Transfer Addiction: Could You Be Replacing Your Addiction With Another?


Almost everyone understands what addiction means. Most people think of it as an irresistible need for mind-altering substances that make it very hard to beat. Unfortunately, transfer addiction can replace it and cause the same kind of problems. An overpowering need for food, exercise, work, gambling, sex and other activities can create an addiction too. When they please the pleasure center in your brain, they can become almost impossible to resist. Professional caregivers at Long Island Treatment Center can guide you through the challenges of recovery.

Identifying Transfer Addiction

A problem that can occur during recovery may allow a focus on drugs to hide an addiction to enjoyable activities instead. On an individual basis, hobbies or interests can provide enjoyment without any harmful effects. However, when they become a substitute for drugs or alcohol, they can create an issue that needs attention. Often, transfer addiction can happen without calling attention. When it occurs as compulsive activities, it can become unhealthy and harmful. Replacing one addiction with another can complicate and delay the recovery process. Knowing how to recognize everyday activities as potential sources of addiction may alert you to guard against them.

Considering How Substitute Addictions Can Harm You

Signs of transfer addiction may occur during recovery and when you want something to replace the pleasure you got from drugs or alcohol. Group or individual therapy can help you understand why you became addicted to them. However, most people recognize drug or alcohol addiction as something to avoid. Eating, exercising, smoking, working, and other ordinary activities seem to have no stigma attached. When they become excessive, they can create an imbalance in your life that affects your personal, work, family, or school responsibilities.

Watching Out for Signs of Transfer Addiction

At Long Island Treatment Center, skilled counselors provide therapy that helps clients identify unhealthy emotions and thoughts that affect behavior. When you seek recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs, you may want to find a substitute that provides pleasure to your brain.

video game addiction

Video Games

Millions of people play online games without becoming addicted. However, they may appeal to anyone who no longer uses drugs or alcohol. Transfer addiction may allow winning or playing the games to release dopamine, a brain chemical that provides pleasant feelings.


Everyone needs to buy things from time to time for completely legitimate reasons, but most people do not have an addiction to it. Transfer addiction to shopping may offer an escape from emotional pain, but it can create financial problems from overspending.


Gambling is a highly addictive activity that can immediately impact finances and personal relationships. It seems to occur as a replacement for substance abuse. Trained therapists can help you see the dangers of transferring addiction to gambling.



Anyone who has quit smoking or tried to can confirm the difficulty of doing so. Transfer addiction to nicotine can prove as unhealthy as drugs and alcohol as it produces a negative effect throughout the body.


Activities that everyone admires may not seem to have anything wrong with doing them. A focus on work can allow you to advance in your job and provide for your family. A transfer addiction from substance abuse to working may become workaholism. When anyone puts undue emphasis on achieving success or recognition, it may obscure a desire to escape from emotional issues.

addiction to exercise


The health benefits of regular exercise include strengthening the heart muscle, bones, joints, the respiratory system, and all parts of the body. When it occurs in moderation, it produces outcomes that enhance the enjoyment of life. However, a transfer addiction to exercise can carry some negative impacts. For example, exercise can stress a body beyond its capabilities. Physical injury can occur, and relationships can suffer from a lack of attention.


A healthy diet seems unlikely to become the object of a transfer addiction. Foods with high sugar, fat, and salt content often provide the preferred choices for compulsive eaters. The apparent damage that can result includes weight gain and damage to the body from unhealthy ingredients that release dopamine in the brain’s pleasure center.


A transfer addiction to sex can provide the same kind of pleasurable feelings as drugs or alcohol. A compulsive need for overly frequent, risky, or unsafe sex may interfere with recovery from drugs and alcohol.

Recognizing a Problem

Many times, a transfer addiction to an acceptable hobby or practice seems to cause no problem. The routine nature of substitute activities can allow them to go unnoticed and unrecognized as an issue. An unfortunate outcome of replacing one addiction with another increases the likelihood of relapse. In addition, it may lead to a return to an original addiction. With substance abuse, the brain becomes used to the pleasure it produces. Recovery provides time to allow it to adjust to life without drugs. A distraction by another addiction can slow progress and create setbacks.

multiple addictions

Becoming Addicted to More Than One Thing

When addiction occurs, it takes control of your body and seems to hijack your brain. The search for pleasure and reward that may come from using alcohol and drugs can occur with compulsive attention to ordinary activities. While the functions of the brain almost defy understanding, it does seem that any addiction creates an involuntary takeover of your brain. It is as though you have no say in the matter of decision-making or freedom of choice. An intense desire to seek the substance or activity that produces pleasure makes you almost a slave to it.

Hoping for a Complete Recovery

Drug or alcohol addiction does not have an actual fix. Neither does transfer addiction. Professional counselors at Long Island Treatment Center can help you get sober and discover the reasons that you turned to drugs or alcohol in the first place. Caution prepares you to prevent substituting a compulsive activity for either of them.

While the recovery process helps you get relief from cravings and withdrawal symptoms, it does not have a set end date. Your symptoms and cravings fade over time, but the potential for relapse always remains. Instead of thinking of recovery as something you completed, it may help to think of it as an active process of recovering that gets easier every day.

addiction aftercare

Keeping Up the Good Work

We strongly recommend participation in an aftercare program. You can benefit from the support of others who understand the challenges you face. Healthy associations can form in aftercare, and it may help you to avoid transfer addiction or addiction to drugs or alcohol. The feeling of camaraderie and mutual understanding can help you overcome doubt and stay on course to achieve a lifetime of sobriety. We participate in many local functions that help you learn about substance abuse resources available in the community. Our dedication to substance abuse treatment inspires us to collaborate with local groups that share our commitment to awareness.

Choosing the Best Professional Treatment

At Long Island Treatment Center, we have confidence that you can heal from substance abuse without experiencing a transfer to a substitute activity. Our personal experience and our work with others in your situation assure you that you can count on us. We understand the difficulty of coping with drug or alcohol dependency and can help you work through it.

Our dedication to equipping you and your family with methods that work can give you hope and confidence. We offer several outpatient addiction treatment programs that can suit your preferences and your lifestyle as you seek sobriety. We appreciate the opportunity to serve residents of the New York City area with dedication, knowledge, professionalism, and compassion. Call us today to get started on getting rid of addictions and achieving a lifetime of sobriety.


  • Can you be addicted to more than one thing?

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Long Island Treatment Center

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