The process of healing from substance dependence is long and difficult, and withdrawing from a chronic disease like opioid use disorder can be physically and mentally taxing. To cope, some people fall into the pit of trading one addiction for another, believing that since they've started recovering from their first addiction, getting involved in a "lesser evil" might be okay. This is a potentially dangerous mindset that could result in another wave of clinical and behavioral problems.
This article discusses addiction replacement and how to identify the early warning signs in order to break the cycle.
What is Addiction Replacement?
Addiction replacement happens when a person who is recovering or has recovered from addiction finds another substance or activity to shift their attention to in an unhealthy way. For example, somebody who's recovering from opioid use disorder might think that drinking alcohol is okay because they didn't have problems with it before. Even a seemingly harmless activity such as eating can be an addiction replacement when it's done compulsively as a coping mechanism.
Common Addiction Replacements
Addiction substitutes are often an attempt to relieve stress and anxiety, or to fill a psychological, emotional, or physical void that was left after recovering from addiction. Common addiction replacements include the following:
- Sex and risky behaviors
- Binge-eating and other unhealthy eating habits
Early Warning Signs of Addiction Replacement
A person might not notice that they are adopting a substitute addiction because they will appreciate the benefits these behaviors bring to their lives, such as distracting themselves from their first addiction, relieving pain, or reducing stress. It is essential to know the early warning signs of trading one addiction for another so they can be addressed early through therapy and counseling.
- These early signs of substitute addiction include:
- Neglecting self-care
- Losing sleep just to participate in the new activity
- Constantly thinking or talking about the new vice
- Relationship troubles
- Experiencing anxiety or stress if one is unable to perform the new activity
It is important that one's recovery program include prevention education on substitute addictions. By incorporating this discussion into counseling sessions, the person in recovery will likely be more attentive and proactive in case a possible replacement surfaces later on.
How to Avoid Trading One Addiction for Another
Preventing oneself from engaging in an addiction replacement starts with acknowledging that it exists and making the decision to steer away. Try to find a new activity that will bring benefits to your mental and physical health even if you do it constantly, such as exercising or painting. Having a good support system and attending counseling and therapy sessions also help greatly in keeping you on track with your recovery goals.
Withdrawal from opioid addiction is as challenging on the mind as on the body, and counseling plays an important role in maintaining long-term and sustained success. MATClinics creates personalized treatment programs for persons struggling with substance use disorder, which typically includes a combination of counseling, case management, and medicated assisted treatment (MAT).
If you or a loved one in recovery seems to be struggling and showing signs of addiction replacement, get in touch with MATClinics so we can create a counseling and treatment plan that will help toward success.