People in recovery from a substance use disorder may end up trading one addiction or addictive behavior for another during or following the addiction treatment process.
Switching addictions may be a matter of needing something else to fill in for chemical or emotional factors that are no longer a part of the recovering addicts’ lives.
Becoming compulsively involved in an activity such as work or exercise can be a positive, but if the person is trading a new addiction for the old one, it may interfere with their drug or alcohol abuse recovery.
One Addiction for Another
People who find they are trading one addiction for another may discover that they have also regained the negative consequences.
The new addiction comes with the baggage of the old: problems at work or school, difficulties in personal relationships, personal hygiene issues, financial woes, and a long list of resulting secondary problems and concerns.
What is Addiction Replacement?
The concept of addiction replacement says that a person who recovers from an addiction is at increased risk of developing another form of addiction.
It may not be a new “high” they are seeking. They may use addiction replacement to manage anxieties or stresses that are products of their new sobriety.
In addition to drugs, replacement addictions can include activities like binge eating, working longer hours than necessary, compulsive gambling, shopping, pornography, or risky sexual behavior.
Two Types of Replacement Addictions
There are two types of replacement addictions, long-term and temporary. Here are some examples of both.
Long-Term Replacement Addiction
By virtue of the name, these are instances where a person is permanently substituting one addiction for another. In terms of addiction treatment, the preference is to find an activity or substance use that is healthier.
If they give up opiate abuse for alcoholism, the replacement is, unfortunately, a negative one. The rate at which they will injure their health may change, but not the result.
What is needed is something that has some of the qualities of an addiction–the compulsion to do it because of the sense of reward or pleasure–but does not hurt the person physically or mentally.
Temporary Replacement Addiction
An example of a temporarily substituting addictions is the use of longer-acting opioids like methadone or buprenorphine to help in the treatment of opioid addiction.
It has drawbacks as a long-term replacement, however. There is risk of relapse or failure among those who fail to refill their buprenorphine or methadone or miss follow-up appointments with their physician.
There is a potential for substance abuse with patients who return to their drug of choice while taking prescribed buprenorphine or methadone.
Alternatives for Recovering Addicts
Here are some common substitute “addictions” for drug and alcohol addiction. Remember, the goal is to find something that brings a sense of reward or pleasure. It’s trading one addiction for another, but the new one is healthy.
- Sport or exercise
- Involvement with a support group
- Be a Mentor to another person in recovery
- Involvement in a community group
- Volunteering or other activities
- A new hobby
- Compulsive gambling
- Compulsive eating
- Compulsive spending
- Another drug or alcohol
- Internet pornography
What are Process Addictions?
Process addictions involve out-of-control compulsive behavior and the desire to continue such behavior despite its threat to the person’s emotional and physical health.
Instead of addictive substances, process addictions involve, as the name implies, a process such as compulsive gambling or shopping or viewing Internet pornography.
What they have in common is their effect on the brain’s reward system. They make the person feel good. Like a substance addiction, a process addiction may respond to treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, professional help from counselors, and participation in 12-step recovery groups.
A Positive Goal
Persons in recovery seeking to avoid trading one addiction for another have a number of alternatives that will lead them toward a better life.
They can choose productive activities over ones with substantial downsides. There are activities which trigger the brain’s reward system and produce euphoria.
They can remember their cognitive behavioral therapy and practice impulse control and use other mental health tools.
Support Groups as Addiction Replacement
Participating in a 12-step support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, or Narcotics Anonymous is an intentional way of substitute a behavior for the time formerly occupied by substance abuse problems.
The advantage to this form of replacement is that the activity is an added bulwark against relapse and supports long-term recovery.
Buprenorphine is Not a Substitute Drug
Buprenorphine is a prescription drug used to help patients stop using heroin and other opioids by managing withdrawal symptoms and reducing cravings.
When prescribed for patients for this purpose, buprenorphine is not considered a substitute drug. It has a gradual effect and causes a stable level of the drug in the brain. There is not a rush like there is with heroin or opioids.
A person being treated with buprenorphine is not likely to experience the same euphoria they experienced if they used heroin or opioids.
Clonidine for Drug or Alcohol Addiction
A medication commonly used to minimize opioid addiction withdrawal complications, Clonidine also has been considered for use with persons withdrawing from alcohol addiction.
On the downside, Clonidine has the potential for abuse and its use should be supervised.
Clonidine use does not typically fit the stereotype of drug addiction, especially because it is a prescription medication, abusers often do not feel like they will fall victim to it.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Help
Cognitive behavioral therapy, often received during addiction rehab in individual or group therapy, can help people in recovery avoid trading one addiction for another.
By identifying their response to a feeling or event is compulsive behavior, recovering addicts can avoid substituting an addiction for healthy responses to the situations.
Addiction Treatment at La Hacienda
La Hacienda Treatment Center has been helping people with substance use disorders find recovery for 50 years.
At the attractive 40-acre campus in the Texas Hill Country, the professional, licensed staff oversee detoxification and provide individualized therapy for patients suffering from substance addiction.
The addiction recovery process is based on treatment of body, mind, and spirit, with an emphasis on abstinence and following the 12 steps.
Medication for Withdrawal
Medication may be prescribed by the on-site medical team for easing the discomfort of withdrawal, but they avoid treatment that may trade one addiction for another.
Some addiction treatment facilities use buprenorphine maintenance or other drugs as part of a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program, but La Hacienda Treatment Center does not support using drugs for recovery maintenance.
For information about addiction treatment, phone (800) 749-6160 and speak with one of our on-campus admission specialists.
In early recovery, patients learn how to recognize the initial stages of potential addiction relapse, when their relapse prevention plans may have the best chance of success. The main relapse prevention tools are cognitive therapy and mind-body relaxation. They offset negative thinking, improve mental health and emotional health, and develop healthy coping skills.
Relapse into a former condition has recognizable stages and warning signs of relapse. In treatment, patients learn how to recognize them, improving their chances of preventing full-blown relapse. Cognitive therapy and mind-body relaxation are the primary tools to prevent a fall from sobriety. Support groups and recovery meetings also help sustain recovery.
Signs of Relapse
A change in attitude, increased stress, more denial, a recurrence of withdrawal symptoms, poor self-care, behavioral changes to old ways, less socializing, abandoning routines such as a healthy diet, engaging in high-risk situations, irrational choice-making, and limiting one\’s choices are some warning signs of future relapse into substance use.
When used in connection with addiction treatment and recovery, the definition of relapse is a return to using drugs or alcohol after an attempt to stop. In medicine, relapse means a return of a disease or illness following partial recovery or a period of apparent improvement.