Woman sitting on couch thinkingWhat is Addiction Replacement?

Addiction replacement refers to the idea that someone will substitute one addiction for another. This new addiction is meant to fill the void left behind from the previous addiction but may be just as destructive as the old one. Even new addictions that stem out of healthier habits can be harmful as they may reach a level of excess.

Switching addictions is an especially common practice for people in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse.

Common substitute addictions for substance abuse include:

  • Gambling
  • Sex
  • Porn
  • Exercising
  • Binge eating (especially sugary foods)
  • Religion
  • Working
  • Shopping
  • Adrenaline rushes

Why People Switch One Addiction for Another

Although someone may get residential treatment and overcome their dependence on drugs and alcohol, it does not mean that they are out of the woods. People in recovery from substance abuse may find themselves trading one addiction for another for several different reasons.

Addiction is a disease that changes the brain, and these changes do not go away overnight. Instead, the brain has come to crave and expect the high that comes from using drugs or alcohol. The brain’s reward system in particular becomes overstimulated from substance abuse. Now that these substances are out of the picture, the person is looking for other ways of getting this same high and feeling these same rewards. Exercising, eating sugar, sex, gambling, and adrenaline rush activities all activate the brain’s reward system and can help satisfy some of the high that the brain is craving. Unfortunately, because the high from drugs and alcohol is so great, it can lead people in recovery to rely on these other activities too much to get what they no longer can from drugs and lead to addiction replacement.

Another reason someone in recovery might substitute one addiction for another is to continue to fulfill their emotional or psychological needs. Many people’s substance abuse is tied to their mental health. Without co-occurring disorder treatment that addresses these concerns during rehab, they will still have the same mental health needs but without drugs or alcohol to help meet them and fill this void. Instead, these people will turn to other means of emotional fulfillment such as sex or food.

The Dangers of Switching Addictions

Substituting one addiction for another can be incredibly harmful. While drug and alcohol abuse are damaging, these other new replacement addictions may be just as destructive.

Like drug addiction, these new vices can impact various areas of someone’s life and lead to several secondary problems including those with finances, personal relationships, work, physical health, and mental health. Even healthier addictions such as exercise or religion can lead to some of these issues when done in excess.

How to Avoid Trading One Addiction for Another

To avoid switching addictions after rehab, it is important to address the underlying cause of the initial addiction. Continuing treatment like with an intensive outpatient program can promote more self-discovery that helps further reveal the root causes of these compulsions and how to address them.

It may also be best to avoid some of these potential new vices in early recovery such as gambling, sugary food, or sex. This approach gives your brain time to adjust and your mental health time to heal so you can avoid becoming reliant on other outside sources to fill your needs.

Addiction recovery is a long and challenging road, but at Vertava Health Mississippi, we want to be here for you. If you are in need of more care or support in your journey, contact us today to find out how we may be able to help.