How to Beat Drug Addiction

Six Parts:Deciding to QuitGetting Professional HelpJoining a Peer-Based Support GroupBreaking Old HabitsHaving a Healthy Body and MindHandling Everyday Life Without Drugs

Having a drug addiction can make you feel as though there's no hope for getting better. But no matter how bad things have gotten, you can beat your addiction with perseverance and patience. Start by defining your reasons for quitting, since that will help you stay strong throughout the process. Then make a good plan and draw on help from support groups and counselors as you deal with withdrawal and start creating a life without drugs.

Part 1
Deciding to Quit

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    Set a goal to quit. To beat drug addiction, you need to set a goal to quit. You may not be able to do it all at once, but setting the goal will help you chart your next steps.[1]
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    Make a list of the harmful effects of your addiction. Writing down a specific list of the ways in which your addiction is negatively impacting your life can give you a jumpstart toward changing your behavior. Rather than framing the addictions effect in general terms ("It's destroying my life" or "I'm not reaching my potential"), write down the ways that your individual life has changed since your addiction began. Seeing it all written down on paper might be jarring, but having the list will help you through the tough steps to come.[2]
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    Write down how you feel physically. You know that you are addicted if you experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop using.[3] Withdrawal symptoms are the opposite of how the drug makes you feel when you are under the influence. If you feel energized when you are high, then you feel extremely tired and groggy when you are in withdrawal. If you feel relaxed and happy when you are high, then you experience intense anxiety and agitation when you are in withdrawal. You may feel sick when you try to stop using, and you need to keep using to feel normal.
    • Keep a log of how you feel and how your addiction is affecting you physically. Depending on the drug you're using, it might be causing skin damage, organ damage, dental problems, and other physical issues. Even if the physical effects are subtle, like you've lost a lot of weight or your face is aging more quickly than it should, write them down.
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    Evaluate if you are neglecting responsibilities. A drug addict may neglect responsibilities such as school attendance, work, family, and other duties like laundry, housework, car maintenance, paying bills, etc. When a person is addicted to a drug, their world revolves around using, recovering from the effects of using, and then getting more drugs.[4] An addiction is not recreational or experimental use. It is a compulsion that requires intervention to bring it to an end.
    • Write down how often you’ve been at work or school lately. Reflect on how attentive you are to your responsibilities.
    • Think about whether the addiction has taken a financial toll. Write down how much money you spend to feed it every day, week, month, and year.
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    Think about whether you’ve seen friends or family lately. Withdrawing from family members and friends because you are under the influence or experiencing withdrawal and you don’t feel like being around anyone. This behavior may baffle friends and family who wonder where you are or why you are acting strangely.
    • There may even be confrontations about the frequency of your drinking or drug use. These are all signs of an addiction. [5]
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    Admit if you’re stealing or lying to others. Stealing and lying to others, especially those close to you like family and friends. It is not unusual for the addicted person to steal valuables or money to pay for more drugs. An addiction affects not only the body but it impairs thinking to the point that the addict can even consider stealing from others.
    • Lying goes hand in hand with the secretive nature of drug addiction as well as the shame the addict feels for their behavior.
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    Determine the last time you engaged in a hobby. You may have given up hobbies and other interests because using drugs has been your primary focus. Imagine trying to give equal time to drug use as well as hobbies and personal interests (i.e., rock climbing, dance, stamp collecting, photography, playing an instrument, learning another language, and more).
    • Anyone who can still concentrate on their hobbies is not in the grips of an all-consuming chemical addiction.
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    Be honest about how drugs impact your life. Continuing to use drugs even though it is creating problems with school, work, the legal system, family life and relationships, and health. For most people, being arrested would be so jarring that it would force you to reconsider the course of your life. But in a person who is dependent on drugs or alcohol, those consequences are forgotten or the memory fades as soon as the overpowering cravings to use return.
    • You may have been arrested for a DUI (driving under the influence) or for possession of a controlled substance.
    • Your relationships may be in trouble or they may have failed. If you have an addiction, friends and family may not want to be around you.
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    Write down the positive changes you'll see when you quit. Now that you've written down the negative stuff, focus on how much better your situation might be once you beat this. How will your life story change post-addiction? You'll minimize or eliminate many of those negatives, and you'll be able to make positive changes.

Part 2
Getting Professional Help

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    See a doctor. Consult with a doctor who specializes in chemical addictions. This professional can give you guidance on treatment options for your particular drug addiction.
    • The doctor will then likely recommend that you check into a detox facility to begin the withdrawal process under medical supervision. This is especially important if you are withdrawing from alcohol, opiates or benzodiazepines. Withdrawal from these substances can have agonizing and sometimes life-threatening symptoms.[6], [7]
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    Check into a rehabilitation facility. Barbiturates, methamphetamines, cocaine and crack, benzodiazepines, and alcohol withdrawal can all be life threatening, causing seizures, and in the case of cocaine and crack, respiratory failure, stroke, and convulsions.[8] It’s important to detox under the care of a rehabilitation facility to help you deal with the physical effects of withdrawal.
    • Even if the substance does not have any life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, there are other side effects that can make withdrawal very uncomfortable, such as anxiousness and even hallucinations.[9]
    • Experiencing the withdrawal symptoms is part of what keeps you in the cycle of addiction. The best place to recover is in the hands of the professionals who can help you deal with all the effects of withdrawal from the drug.
    • If you’ve been arrested, your probation officer might allow you to attend treatment in lieu of jail time. Take advantage of this opportunity.
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    Start seeing a counselor. As with many treatment programs that focus on chemical addiction, successful treatment includes individual and group counseling. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you identify the thought patterns that keep you stuck in the cycle of drug use.
    • A counselor might also use motivational interviewing to help you see where you are still ambivalent about making the commitment to change.[10]
    • To find a counselor that specializes in drug addiction counseling, get a recommendation from your doctor or rehabilitation facility.
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    Be open to getting help for different aspects of life. In order to beat drug addiction, you will need help in many different parts of your life. This is because drug addiction profoundly affects every aspect of your life. Be ready to seek help for your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.[11]
    • You may also want to seriously consider working with a family therapist, a life coach, a job coach, a fitness coach, a financial advisor, or any other type of expert to help you navigate those areas you need help in that you want to turn into strengths.

Part 3
Joining a Peer-Based Support Group

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    Find a local peer-based support group. Evidence shows that addicts who have a strong network of support have much better success in recovery.[12] 12-Step Programs are the most popular types of self-help, peer support programs in the world.
    • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a very well-known program. AA and other 12-step programs outline twelve specific steps “that are guidelines for nothing less than a total personality transformation.”[13] Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is geared towards supporting individuals recovering from drug addiction.[14]
    • There are other peer-based groups that offer excellent support, such as SMART Recovery. This group is a 4-point program that addresses all types of addictions and compulsions.[15]
    • Don’t be afraid to try several options before you find what works best for you.
    • Search the Alcoholics Anonymous Narcotics Anonymous websites to find local support groups.
    • Recognize that your addiction is a disease. Addiction is a disease that alters brain structure and functioning.[16] When you acknowledge that you’re suffering from a disease, you can address your addiction more readily.
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    Work with a sponsor. Many peer-based support groups assign sponsors to new members. The sponsor is a recovering addict who will help you through the steps of the recovery program.[17]
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    Give support to others in your support group. Support groups will help you realize that there are people who’ve been through similar experiences as you. They feel just as desperate and ashamed as you do. Giving and receiving support can be a useful way to heal and become responsible.[18]

Part 4
Breaking Old Habits

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    Plan out your day. In order to break old habits, you might have to plan out every hour of your day. This will help you develop new routines that do not include drugs. Establish routines that center around the goals you want to accomplish, such as finishing school, raising a family, or going to work. Eventually, you will develop healthy habits that not only distract you from using drugs, but also will help you achieve your life goals.
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    Keep track of daily tasks. This will help you see exactly what you will accomplish throughout the day. Create a simple daily planner. Keep track of daily things that you need to accomplish and then check them off.
    • If you get stuck, have a place for notes where you write down who can help you with this. Never give yourself a dead end.
    • If you don’t have any family or friends to help you with completing the things on your list, it’s perfectly acceptable to bring your list to your counseling session and work out your difficulties with your counselor or psychologist.
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    Be honest with yourself. Another part of breaking old habits is to practice uncompromising honesty with yourself about where you go and who you interact with. The pull to reconnect with those people and places that involved drug use will be strong. Good planning and brutal honesty is required to keep you on your path to success.
    • For example, don’t try to talk yourself into going to places where you used to hang out to test your own strength. Likewise, don’t think that it is okay to see a person you did drugs with all the time. These are just rationalizations, or ways for you to convince yourself to go back to using drugs again. Don’t fall victim to these rationalizations.
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    Be patient. Recognize that, beyond the physical cravings for the drug, you might have emotional connections and ties. You might yearn for the way things used to be. Know that it takes time to adjust, and you can and will adjust if you stick to your plan for recovery.
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    Have supportive people around you. Find people who will support you in your efforts to beat drug addiction. Caring family and friends likely want to help you get healthy.
    • You can also choose people who have been through a similar situation. They can help you stick to your goals.[19]
    • Choose people who do not drink or do drugs, so that you won’t have to put yourself in tempting situations.

Part 5
Having a Healthy Body and Mind

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    Get regular exercise. Getting regular exercise can be an excellent way of handling the stress of beating drug addiction.
    • It can be a good idea to join a gym or work with a personal trainer. This will help make you more accountable to improving your health.
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    See a nutritionist. Find a nutrition program offered through your community. Some programs are offered through the county, and others through local hospitals. Getting your body back on track can also mean eating properly and taking care of your nutrition, which may have been damaged by your drug use.
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    Try yoga. Yoga is a form of exercise and meditation that can benefit your body and mind. Carve out 15-30 minutes at least a few times a week to give yourself time to manage the stress of coping with urges to use alcohol or drugs.
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    Try meditation. Meditation can be an excellent way to manage stress and focus on breathing and body awareness. Meditate to calm yourself as you confront urges to use alcohol or drugs.
    • Find a comfortable and quiet spot to sit for 10-15 minutes.
    • Focus on your breath, inhaling deeply and steadily.
    • As thoughts pass through your mind, release them without judgment. Turn your attention back to your breath.
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    Get acupuncture. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese healing method that places needles at certain pressure points on your body. This method will help you address long-term withdrawal symptoms and discomfort.
    • Check with your health insurance provider to determine if acupuncture treatment is covered by your policy.
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    See your counselor. Continue counseling for as long as you need support. You may want to also bring your family to counseling sessions to work out problems.

Part 6
Handling Everyday Life Without Drugs

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    Create a plan for living without drugs. This plan will involve how to manage temptations and cravings when they occur, how to deal with boredom and discouragement, and learning how to meet responsibilities that have been neglected. Living without drugs is a lifestyle. It is part of every aspect of life (such as relationships, parenting, work, socializing, meeting obligations, interacting with others, etc.).
    • Think about how you will address each of these aspects of life in order to remove drugs from them.
    • Write down ideas of how you will handle situations, such as stressful conversations, social gatherings, and so on.[20]
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    Make a list of your goals. Write down the goals that you’d like to accomplish. These can be small things, such as taking a shower every day or eating a proper meal every day. They may also be larger goals, such as getting a job or visiting the dentist.
    • Keep track of your progress on these goals every week. Even small accomplishments are worth noting. You will start to see improvement and progress, which will motivate you to keep going.
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    Use urge surfing to combat relapse. If you start to feel like you’re going to start using again, try urge surfing. This is a mindfulness relapse prevention technique. When you suppress urges, you tend to make the urges worse. By recognizing and accepting urges, you will be able to ride them out, or “surf” them.[21]
    • Recognize the urges that you feel about your addiction. Be conscious about the feelings and thoughts that you experience.
    • Rate your urge from 1 to 10 (1 being hardly any urge to 10 being a pressing urge). Wait for 10 minutes. Busy yourself with an activity, such as cleaning the junk out of your car, or writing a list, or putting away laundry. Check with your urge again to gauge its level. If you still experience a high level of urge, continue busying yourself with another activity. [22]
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    Avoid places and people associated with drugs or drink. Don’t visit the places where you used to obtain or use drugs. Don’t associate with the people who were your drinking buddies.
    • The flip side here is to frequent places that you don’t associate with drugs or drink. You may develop new hobbies, such as rock climbing, knitting, hiking or gardening.
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    Get a job. Keep yourself busy by getting a job, even if it’s part time. This will also start building up your self-worth as you bring home a paycheck.
    • Deposit your paychecks in the bank and save the money.
    • You might also think about volunteering if you don’t want to get a job. Having commitments to other people will help you stay on track.
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    Focus on building a new life. Once the worst has passed, and your body and mind are no longer consumed by withdrawal, spend your time building the life you want to live. Nourish your relationships with the people you love, work hard at your job, and throw yourself into hobbies and past times that are meaningful to you.
    • During this time, you should continue going to meetings with your support group and continue meeting with your therapist. The process of beating a drug addiction is not a quick one, so don't declare yourself cured when things start to go well.


  • Don't let relapse be the end of the road. It's very common to slip when you are first overcoming an addiction. If you end up taking drugs after your quit date, address the issue right away before it spirals out of control. If you end up having a full-blown relapse, don't be hard on yourself. You can still do this. Try to figure out what went wrong and start the process again. No matter how long it takes to finally beat this, it's completely worth the struggle.[23]


  • Overcoming a strong addiction is not just a matter of willpower. Substance abuse can lead to alterations in mental and physical health of an individual. Seek professional help to help you through these stages.
  • If you see your doctor about drug abuse, the details can appear on some medical records. Disclosures, while illegal, can happen in rare instances. These might cause problems with future jobs and insurance. Of course, continued use of illicit drugs is going to hurt your chances even more. If you are the victim of an illegal disclosure, see a lawyer.
  • Withdrawal can be dangerous, and even deadly. Be sure to consult a medical professional before detoxing.

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Categories: Drug Addictions