Addiction can be sneaky. Just when you think you’ve got one addiction beat, another one can creep in. There are several reasons for this. A big one is that right after you quit a substance, you tend to have abnormally low dopamine levels for a while. That’s because most addictive substances give you a significant dopamine boost and your brain eventually turns down that response, so when you quit, activities that are normally rewarding barely register. The result can be lethargy, apathy, and inability to focus. You may unintentionally gravitate towards things boost your dopamine a bit more, and these can become replacement addictions. Here are some common ones.
Food becomes a problem for a number of reasons. First, eating is an activity with a high dopamine response, especially if you eat foods high in fat or sugar. Eating becomes a convenient way to relieve boredom or agitation. Some drugs, especially stimulants, suppress appetite, so you might find you’re just hungry all the time after you quit. If you quit drinking, you might find you are suddenly eating a lot more sweets. That’s because most heavy drinkers have chronically low blood sugar, and it tends to stay low even after they quit. Low blood sugar can cause anxiety, agitation, irritability, inability to focus, and confusion. It can feel like prolonged withdrawal. Whatever substance you were addicted to, having a healthy diet in place will help food from becoming your replacement addiction.
Sex produces a huge dopamine response and also endorphins that temporarily help you relax. As a replacement addiction, it’s somewhat limited because you have to find someone to have sex with and other replacement addictions are much more readily available. However, porn is free and abundant and many people become addicted to that. Addiction to sex and porn, like any other addiction, ceases to be enjoyable and becomes a compulsion. It can ruin relationships, finances, and reputations.
Money is another big dopamine producer. Casinos know how to amplify the dopamine rush you experience when gambling. They take advantage of the principle of intermittent reward to keep you playing. They design casinos as disorienting mazes to make it harder to leave. They make slot machines almost pay out so you play one more time. Unfortunately, there is essentially no limit to how much money a gambling addiction can cost you.
The World Health Organization recently recognized gaming addiction as a mental health disorder. It typically affects teens, usually males, and disproportionately in east Asian countries. However, many games are extremely addictive, and someone looking for a distraction from the stress of recovery might easily find himself spending an unhealthy amount of time and money playing video games.
Mobile apps, especially social media like Facebook and Twitter, are designed to be as addictive as possible so they can maximize ad revenue. Likes, shares, upvotes, comments, and push notifications are all ways to pull you into a platform and keep using it, even if it interferes with other parts of your life.
When you feel stressed, bored, or restless, shopping can temporarily make you feel a bit better. You have the brief satisfaction of finding something you like as well as the ego boost of the salesperson being extra nice to you. Unfortunately, it’s easy for retail therapy to become a retail habit, then a replacement addiction, leaving you with no money and a pile of stuff you don’t really need.
If you’re struggling with substance use, Recovery Ways can help. We offer intensive outpatient treatment as well as residential treatment. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.