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How to Write and Educate About Addiction Without Triggering Cravings in an Addict

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 2 3

Drug addiction is programmed into the brain. The result is very strong emotional and physical responses, or cravings, based on environmental cues. If you ever studied psychology and learned about Pavlov's theory of classic conditioning apply that approach when working with addicts or alcoholics. Learning to write and educate people about addiction without triggering cravings in the drug addict and alcoholic can be tricky. It is important to learn some key tips on what to avoid.

Things You Will Need

*common sense

Step 1

Do not post pictures of the drug or alcohol. This is probably one of the biggest mistakes people make when writing about addiction. Although showing a picture of the drug is good in theory with the goal to educate people in what they are looking for, it is not a good idea when writing specifically for an audience of people recovery. Guaranteed, the drug addict already knows what the drug looks like and showing him or her a big pile of it doesn't help.

Television advertisements do so well because they tap into us mentally. Showing drugs to an addict, especially in the beginning of the recovery process, will trigger cravings in them. Avoiding triggers and getting rid of reminders is of primary importance. When writers introduce photos of the drug as their introduction to their article it sends a big emotional and physical cue to the brain of the addict and can turn them off from your material.

Step 2

Do not use pictures of paraphernalia. This is also a very common error made by people. So many times I see articles about addiction that have a huge syringe as the introduction. Not only will this trigger cravings in some addicts, but it will repulse people who do not understand addiction and believe it is a moral decomposition. The pictures that are used for effect generally have the wrong one.

Think about your favorite food or your favorite activity. Again, as with pictures of drugs, addicts and alcoholics already know what their paraphernalia looked like and showing pictures will most likely result in triggering them. For example, lets say you like to play golf. If you see a golf club (the paraphernalia) it is going to send your brain a cue about golf and because this is an enjoyable activity and your brain and body have experienced it before, you will get excited and likely want to play.

A part of addiction is routine. Alcoholics and addicts typically have some type of routine. This often involves some type of paraphernalia. One reason it is so hard to quit smoking is because of the hand to mouth fixation and the routine. People who smoke on the telephone will have a hard time making phone calls without a physical urge and craving for a cigarette.

Step 3

Remember Pavlov. The theory of classical conditioning found that if a person rings a bell then feeds a dog eventually the dog will salivate when it hears the bell, but doesn't receive any food. This simple conditioning doesn't take very long to occur. It may be years before an alcoholic can hear the crack of a soda can without their mouth watering with the expectation of a cold beer.

Of course, I do not equate addicts to dogs, however the conditioning that happens inside the brain is spot on. It is often the inability to fight triggers that will overwhelm and lead to relapse. Never underestimate how strong these urges can be in someone who has been addicted.

Step 4

Offer realistic examples. Using fear tactics to scare people in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction doesn't tend to work very well. Most addicts have known a lot of fear. If logic could battle addiction there would be a cure. Unfortunately, addiction is not a logical disease.

Fear is used in treatment centers and in Narcotics Anonymous and other twelve step support groups as a way to prevent relapse. It is not usually the things that the general population would fear or think that an addict should fear though, like death. Sometimes it can work if the individual has things he or she is afraid of repeating, such as psychotic episodes from using methamphetamine.

Step 5

Count the number of cues that you might receive in a day and realize how hard people in recovery fight in their environment. From television to driving and seeing beer signs or other signs in the environment, people in recovery are triggered all the time. The longer a person was using the more everyday things that become ingrained in the person as a relation to their addiction.

For example, what may be simple objects to you or things that go unnoticed, they can be huge physical triggers to someone trying to recover from addiction. There are not many people who fight against their own biological cues every day like folks in recovery.

Step 6

Define your audience. If you are writing an article about preventing relapse then follow these steps closely since not doing it is likely to trigger the addict rather than help them. However, if are directing your writing toward parents then telling them what brown tar heroin looks like and using a picture as an adjunct is useful. Figuring out your target audience is key.

Tips & Warnings

Write with compassion when you want to educate other people about addiction.



Feb 4, 2010 5:28am
Great article! I think people often misuse pictures because they hear they are worth 1,000 words. When they read this, they will understand a picture could equal 1,000 wrong words. Tumbs UP!
Feb 4, 2010 7:24am
Great article jp and very great points thumbs up to you sir
Mar 24, 2011 12:08am
This is very truth...showing pictures of a drug or paraphernalia can and does bring up a craving. Very information information for those who have never struggled with an addiction.
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