Drug dreams! What gives?
Drug dreams can be very disconcerting for a person in the early stages of recovery.  There are a number of theories available to peruse in an internet search.  Some attempt to assign some underlying, sometimes mystical meaning.  Others attempt to equate drug dreams with Freudian theory, stating that they represent an underlying desire to continue to use.  The reality is that there is very little research into drug dreaming.   What little that exists is rather inconclusive leading to speculation on the part of the researchers rather than unveiling any significant fact or reliable diagnostically or predictively useful recovery outcome data.
Considering that the dreamscape of any individual is bizarre enough and that there is no clear consensus on dreams and all the purposes they serve or their meanings, it is probably best not to over analyze a drug dream, although it is healthy to talk about them in early recovery.  
The important thing to understand is that drug dreams are a very common part of the recovery process.  This is true whatever the path to recovery is, including faith based recovery. Even in cases of divine deliverance drugs dream are common, and to be expected. 
 While good research and clinical studies are important and helpful in the field of recovery, both in the faith based and secular disciplines, sometimes a good old fashion empirical approach is the way to go.  Therefore when attempting to understand something to which there is little study or limited information to guide us, we must turn to those who have practical field experience.   
Recently a good friend/colleague and I were discussing drug dreams and our observations.  Together we represent roughly thirty years of recovery observation and varied mental health and counseling and or pastoral care experience. 
Here is what we see.
While one study suggests that recovery outcome can be predicted by drug dreams, it is more likely that the lack of reported drug dreams is a more reliable indicator of an unsuccessful outcome rather than content of reported dream as this can suggest that the individual may still be using.   For those who do report drug dreams they are often dismayed and frightened by them.   They report that the dreams have an uncanny realistic  feeling to them.  THC users report the actual experience of feeling high with in the dream. And heroin users often report feeling an actual rush.   These feeling disappear immediately upon awaking, but often leaving the dreamer in a state of distress, especially the first couple of episodes.  The dismay expressed and the desire to process this with the counselor and/or group is very positive.     It is important to understand that the brain is undergoing rapid changes in the early stages of abstinence.  Rapid physiological transformation will manifest in a myriad of psychological adjustments as the brain and the psyche come to terms with the changes and begins to return to a healthy natural state. This profoundly effects the  brain on many levels from the early abstinent unconscious mind at play to the general way in which the unbalanced brain sleeps in the absence of chemical influence.
Drug dreams should subside in a matter of months as the brain restores natural equilibrium, becoming less distressing with each one.  Drug dreams however can pop up even years later though they would be very rare and likely do not represent any repressed desire to return to use.   Dreams of any given content can be bizarre.  As stated earlier that understanding of dreams and purpose and meaning are of great debate among those who study them.  However it is scientifically agreed that many dreams are fed by unexplained snippets of memory combined with other factors with in the unconscious  mind/brain.   A random drug dream years after successful recovery is likely no more to be concerned about than dreaming about working at an old job from years before, or having a randomized dream in which the components seem not to make sense.  For example this writer once dreamed years after deliverance from alcoholism and addiction that I was smoking beer in a pipe.  To me it was just weird and nonsensical and posed no alarm.  On occasion dreams of being back in the Navy will occur. (even ones in which I am at present age, and mandated back to finish an uncompleted tour) Just dreams, not always the most pleasant, but yet dreams, nothing more.
 
In conclusion drug dreams as unnerving as they may be are a very normal part of the process and do not mean that you are in trouble. However never hesitate to speak with someone if such a dream brings you an overwhelming or abnormal set of emotions that you feel might cause you a problem. If the dream does prompt a craving or urge to use, this is not healthy most especially if you have been abstinent for any real length of time.  It is always best to be safe and seek a professional in the field of addictions in such a case.
  December 2017  
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