Triggers are events, objects, places, people, and other things that could be experienced that cause an individual to experience an emotional response, which is in this case, to crave or use a specific substance.1
People with substance use disorder (SUD) or related mental health issues often find it very difficult to control these emotional responses, which can lead to more substance use, relapses, and a worsening of their condition. For this reason, trigger management and other related concepts are central in most SUD treatment and rehabilitation programs.1,2,3
Cravings for substances are now generally understood to be caused by maladaptive brain connections that resulted from continued substance misuse. Additionally, they could be caused or further exacerbated by co-occurring mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and trauma.1,3,4,5,6
Because the brain can take a relatively long time to readjust, these cravings can remain even after the affected individual has “detoxed” and no longer has appreciable traces of habit-forming substances in their body.2,4,5,6
This means that the recovering individual will remain vulnerable to substance use triggers and the resulting relapses up until their brain has made the new connections necessary for healing. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and supplemental therapies like mediation and exercise are often used to speed up and strengthen this process.2,4,5,7
Anxiety, trauma, and depression are among the many mental health conditions that may be caused by or contribute to SUD. When these conditions are present, they could make affected individuals even more vulnerable to triggers, and therefore, relapses.1,3,5,6,7
The presence of co-occurring mental health issues can increase your vulnerability to substance use triggers in a number of ways.
Regardless of whether you have an SUD, another mental health issue, or are completely healthy at the moment, being able to manage your emotional triggers well can be the key to a better quality of life. Here are some things you can try to further improve your ability to handle your triggers.2,3,5,7
Managing triggers related to substance use and other emotional impulses is key to a long-lasting recovery. If you’re in the North Texas area and feel that you’re having problems with drug or alcohol use, you can call Dallas Drug Treatment Centers at +1(214) 453-5663 to discuss your long-term recovery options.