Addiction replacement or transference is classified by an individual in recovery substituting one addiction for another. This typically occurs during or after the treatment process for the original addiction. When a person enters treatment for addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling etc. the general assumption they should be ‘cured’ of all compulsions. In reality many who’ve battled an addiction experience common addiction replacements such as:

  • Binge eating
  • Gambling
  • Overworking
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Nicotine
  • Sex
  • Pornography
  • Shopping

Basically what they are doing is substituting one addiction for another in an attempt to compensate for a perceived ‘lack’ emotionally or psychologically. This often occurs because one’s underlying brain biology and chemistry does immediately change when they stop using something they were addicted to and therefore recovering addicts tend to transfer their past addictive behaviours into other activities or substances as a way to fulfil the craving, and reduce the unpleasant side effects of withdrawal. The main reason for this is because they often experience a lowered level of dopamine in the brain, which would limit their ability to feel happiness or excitement during the early stages of sobriety. Even though the individuals may no longer be craving a physical substance, instead they’re craving the fulfilment of an emotional need. 

On the surface it may seem that binge eating, shopping or even over exercising may appear as a healthier alternative than abusing drugs, however prolonged abuse or mis-chanelling of those activities can have very negative consequences too. The following is a quick checklist of signs if an addiction replacement is the following signs:

  • Are you constantly thinking about your new activity or vice?
  • Are you losing sleep to participate in new activity?
  • Is the new activity or vice causing trouble at work, school or at home?
  • Are there relationship issues with a spouse or loved ones?
  • Are you neglecting self-care and personal hygiene?
  • Are you experiencing stress or anxiety if unable to complete new activity?
  • Are you depressed or harbouring suicidal thoughts?

The key to treating addiction replacement is addressing the underlying cause of the compulsive behaviour, thoughts and actions through therapy. If addiction is seen more as a permanent condition than a temporary dependence on a single substance, this could help reduce rates of relapsing. Rather than identifying patients by their drug of choice, which may be transitory, research suggests we institute a broader conceptualisation of this complex brain disease.

The only way to fully put a stop to replacement addictions is by addressing any unconscious emotions and working through them with a therapist rather than projecting them onto different substances or activities. Proactively educating individuals in treatment centres of the very real risk of transferring addictive habits onto other things is another way to prevent a new addiction from developing. Also, working with a counsellor or sponsor to learn how to better identify your triggers and addictive patterns of thoughts is extremely important in preventing a substitute addiction from developing.

At Ibiza Calm, we have an expert team of highly professionals available at all times for any number of addictions you or a loved one may be suffering with, so please do not hesitate to call us if you need any help or advice.

(SPAIN) +34 664 443 433

(UK) +44 203 868 5710