substituting addictions
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Substituting Addiction: Same Disease, Different Drug

It’s not uncommon for recovering addicts to begin substituting addiction with other vices or behavioral addictions. There are many different substances to which people can become addiction. In fact, there are a variety of behaviors that are likewise addictive.

The reality is that there are some people who have or will become addicts while most people will not, which begs the question why some individuals suffer from addiction while others don’t. Moreover, how do people become addicted to one thing over another? And could an addict simply substitute the object of their addiction with something else?

Despite decades of continuous research concerning the nature of addiction, it’s still a very complicated, even enigmatic disease. We may understand many of the effects that addictive substances and behaviors have on the brain, but we’re still learning exactly how addiction develops and the infinite factors that can make some individuals particularly susceptible to the development of chemical or behavioral dependency.

The disease of addiction is often used to refer to all the many different types of addiction that exist, ranging from the more well-known addictions like alcohol and drugs to those that are somewhat less understood such as food or exercise addiction. Moreover, many have heard some individuals described as having an “addictive personality,” which would seem to indicate when a person could potentially develop obsessive attachments to almost anything.

Does a person’s individual circumstances determine to what they are addicted, or is a person’s addiction arbitrary and interchangeable? In other words, is substituting addiction possible?

Do All Addictions Work the Same or Differently?

In determining whether each chemical and behavioral addiction has the same or similar effects on one’s physiology, it’s important to first define addiction. According to doctors and other clinicians, the root of addiction lies in one’s brain chemistry, which in turn is guided by an individual’s genetics, psychological development, and their experiences over the course of life.

In other words, addiction is a disease of the brain that occurs due to genetic, developmental, and environmental factors. Additionally, individuals who suffer from addiction use a substance or behavior as a quick fix that allows them to ignore unpleasant thoughts or feelings, effectively making their realities something more palatable.

Although all individuals behave in this way at times, only addicts compulsively seek their “quick fix” in spite of the many negative outcomes that will inevitably follow, such as feeling physically ill the next day, harming others or their relationships, or possible legal troubles. In essence, the pursuit and abuse of chemicals or behaviors remains at the forefront of their daily life despite the damage that these addictions cause.

Although virtually all addicts have a drug of choice, when it comes down to it they will usually abuse any substance they can find if they are unable to obtain the substance they prefer; the more convenient substance serves as a stand-in for the one that they really want, serving the same purpose while maybe not being as enjoyable as they had hoped.

Behavioral addictions such as gambling, sex, and food may not seem like they would produce the same effects as alcohol and heroin, but there are actually many similarities between these very different types of addiction. Individuals who are addicted to a certain behavior experience an increase in the same neurochemicals that spike when an individual abuses alcohol or narcotics, activating the reward and pleasure pathways of the brain and serving to reinforce the behaviors.

It’s also been observed that individuals addicted to behaviors will develop a tolerance to those behaviors. However, those with behavioral addictions are often considered to be at an elevated risk for alcoholism and drug addiction since the abuse of those chemical substances will offer them similar feelings as what they are experiencing with the behaviors to which they are addicted.

The Addictive Personality

In the field of psychology, the term “addictive personality” is sometimes loosely used to refer to an individual who has shown a tendency to overindulge. It’s often said that someone who has an addictive personality becomes addicted after their first drink or the first dose of a drug because of the tendency the individual has to “overdo it” with virtually anything pleasurable or enjoyable.

While this isn’t necessarily a clinical diagnosis, it’s become more commonly associated with individuals who—due to a variety of different factors, including genetic and environmental—are particularly susceptible to the development of addictions.

The idea is that a person with an addictive personality could become addicted to virtually any potentially-addictive substance or behavior that they encounter; whether they become addicted to one substance over another has to do with the individual’s particular circumstances and, as such, might indicate that substituting addiction would be possible for such a person.

Addiction Specificity and the PACE Model

So if the disease of addiction is—more or less—the same no matter the substance or behavior and one’s addiction could potentially be substituted with one of the numerous others, what causes an individual to become addicted to one thing over all of the various other substances and behaviors? The answer to this question could lie in a concept called addiction specificity.

According to recent research, addiction specificity refers to the phenomenon of an individual becoming addicted to one thing out of numerous potential things, which depends mostly on things like environment, one’s social history or background, and situational factors. The PACE model—pragmatics, attraction, communication, and expectation—was initially developed as a tool for analyzing relationships between literary characters, but has been applied to the theory of addiction specificity, particularly with regard to the various underlying processes that guide the initiation and maintenance of addictive behaviors.

In essence, it helps to explain what guides each addict to their drug of choice versus the numerous others that were possible. Additionally, this can also serve as an indicator of which drugs or behaviors could be substituted for one’s initial addiction since the replacement must provide comparable effects to those of the preferred addiction. In short, an individual substituting addiction would likely want a replacement substance or behavior that could serve the same purpose or purposes.

Substituting Addiction a Problem? Call Us Now

The disease of addiction is a very complicated affliction. For each individual who develops a chemical or behavioral addiction, there are numerous factors that served to guide the initiation and maintenance of the dependency. However, there are a variety of evidence-based treatments and comprehensive recovery programs available for individuals in need.

If you or someone you love is suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction, has begun substituting addiction with other vices, or would like to learn more about the available recovery options, Drug Treatment Center Finder can help. Call us today at (855) 619-8070 for a free consultation and assessment. Don’t wait to begin the journey to a life of health, happiness and sobriety.