When a person replaces one type of addiction with another, they are likely to build unhealthy coping mechanisms. This act of replacing an obsession with an equally destructive habit is called substitute addiction. A phenomenon that elicits feelings such as relaxation, overstimulation or escape, substitute addiction can negatively affect a person’s recovery progress. Within addiction replacement, a new habit takes the place of previously addictive behaviour to produce the same feeling or high. 

Anyone who’s dealt with addiction understands the concept of substitute addiction. From smoking to eating; from drinking to gambling; the individual is replacing one addiction for another to compensate for a perceived lack of psychological or emotional satisfaction.

Understanding what substitute addiction is and knowing how to avoid it is crucial to ensure the success of a person’s recovery. Alternatively, it is always advisable speaking to a leading drug and alcohol rehab center in Bali to discuss any issues you may be having further. This article will go over what substitute addiction is all about and what you can do to build healthier coping mechanisms instead.

Substitute Addiction

How can you detect substitute addiction?

Recognizing a substitute addiction problem occurring can be quite challenging for friends, family members, and loved ones. People close to the person may think replacing one addiction with a less harmful one is okay. For example, they might think  it’s acceptable for an ex-heroin addict to use marijuana or smoke cigarettes, but the core issues at the centre of the addiction still exist. The reasons that a person needs to use drugs or alcohol are not yet resolved and may cause a person to spiral out of control into another addiction. The behaviour associated with the addiction is damaging and can cause harm to the addict and those around them if not addressed.

Substitute addictions often share the same characteristics as the original addiction. Perhaps two of the most important questions regarding this phenomenon are: is the behaviour compulsive and is the substitute addiction out of control?

When assessing whether or not a person is developing substitute addiction, there are plenty of things two consider. Most importantly, is the behaviour, activity or substance:

  • A quick form of relief when emotional pain or anxiety arises?
  • Slowly replacing the original addiction to recreate feelings of high?
  • Becoming part of a daily routine?
  • Affecting the individual’s personal responsibilities even more?
  • Being pursued even if negative consequences pile up such as financial problems, physical or mental health issues, and affecting relationships?

Addictive personalities are often vulnerable to other addictions that could potentially fulfil their needs. However, they may seek out substitute addictions that are less harmful than the original (e.g. nicotine and alcohol). Still, one should take substitute addiction lightly as the phenomenon can reinforce addictive personality and may increase the likelihood of relapse during recovery.

Recovering from substitute addiction

Most often than not, an underlying issue is what triggers addictive behaviour as a form of coping mechanism. The issue can be anything from an anxiety-generating situation, an unfinished grieving, or a past traumatic event. Identifying the root cause and addressing them will contribute significantly to the recovery process and help the person avoid developing destructive habits as they move forward.

Some of the most effective, evidence-based methods to fight addiction are:

  • Cognitive and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (CBT and DBT): With CBT, the person learns to correct problematic thinking and behaviours through developing more accurate thoughts and effective coping mechanisms.
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy is effective in individuals with substitute addictions ranging from alcohol and cannabis addictions to gambling and drinking.
  • Trauma-Informed Approaches: Address consequences of traumatic experiences, change problematic thinking and developing coping strategies. Recognize one’s need to be respected, informed, connected, and hopeful regarding their own recovery. Understand the interrelation between trauma and symptoms such as SUD, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety

In some, a substitute addiction can be as detrimental if not more harmful than the original addiction. Recovering from substitute addiction may require medical detoxification, therapy and medication if the person has resorted to other drugs and substances to seek high. Cognitive behaviour therapy and psychotherapy can significantly improve the future of a recovering addict and help them establish new life skills that will translate well into their sober lifestyle.

What about positive addiction replacement?

There are instances where an individual may resort to less harmful habits as a form of coping mechanism. For example, a person may develop substitute addiction involving a positive activity like exercise or book-reading. The question now becomes, can this new habit be classified as positive addiction replacement? Does it still warrant concern even if the person is undertaking a less harmful activity? While positive addiction replacement appears somewhat less concerning, if performed compulsively, the new addictive habit will fuel up an addictive personality all the same. It will continue to affect self-control and one’s sensitivity for dopamine.

As a result, the addicted person will become even more vulnerable for additional addictions and relapse. According to some researchers, not all positive addiction replacement can lead to destructive patterns. Activities like playing an instrument, gardening, or reading books present a lower risk of spiralling out of control compared to working out and such. There may be qualities inherent in behaviour that tends to prevent it from becoming an object of addiction, at least for most people.


With the global pandemic affecting millions of recovering individuals around the world, it’s important for us to reach out to you and let you know you’re not alone. Thanks to online technology, recovering patients can now have access to online help that’s professional, compassionate, and reliable. A growing number of people are opting for telehealth to meet their mental health care needs and for good reason. Online therapy allows an individual to connect with their therapist from anywhere in the world. In light of the current crisis, it’s important to look after not only your physical health but your mental health as well.

There are plenty of benefits to online therapy, especially in today’s world where maintaining social distance is strongly advised. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at online drug/alcohol therapy and how to know if this form of medical treatment is right for you.

Online Drug/Alcohol Therapy

Reasons to choose online therapy

Therapists who practice online offer their services via video sharing, chat, email, or even through phone calls. As technology evolves, so does telehealth. Therapists can help guide people through challenges using the most useful and current communication technologies. 

Mental health professionals offer telehealth as a primary means of communicating with people who wish to seek drug/alcohol therapy. Some individuals prefer online therapy because they can reap the benefits of conventional therapy right at the comfort of their homes. This can be particularly helpful for people who live in remote areas or with limited mobility due to disability or caregiving responsibilities.

Online therapy may be used as a standalone treatment or paired with conventional therapeutic treatment. For example, a therapist may offer treatment from their office and switch to telehealth when a person is unable to visit or cannot commute to the office.


Teletherapy is particularly useful in situations where patients have difficulty accessing mental health services. The great thing about this type of treatment is that it’s very flexible. Some patients may choose to receive online therapy via text while others prefer email or video sharing. People who are new to therapy may find it easy to participate in online therapy sessions. The fact that treatment takes place in the home may also reduce the stigma associated with receiving mental health services.

Who is online therapy for

Online therapy is a great option for those who want to undergo drug/alcohol therapy, but cannot do so due to unforeseen circumstances, with the global pandemic being one example. It can also prove appealing to those who aren’t as comfortable receiving therapy in an office as opposed to online. Like with many aspects of our life that are now available online, telehealth is therapy’s way of keeping up to date with the latest digital trends.

Many aspects of mental health can be addressed with online therapy, most of which include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Food and eating disorders
  • Relationship issues
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Drug use

Some studies even suggest that online therapy may be as effective as face-to-face therapy for some patients. Many popular approaches, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), are well-suited to online therapy. However, visual feedback may not always be available, depending on the form of communication used.

There are instances where telehealth is not recommended. For example, people with severe psychological or emotional issues may not receive the treatment well. The same goes for people with severe depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or suicidal thoughts who may benefit more from traditional therapy. Individuals with these mental health conditions require intensive care and online therapy may not be able to cater to their needs.

Others who may not benefit from online therapy are those who are uncomfortable with technology. People with little privacy at home, those who wish not to share personal matters over the internet or phone, and individuals living in abusive situations may also prefer to see a mental health professional in person.