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Understanding addiction
What are Urges and Triggers in Addiction?

What are Urges and Triggers in Addiction?

You ask, we answer: how are triggers related to urges? Find out more about it in this comprehensive guide from Confidant Health.

Triggers and urges are standard terms used in the recovery process. Understanding what they mean and how they relate can help you avoid a relapse. 

What is a Trigger? 

A trigger can be a person, object, memory, feeling, or physical sensation -- anything that makes the brain revisit the rewarding "high" that came from engaging in the addictive behavior. Triggers are often related to your environment, but they can also occur as a result of your thoughts and feelings. 

What is an Urge?

An urge is an intense desire to engage in an activity. Without purposeful intervention, urges can lead to more compulsive drug use. 

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How are Triggers Related to Urges? 

When someone experiences a trigger, whether it's external like an empty pill bottle or internal like a particular thought, it creates a cascade of events in the brain. 

The body responds to the trigger by releasing a tiny amount of the "feel-good" chemical dopamine. Once the brain gets that little taste of dopamine, it immediately desires more, creating an urge.  

 The first step to dealing with a trigger without giving in to the urge is to recognize it as a false message. Then, you can use coping methods to work through it. 

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This article has been medically reviewed by
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Nurse Practitioner

Erin is a Nurse Practitioner with 8 years of experience in midwifery and women's health. She has spent the past 5 years specializing in the treatment of opioid and alcohol use disorders.

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