support groups and treatment centers in Phoenix. You can find a list of treatment centers on the SAMHSA website at

#6 Be More Expressive of Your Feeling

Cravings usually arise when you are experiencing emotional or physical turbulence. This is a time when your body seeks a source of happiness or calmness. Both emotional and physical pain can be minimized by learning to talk about your feelings—being open about them and sharing them with family members or trusted friends. Open communication is crucial here; choose wisely whom you want to confide in. You can also begin a journal to help you express your thoughts to yourself.

#7 Planning Ahead To Mitigate Cravings

Identify high-risk situations and think through potential scenarios where you might be tempted to use heroin. Having a plan in place for these situations can help you avoid relapse. For example, if being around certain friends or acquaintances tempts you to use heroin, consider ways to limit your exposure to these individuals or avoid them altogether. If stress is a significant trigger, implement stress management techniques such as meditation, exercise, or therapy into your routine.

Additionally, prepare a list of activities you can turn to when feeling the urge to use. These could include:

  • Reverse Phone Call: When you say the code word, the other person calls you, distracting you and prompting conversation, which can take your mind off the craving.
  • Craving Coin Jar: Each time you resist a craving, put a coin in a jar
  • Habit Stacking: listen to a recovery podcast while doing dishes or read a chapter from a self-help book while taking a walk.
  • Volunteer at a Recovery Center in Phoenix: Helping others can create a sense of purpose and reinforce your own commitment to recovery.
  • Sponsor a Newcomer: Mentoring someone new in recovery can build your own sense of accomplishment and provide valuable support for another person.

By meticulously planning how to handle potential scenarios that lead to heroin use, you increase your resilience against relapse, making it easier to maintain your path to recovery.

Additional Tips for Staying Clean

Staying clean is an active process that requires effort. Here are some more tips to make it easy and accessible.

Holistic Well-being

Recovery from heroin addiction involves more than just avoiding the substance; it encompasses improving your overall well-being. Prioritizing self-care through regular sleep patterns, nutritious eating, and consistent exercise can fortify your body’s resilience against cravings. These habits improve physical health and enhance mental clarity and emotional stability, which are crucial for maintaining sobriety.

Celebrating Milestones

Recovery is a journey with its own set of challenges and achievements. It is important to recognize and celebrate each milestone, no matter how small. Setting up a reward system can be an effective motivational tool. For instance, treat yourself to a movie, a new book, or a day out in nature for every week or month of sobriety. These rewards provide positive reinforcement for your efforts and successes in staying clean.


Overcoming heroin addiction is undeniably challenging, but with determination, the right strategies, and robust support, you can manage cravings and maintain sobriety. At Nirvana Recovery, we believe in your ability to reclaim and transform your life. The recovery journey is filled with hurdles but is marked by remarkable resilience and personal growth.

Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Support is available, and reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Contact us for help maintaining your recovery journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

Triggers can be anything that reminds you of past heroin use, such as people, places, things, emotions, or even sounds or smells. Stress, anxiety, boredom, and depression can also be strong triggers.

Cravings can manifest physically (sweating, nausea, muscle aches) or emotionally (intense desire, anxiety, irritability). Being aware of your body’s and mind’s signals is crucial for early intervention.

While willpower is important, relying solely on it can be exhausting. A comprehensive strategy that combines planning, healthy coping mechanisms, and support systems is far more effective.

Nirvana Recovery recommends techniques like:

  • Craving Surfing: Acknowledge the craving but don’t fight it. Ride it out like a wave, knowing it will eventually pass.
  • Sensory Substitution: Engage all your senses in a different activity to distract yourself from the craving.
  • Calling an Accountability Partner: Reach out to a trusted friend, sponsor, or therapist for support during a craving.

Develop a self-care routine for cravings. This could involve practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation, listening to calming music, or reading inspirational recovery material.

Identify your triggers and develop strategies to avoid them. If certain places or people are high-risk, remove yourself from those situations or limit contact.

Relapse is a common part of the recovery journey. The important thing is to learn from it, get back on track, and seek support. Nirvana Recovery offers relapse prevention resources.

Support is essential. Surround yourself with positive people who believe in your recovery. Consider joining a support group or therapy program at Nirvana Recovery.

Focus on the positive changes you’re making in your life. Celebrate milestones and set achievable goals. Reward yourself for staying clean.

Nirvana Recovery in Arizona offers a comprehensive range of treatment programs and support services. Contact them today for a confidential consultation. You can also call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for free and confidential information on treatment options.

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