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Substituting One Addiction for Another

The pervasiveness of addiction replacement shows that addiction is a disease, not a bad habit. Addiction replacement, also known as addiction substitution or transfer addiction, refers to an individual in recovery or rehabilitation replacing one addiction with another. This usually occurs when the emotional or psychological need that drove the initial addiction is still present and compels the individual to switch addictions.

Research shows that individuals with mental health disorders are more at risk for developing an addiction than other populations. Today, in addition to focusing on a person’s preoccupation with one activity or substance, professionals seek to identify the underlying emotional or psychological needs driving the addictive behavior.

Can You Be Addicted to More Than One Thing? 

A common risk for people addicted to one toxic behavior or substance is to become addicted to another. It’s also common for one addiction to lead to another — a phenomenon called multiple addictions.

In these cases, an addict may get to a point where they no longer feel the pleasure they once did. This may cause them to engage in another addictive activity in order to experience the same amount of satisfaction. Almost 65 percent of recovering addicts also experience issues with anxiety, depression, alcohol, eating disorders, gambling or impulse control.

Today, scientists believe a person’s dopamine levels play a crucial role in addictive behaviors. Pleasurable experiences cause a burst of dopamine to be released in the brain. Addictive substances like drugs and alcohol create a release for up to 10 times more dopamine than normal. Over time, the brain can stop its natural production of dopamine with repeated drug abuse. 

Common Substitute Addictions 

An individual may substitute one addiction for another to fill an emotional or psychological void. Addiction goes beyond engaging too much in a single activity. If your recovery doesn’t address your desire to escape negative feelings or problems, you may find yourself turning to a substitute addiction.

Replacement addictions can be caused by a variety of factors, including the need to relieve anxiety, pain or stress. Common substitute addictions include: 

  • Work addiction
  • Shopping addiction
  • Sex and relationship addiction
  • Gambling addiction
  • Food addiction
  • Internet addiction
  • Nicotine addiction
  • Benzodiazepine addiction

Preventing and Treating Replacement Addictions 

The only way to stop replacement addictions is to work through them with a team of professionals. It’s important to recognize if you’re substituting an addictive drug with an alternative behavior or substance to an unhealthy degree. A counselor can help you identify your triggers and addictive thought patterns in order to prevent replacement addictions from developing. 

If you believe you may be addicted to a behavior or activity, there is always hope. At Gateway, we can help you break the cycle of switching addictions and get your life back on track. Our caring and compassionate staff use a continuum of care as well as evidence-based practices, including a 12-Step Facilitation curriculum, to help you regain control of your life.

Contact Gateway and start receiving life-saving treatment today. 

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