Switching Addictions

photo of someone standing in front of three chalk painted arrows - switching addictions - breakaway hired powerSwitching addictions is a phenomenon that occurs in some people who have been successful in getting a past addiction under control. An example of switching addictions is when a person stops a drug or alcohol problem but then begins to form an addiction to some other substance or activity. Often the new addiction is not as damaging as the former one. But all addictions get worse with time if not addressed, so what might start out as a minor issue could eventually become a major issue in the person’s life.

Why does it happen?

Switching addictions happens because addiction itself is a complex disease. It has genetic and physiological components that a person is born with. People who have experienced addiction are predisposed to it. That means that, for some people, managing addictive tendencies will be a life-long necessity. Unfortunately, switching addictions can set one up for relapse to the former addiction.

Switching addictions is not a failing on a person’s part. People who have struggled with addiction know the devastating effects it brings. They would not willingly choose to switch to another addiction. But addiction to anything acts as coping mechanism and it must be dealt with in healthier ways.

Common Substances and Activities of Addiction


Many people switching addictions will turn to smoking cigarettes or smoking more. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance. It affects the pleasure/reward system of the brain in the same way that other substances do. Nicotine addiction is serious and actually causes more deaths than other substances do.


Caffeine is another addictive substance that is often used in excess when switching addictions occurs. While caffeine is nowhere near as damaging as other substances of abuse, it can create mood swings and anxiety which might be triggers for someone in recovery to return to a previous addiction.


Switching addictions to food or sugar happens easily. Food is readily available and inexpensive. A person might develop a problem with overeating. Or an obsession with dieting might occur.


Sex or love addiction is another way to get a “high” without the use of drugs. It is also a way to boost one’s sense of self-worth. But they are not healthy coping mechanisms and are ultimately destructive. Sex addiction can be dangerous for one’s health.

Other Common Addictions

Switching addictions can come in the form of shopping, working, exercising, gambling, gaming, watching sports, or other process addictions. In fact, a new addiction can take almost any form. No matter what the addiction is, it must be examined and addressed to ensure a person’s continued recovery.