The Addiction Carousel: Substituting Addictions

Many people in early recovery are warned about substituting addictions. Substituting an addiction is defined as replacing an old addiction with a new addiction that the individual didn’t have previously. However, a case where someone has a co-occurring disorder, and one of those disorders or addictions grows after another is eliminated, wouldn’t be labeled as a substitution.

Substituting addictions in recovery is a common occurrence, and most people battling addictions have seen this take place within themselves or someone else. Someone who had a heroin addiction gets sober and starts drinking more. An alcoholic who quits drinking and starts binge eating. Substitutions of this nature are common.

So how many categories of addictions are there? According to Dr. Steven Sussman, there are 11. Dr. Sussman co-authored a paper in which he categorizes 11 “relatively common behaviors” as addictions. These common behaviors are: tobacco use, alcohol use, illicit drug use, binge eating, gambling, internet use, love, sex, exercise, work, and shopping. Any of these behaviors can count as addictions. If any are incorporated into a person’s life after giving up an addiction, and they culminate into a new addiction, that constitutes an addiction substitution.

Addiction substitutions are dangerous for those in recovery. Even if the substitution is a “safer” addiction, like going from heroin addiction to a work addiction, having an addiction at all is obviously negative. Any of the above mentioned addictions pose a threat to a person’s quality of life. A recovering addict should be mindful of other potential addictions, and make sure they stay off of the addiction carousel.