Drug Dreams: Predictive or Not?

Dreams are our subconscious’ means of working through problems we may have that we are unaware of, or uncomfortable with thinking of on a conscious level. Sigmund Freud was the first to discuss the unconscious mind, that part of us that operates without our awareness.

Most often when we dream it is not coherent, in fact, many dreams are very much like a down the rabbit hole experience. What I mean by this is that they are bizarre, nonsensical and somewhat disturbing. For example, Freud believed that if a person dreamt of spiders, he or she had a fear of his or her mother. If a woman (primarily) dreamt of snakes, she was afraid of men, or to be more specific, the penis.

If a person dreams of something that he or she has never experienced, it is likely due to a desire to do, or a fear of that thing. Sometimes there could be a metaphor within the dream. For example, if someone is experiencing a great deal of pressure at home or work, he or she may have a dream of walking a tightrope.

There is a phenomenon of called drug dreams. These are dreams that former users or persons who have gone through rehabilitation have when they are no longer taking drugs. The brain does not forget what it is like to take drugs, so therefore the entire sensation can be reenacted in a dream- much like a wet dream in which orgasm takes place- in the absence of physical sexual activity.

Many drugs, such as cannabis store in the fat cells for a significant amount of time. It is quite possible to have a waking or sleeping reenactment of this drug. What happens is it is released through the hormones and adrenaline, and the individual may experience a cannabis-induced psychosis as a result.

There is some evidence to suggest that dreaming of drugs serves as a predictive measure when these dreams are experienced during recovery as to whether or not the individual will relapse. For example, if a person dreams of the feeling of euphoria and inanity that comes from heroin use, and upon waking realizes it was just a dream, but has a desire for the dream to come true, he or she is more likely to relapse.

If on the other hand a person has the same dream and becomes fearful of using, then he or she is less likely to relapse.

For example, I received an email about a year ago from someone who had a drug dream and was asking for analysis. They had just left drug rehab and they were required to check in for a drug test once a week to monitor if there had been a relapse.

The person was dreaming that passing a urine drug test was required and that every time they took the test they failed. However, in the dream, they were not using at all. This I felt was different then there being a desire to use drugs again. It was a positive sign that the person had stayed clean but just fearful of the consequences of failing the drug test and what that would mean for her life.

The way dreams generally work is that the person who desires drugs desires them. It may not be an admitted desire, but it is there non-the-less. This individual is going to dream about the pleasurable aspects of drug use. Whereas the individual who is seriously committed to recovery, who is fully aware of the negative impact using drugs has had on his or her life will most likely have a dream with more negative connotations, such as losing family, home, job, etc.

The key to remember is that dreams are our subconscious at work. We may not like what our dreams reveal about our subconscious or repressed desires, but we must trust that we had the dream for a reason.

Some helpful tips:

  1. If in recovery, see someone and talk about your dreams.
  2. Find positive, proactive ways to counteract triggers that used to lead to drug use.
  3. Go to a meeting, even if you go regularly. Go daily if you have to.
  4. Stick to healthy sleep patterns by not
  • Eating right before bedtime
  • Dealing with stressful issues prior to bedtime.
  1. A substance abuse counselor or sponsor is just a phone call away. Make the call.

The reasons people have drugs dreams vary; as indicated they are generally related to desire or fear. Although it may not be that simplified. Perhaps a person has had the type of day in which events or stressors occurred that were typically triggers for drug use. Even though the individual was successful in either repressing the acknowledgment or actively denounced it, the dreams were a way of addressing it. That is not a negative, it can indeed be a positive in that it creates awareness, and it is only through awareness that one can seek true change.

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