A man stands in front of a hand of cards

A common misconception about drug and alcohol addiction is that once the physical addiction to these substances has passed, the addiction has passed. The unfortunate reality is that this is only the beginning phase of recovery.

While the physical addiction has passed, the changes in which have occurred in the brain often can lead to a phenomenon known as transference, which will be the topic of discussion for this article.

So what is addiction transference?

Addiction transference, also known as addiction replacement, refers to the phenomenon of A woman eats a burger after having some drinksreplacing one addiction for another, seemingly unrelated addiction.

A common example of addiction transference is that of replacing smoking with compulsive over-eating. Addiction transference has the potential to be a major roadblock in achieving meaningful recovery.

What is the cause of addiction transference?

No matter the substance of choice, addiction hardwires our brains to have a natural drive towards compulsive behaviors and instant gratification. Thus, those of us in early sobriety are highly susceptible to pick up compulsive behaviors to fill the void left in the wake of alcohol and/or drugs.

What are common examples of addiction transference?

Some common examples of addiction transference behaviors are the following:

  • Gambling
  • Shopping
  • Binge eating
  • Smoking/vaping
  • Increased sexual activity
  • Video gaming (to the point of it interfering in normal life)
  • Increased caffeine use (energy drinks, coffee, etc)

While this list is by no means comprehensive, a clear trend emerges- instant gratification. Drug and alcohol abuse reprograms our brains to expect instant gratification, and therefore we may start to engage in the above activities to satisfy this urge.

What makes it so dangerous?

Addiction transference has major implications in whether an addict/alcoholic will break the relapse cycle. The relapse cycle is characterized by an initial use, addiction, consequences that lead to getting dry, and ultimately relapsing back into addiction.

True Recovery

To break the relapse cycle, one must change have a drastic change in behavior, greater than simply detoxing off a substance. When we transfer our addiction from one substance to something else, we do not give our brains a chance to heal- thus, greatly increasing the odds of relapse.

So how can we prevent addiction transference?

Addiction transference is another classic example of why addiction is not simply solved by undergoing a detox. Following up a detox with an inpatient treatment stay and subsequently joining a recovery fellowship are the best safeguards to setting down a plan for a lifestyle that will allow the brain to truly heal.

Addiction transference can greatly reduce the quality of sobriety one can achieve, and if left unchecked, may be a significant cause of relapse.

Final Note

This article is intended for those considering a new way of life, free of the pain of drug and alcohol addiction. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with addiction and substance abuse problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.