Trading One Addiction for Another: 6 Tips to Prevent Addiction Replacement

What is Addiction Replacement?

Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is a long-term affliction, and while its recovery journey can be arduous and multifaceted, it is certainly surmountable. However, on the path to sobriety, many individuals inadvertently end up trading one addiction for another. For instance, in an attempt to handle the physical and psychological hurdles associated with battling opioid dependence, a person might resort to alcohol. They may justify this by reasoning that they aren’t addicted to alcohol; therefore, its consumption is harmless. This line of thinking, however, harbors a latent risk that can lead to addiction replacement.

In this article by MAT Care Clinics, we aim to answer the query: What is addiction replacement? We will identify the red flags to watch for and provide six practical strategies to prevent the substitution of one addiction for another.

Understanding Addiction Replacement

The phenomenon of trading one addiction for another takes place when an individual, either during recovery or post-recovery from a dependency, substitutes their initial addiction with another substance or activity that is detrimental to their well-being. This concept doesn’t solely pertain to psychoactive substances. It also extends to seemingly benign activities, which, when individuals engage with it in a compulsive way as a coping mechanism, can serve as a replacement for the original addiction.

A study by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health disclosed that 36% of the research participants opted to replace their primary substance with another or with a different behavior. Meanwhile, 23% underwent a relapse, and 40% managed to maintain abstinence. The researchers identified various underlying motives for these substitute behaviors, such as the pursuit of the effects anticipated from the primary substance, the need for time-passing activities, social connection, enjoyment, and considerations related to the availability and accessibility of the substitute substance or behavior.

Trading One Addiction for Another: Identifying Common Substitutes and Signs

During the journey to recovery from SUD, individuals frequently grapple with heightened stress and anxiety levels, which often propels them to seek alternative methods to manage these challenging emotions. Regrettably, in many instances, those who end up trading one addiction for another are attempting to fill a psychological, emotional, or physical void through substance use or engaging in activities such as:

  • Cocaine use
  • Nicotine consumption
  • Benzodiazepine dependency
  • Gambling
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Overwork
  • Compulsive shopping
  • Engaging in risky sexual behaviors
  • Binge eating and other unwholesome eating habits

Regrettably, individuals trading one addiction for another may not realize their substitution as they concentrate on the perceived “benefits” these behaviors offer, such as distraction, pain alleviation, and stress reduction. It’s crucial to identify early warning signs to assist those at risk of trading one addiction for another and address the issue promptly by seeking professional intervention.

Warning signs that may suggest someone is trading one addiction for another include:

  • Experiencing anxiety or stress when unable to engage in the new activity or consume the new substance
  • Having difficulties in interpersonal relationships
  • Neglecting physical appearance and personal hygiene
  • Forgoing rest and sleep to partake in the new activity or use the new substance
  • Constantly thinking or talking about the new vice

In treatment plans for substance dependence disorders, professionals need to incorporate education about potential addiction replacement. Additionally, integrating complementary therapies, such as psychoanalytic or holistic therapies, which focus on the individual’s emotional and mental aspects, can be pivotal. The importance of addressing psychological aspects is because addictions often stem from emotional triggers that need to be adequately tackled by professionals to facilitate the recovery process.

Tips to Prevent Addiction Replacement

  1. Find a Healthy Alternative: One way to prevent addiction replacement is to engage in healthy physical or mental activities. This strategy redirects your focus and energy toward constructive and rewarding endeavors. Research from St. Catherine University supports the multiple physical and mental benefits of physical exercise for people in remission from substance dependence since this is a potential resource for those in early recovery in achieving and maintaining sustained remission. Exercise such as swimming, running, or yoga are ideal for boosting endorphins and improving mood. Alternatively, mental activities like meditation, painting, or playing a musical instrument can offer therapeutic benefits and a sense of accomplishment.
  2. Have a Support Network: Support networks are essential in recovery as they provide encouragement, understanding, and a sense of belonging. Surround yourself with friends, family, or peer groups who positively reinforce your sobriety and lifestyle choices. People in your network can offer different perspectives and hold you accountable when they notice unhealthy patterns developing. To build a support network, attend regular support group meetings or recovery programs, and engage in social activities that don’t revolve around addictive substances or behaviors. For example, practicing sports or art forms can open the door to a community with healthy habits that can support you.
  3. Attend Counseling and Therapy Sessions: Counseling and therapy are invaluable resources for exploring the root causes of addiction and learning coping mechanisms. Through professional guidance, you can develop strategies to handle stress, anxiety, and other triggers that might lead to addiction replacement. Be open to different therapy approaches to find what works best for you, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or mindfulness-based interventions.
  4. Get Informed: Education about the process of addiction and recovery can empower you to make informed decisions. Researchers emphasize the importance of understanding the psychological mechanisms behind addictive behaviors to recognize early signs of replacement. Reliable sources such as the MAT Care Clinics blog are ideal for finding information about SUD and its treatment.
  5. Learn to Set Limits: Knowing your limits and setting boundaries can prevent you from overindulging in a new activity. Whether it’s how much money you spend or how many hours you dedicate to a recent activity, these limits can keep you in check. In addition, many people with SUD often surround themselves with friends or family members who continue to use substances. Learning to limit these relationships is a critical step in avoiding relapse and trading one addiction for another.
  6. Take Notes on Your Experiences: Documenting your experiences can help you reflect on your behaviors and identify negative patterns. Writing your thoughts, feelings, and actions provides insights into your recovery progress. In addition, communicating this information to your therapist and physician is critical to give them more context about your behavior and experiences, which can help identify any warning signs of addiction replacement early on.

MAT Care Clinics and Treatment Programs for Substance Use Disorder

Avoiding addiction replacement is about finding balance and making mindful choices. It involves embracing new, healthy activities, creating a robust support network, and seeking continued professional guidance. At MAT Care Clinics, we provide a comprehensive treatment plan for individuals in the New England area who are striving for a life free from substance use. Our specialists at our Nashua, NH clinic meticulously design detailed plans that not only tackle the physical symptoms of recovery through medication-assisted treatment but also recommend complementary therapies tailored to meet each individual’s unique needs. Moreover, throughout your journey towards recovery, our dedicated physicians will accompany you, offering guidance, advice, and an empathetic ear, vigilantly preventing and monitoring any warning signs.

To learn more about our services and how we can help people recover from a substance use disorder, call us at (833) 622-0628 or contact us online. Schedule your free consultation now!

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