When a recovering addict replaces one addiction with another, this is what’s known as addiction replacement, which is something in which we frequently see.
An individual may come to our treatment center in order to combat their alcohol addiction and while they begin to overcome their psychological and physical need to drink, they seek that same feeling or “high” from another addiction. Whether it be gambling, shopping, or any other compulsive behavior or activity, this cycle does not allow these individuals to truly recover.
The Science Behind Addiction Replacement
As addicts begin to adjust to a life of sobriety, the stress and anxiety associated with this transition can re-trigger compulsive behaviors. In some cases, addictions may be productive but still problematic, such as replacing a drug addiction with a work or exercise addiction.
In other cases, replacement addictions are unproductive and unhealthy, such as substituting the need for alcohol with a marijuana addiction, sex addiction, or even a video game addiction. This often allows recovering addicts to continue to cope with regards to key underlying issues and increasing levels of stress.
Although there are many variables to consider, including genetic and environmental factors, neuroplasticity plays a major role in regards to the reward system and in turn, addiction. As changes occur in the brain in relation to addiction, once established, these changes and compulsions drive relapses — which can, unfortunately, take on a new form. (1)
The Links Between Addiction Replacement and Addiction Syndrome
In many cases, an individual may seek treatment in order to overcome their opioid addiction. However, instead of being treated specifically as an opiate addict, they should be treated in regards to a more comprehensive addiction syndrome model. (2)
In fact, the high relapse rate associated with a wide range of addictions is believed to be associated with how these addictions are treated. When multidimensional treatment plans are offered, it is less likely that one addiction will replace another.
After all, common pathways are associated with addictive behaviors, often influencing those in recovery to switch from one compulsion to another. That is why in order to fully address addiction, regardless of the substance of behavior, those in recovery must understand their personal triggers, manifestations, and consequences associated with all addictive behavior. (3)
Breaking the Cycle
At Serenity View, we understand the importance of effective, evidence-based treatment and therapy options. Whether an individual is suffering from addiction, co-occurring disorders, or both, the goal is to treat specific underlying issues which drive compulsive behaviors. This allows such individuals to truly break free from addiction.
By trying new activities, setting goals, overcoming trauma, and seeking balance, recovering addicts can actively work towards a healthier, more productive lifestyle without the crutch of substitute behaviors. From cognitive-behavioral therapy to nutrition counseling, our approach promotes long-term recovery, targeting the possibility of addiction replacement.
This allows recovering addicts to better understand their own habits and behaviors so that they can establish healthy routines. In turn, they can begin to focus on their personal goals and interests, as they find greater purpose and meaning outside of their addiction.