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How to Avoid Addiction Replacement

The process of recovery is not easy, but your health and safety are well worth it. Although it’s rare, addiction doesn’t always end with sobriety. Sometimes it ends with addiction replacement.

Addiction replacement — or switching addictions — means that a sober person in recovery has traded drugs or alcohol with something else. Often this is not a new addictive substance but rather an everyday action or activity. Instead of substance addiction, the person is experiencing a behavioral addiction. Even if the new addiction is not substance abuse, it can still be very harmful. 

What Are Examples of “Addiction Replacements”?

A common addiction replacement after substance abuse is food addiction, which might lead to weight gain, cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and many other health concerns. Some new addictions can be actions, like gambling, obsessively going to the gym, surfing the internet, or excessively playing video games. As reported by the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, scientists have acknowledged that behavioral addiction is similar to drug addiction in its effect on the brain. Both behavioral and substance addictions increase dopamine in the brain, creating a positive effect. It’s important to recognize when the new habit begins to feel unhealthy and take action to ensure that it doesn’t get out of control.

When Is My Addiction Out of My Control?

According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, about one-fifth of participants who followed up with addiction experts had formed a new addiction. Of the one-fifth who switched addictions, they typically experienced lower-risk substance use than their original addiction. For example, they switched from heroin addiction to tobacco addiction. The study also noted that a person with a substance abuse disorder paired with certain psychiatric disorders had a higher chance of switching addictions. 

To avoid addiction switching or determine if a new addiction is out of control, watch for these signs reported by the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse:

  • The behavior is overdone out of habit or compulsion
  • Tension or arousal before fulfilling the addiction
  • Pleasure, gratification, or relief after fulfilling the addiction
  • Secrecy or hiding the addiction
  • The addiction leads to health problems or can be harmful to yourself or others
  • “Relapsing” patterns where the addiction is fulfilled, followed by a withdrawal period, and eventual “relapse” into the behavior
  • The behavior becomes less pleasurable over time and is done instead to relieve tension or negative feelings
  • Feeling a “high” or surge of euphoria similar to the euphoric feelings of substance use

Some new addictions could be predicted — and thus prevented — by old addictions. If you’re worried about a possible addiction replacement, do not fear. All addiction is treatable, and you’re worth getting help.

 Breaking Habits

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), addiction replacement begins through repetition and the formulation of habits. 

To break bad habits, here are five things you can do:

  • Avoid tempting situations: If you know that you’ll face temptation, go the opposite direction. Say “no thanks” to Casino Night, or skip the lines for the newest video game.
  • Replace unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones: Though this is often easier said than done, there is no shortage of resources for healthy activities to try. For example, if you feel like you’re addicted to fast food, cook healthy meals at home for a week.
  • Prepare mentally: When you know you can’t avoid a tempting situation, try thinking through your exit strategy and how you’ll say no to this new habit.
  • Enlist support: Time and time again, support has proven to be helpful for those in recovery. Ask your support system for help in avoiding temptation.
  • Reward yourself for small steps: Allow yourself to earn rewards other than the addiction after an amount of time of “good” behavior or resistance.

In the case of any sort of food addiction, you do have to eat. Stopping any food addiction does not mean stopping eating completely. If you’re worried about food addiction, read the steps above and ask, does this apply to me? There are many different types of food addiction, from “fast-food addiction” to “health-food addiction” of “fad” diets that can cause malnutrition or bodily harm. Be mindful that though you may be experiencing addiction of some kind, make sure you are meeting your basic needs — food is a basic need.

You Can Beat This New Addiction

Be kind and patient with yourself in recovery. Your wants, needs, hopes, and fears are all completely valid. It’s okay to recognize that there may be a problem with a new substance or behavioral addiction. Addiction replacement is treatable, and you can overcome it.

If you’re struggling with an addiction replacement, that’s okay. Addiction replacements can happen, and they are treatable. What is important is that you recognize the problem and take action to fix it. At RECO Intensive, we understand that addiction replacement can be a part of recovery for some people. It’s okay to need support, and at RECO Intensive, we offer care and support for a myriad of different addictions. If you fear you may develop a particular addiction, but you’re not sure, talk to a professional. Our specialized staff and our expert alumni can guide you through your recovery and give you strategies for relapse prevention and addiction-replacement prevention. RECO Intensive offers inpatient or outpatient therapies, and every patient has their recovery plan individualized to their needs. Through offered cognitive therapy, group therapy, and individualized therapy, any patient struggling with addiction can find tools for success. To learn more, call RECO Intensive today at (561) 464-6533.

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