Addiction Transfer

Addiction Transfer: Trading One Addiction for Another

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Addiction transfer happens when a person exchanges an addiction in recovery for another addiction. It can also be known as a substitute addiction or cross addiction, where someone replaces one compulsive behavior with another.

What are some examples of addiction transfer?

Sometimes, when a person completes a rehab program for drug or alcohol addiction, they will turn to food for comfort. In order to fight cravings for drugs or alcohol, a person may turn to food. Sometimes this comfort can turn into something more. Food, particularly sugar, is often viewed as a safe high, but in reality, addiction to sugar and food can be very harmful as well. Though weight gain after rehab is a common occurrence, it needs to be monitored by a medical professional. Sometimes, the weight gain is welcomed, particularly when the person is coming into a program physically unwell. However, overeating (and smoking) are common problems after rehab and those behaviors will need to be monitored to ensure that addiction transfer doesn’t occur.

It’s not just a drug addict going to food for comfort. Those with food addictions (for example, some gastric bypass patients) are at risk for having their food addiction transfer to something else. There are a number of articles regarding patients who have undergone gastric bypass who turn to alcohol or drugs once they can no longer indulge in the comforts of the foods that they previously abused.

Addiction transfer can also happen when someone exchanges alcohol for opiates, or opiates for excessive shopping, gambling, etc. The list goes on and on. The bottom line is this: addiction transfer happens when there is an emotional need that needs to be filled. Addiction transfers occur when the first addiction is in recovery (you could even call it a remission period) and the person looks to something else to fill the void that the original addiction was keeping full. It can also happen by accident, for example when a person in recovery for alcoholism is prescribed painkillers following surgery or an injury. A person experiencing addiction transfer doesn’t always go out and look for a new addiction, however, each person is different and it’s important to realize that cross addiction can happen.

How do we stop addiction transfer from happening?

It’s imperative that we look at addiction as a pattern of behavior with cognitive and physical aspects during treatment. Dual diagnosis is a common theme in addiction transfer patients. Many addicts have untreated psychiatric conditions, such as depression or anxiety. Because of this, finding a rehab with the capability of treating dual diagnoses is crucial to a more complete addiction recovery. Our addiction treatment center spots these initial concerns with great accuracy and provides an appropriate diagnosis.

It’s important to find a rehab that focuses on overall wellness. Many inpatient drug rehabs have started to include a nutrition component as part of a rehab stay and many facilities have hired dietitians to help their clients create healthy eating habits. It’s important to fuel the body and the mind during addiction recovery and many addicts haven’t had the opportunities to focus on nutrition prior to their rehab stay. If a person doesn’t have the knowledge on how to feed themselves properly and healthily, how will they thrive once they are back on their own? This integral part of rehab will help a person in recovery with their transition to the real world. By examining patterns in substance abuse and food abuse, a person has a better chance of making it in recovery and in the world and has the best chance of living a healthy life.

Addiction has an underlying cause. Rehab should treat the cause, not just the high from the substance. This is another reason why detox alone is not adequate by itself as rehabilitation for an addict and why it’s so important to follow up with an intensive rehab program. In order to enter into addiction recovery, you should choose a rehab program that addresses cognitive issues, can treat dual diagnosis patients, and has multiple different types of physicians and therapists so the person can be treated as a whole.


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