Addiction Transfer: Trading One Habit for Another

photo of TreeA plastic coated card deck beside poker chip and dice gambling addiction concept

Recognizing a drug or alcohol problem and seeking treatment is a life-changing step for any man. Learning to live without the substances that create pleasure sensations (or “highs”) in your brain’s reward center may seem impossible. Once you’ve progressed through the early stages of recovery, being self-aware enough to avoid the phenomenon called “addiction transfer” presents yet another treatment challenge.

Addiction transfer is substituting one addictive behavior for another. People who smoke may find themselves constantly eating; those who were formerly addicted to drugs or alcohol could end up with a gambling problem or become compulsive shoppers. In recent studies, patients who have had weight-loss surgery are becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol in alarmingly large numbers.

photo of TreeA plastic coated card deck beside poker chip and dice gambling addiction concept

The Science of Addiction

It was formerly thought that addicts transferred their behavior from one habit to another (e.g. food instead of alcohol) to fill an emotional void in their lives. This may be true in some cases, and cognitive-behavioral therapy is a common treatment approach to help uncover the root cause of addictive behaviors.

However, researchers now think that the true cause of addiction transfer is a lack of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in many cognitive and physical functions. Drugs, alcohol, and other addictive behaviors activate the brain’s reward center and increase dopamine levels. Lower-than-normal dopamine levels can cause a craving to participate in an activity that delivers the same rush, whether it’s drinking, sex-ting, or surfing the internet to excess.

What’s the Problem?

As you work toward recovery, it’s natural—and even healthy—to distract yourself with other activities. One could argue that a shopping addiction is less dangerous to your health than using drugs, but doing anything to an unhealthy degree is destructive. With addiction, your brain learns to rely on the addictive behavior to feel good, and that’s when your life, work, and relationships begin to suffer.

Anyone can fall into the trap of a behavioral addiction (any non-substance related addiction), but people with a long history of substance addiction may be more prone to this type of behavior.

Addiction Transfer & Men’s Drug Addiction Recovery

Residential rehab, outpatient rehab, and drug detox programs use a variety of treatment approaches with the goal of helping clients attain and maintain long-term sobriety. Participating in a comprehensive addiction treatment program that takes a holistic (mind, body, spirit, social) approach is the best way to avoid addiction transfer. Throughout the recovery process, clients may require psychiatric treatment and individual therapy for co-occurring disorders, mood disorders, or dopamine deficits. In many cases, addicts may not even realize that they are substituting one addiction for another, so family and friends should be on the lookout for this type of behavior.

10 Acre Ranch Drug & Alcohol Rehab

To learn more about the therapeutic programs, life skills classes, and fitness opportunities available at 10 Acre Ranch addiction treatment for men, dial 877.228.4679 today. Serving men 18 and older, our therapeutic group activity setting encourages clients to return to an active, healthy lifestyle as they pursue sobriety and wellness.