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Transfer Addiction: When Old Habits Take New Forms

If you or someone close to you has struggled with addiction, getting the right kind of help is essential to avoid things like transfer addiction. You might notice that old habits are starting to take new forms, but you’re not quite sure what it is. Now you’re asking about transfer addiction, meaning with questions like “what is transfer addiction?” and whether it needs help, too. Don’t worry, you are not alone. 

Hillside Mission Recovery is a luxury drug rehab in Mission Viejo. Contact us today to find substance abuse treatment in Orange County.

What is Transfer Addiction?

Transfer addiction is any situation where an individual transfers behaviors or substances from one form of addiction to another. It usually takes place after an individual has received help for an addiction and gone through a period of remission.

Transfer addiction can occur in any situation.

For example, someone who might struggle with compulsive eating could undergo bariatric surgery and then replace their addiction to food with another compulsion like shopping or gambling.

Transfer Addiction Meaning with Substance Abuse

Transfer addiction for those with a history of substance abuse means replacing drugs or alcohol with either 1) a new type of drug or alcohol or 2) a new non-addictive substance or activity. 

With a history of substance abuse, the signs and symptoms of a new addiction can start to look very similar to the behavioral, physical, or emotional signs of addiction associated with drug and alcohol use. 

Individuals might find themselves spending a lot of time on their new activity, in an obsessed fashion, like:

  • Other drugs
  • Shopping
  • Sex
  • Gambling
  • Eating 
  • Exercising
  • Video games
  • Shoplifting 
  • Using the internet

Those same people might turn to their new addiction without being able to stop. They could have an intense focus on eating or shopping. Similarly, they might notice harmful ramifications and still persist. 

Risk Factors for Transfer Addiction

There are several risk factors that can influence the risk of a transfer addiction after help, such as:

  • A history of compulsive behaviors or addictions
  • A history of substance abuse
  • Chronic pain
  • Trauma, particularly sexual abuse in childhood
  • A history of mood disorders, anxiety, or depression
  • Inadequate support or feelings of isolation
  • Avoidance of emotions
  • Self-sabotaging tendencies

How to Avoid Transfer Addiction 

With Hillside Mission, our goal is to help you understand transfer addiction meaning and avoid it by finding a customized treatment plan for addiction that teaches you coping skills instead of replacement techniques.

Pain Management

Several of the therapies we offer at our facility focus on improving pain management because pain is such a common part of initial recovery. Learning to accept that pain is temporary and not avoiding those feelings of discomfort emotionally or physically can help you cope with tents, stressful, or even painful situations without reverting to another form of addiction.

This type of pain management involves things like:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Physical exercise

Improved Emotions

We also teach you to manage your emotions better so that you can recognize them for what they are instead of trying to avoid them. When you try to avoid feelings, especially negative ones, you are depriving yourself of the opportunity to feel whole.

This leaves spaces that you might attempt to fill with another addiction. With our facility, you can boost your self-esteem by:

  • Learning new skills
  • Understanding what contributed to your addiction
  • Replacing negative mindsets with positive ones
  • Controlling your automatic thoughts
  • Improving emotional management

All of these things give you a chance to understand what might have contributed to your addiction in the first place. Knowing contributing factors can help you fix what you can, like addressing unresolved trauma. 


Feelings of isolation are one of the most harmful risks after treatment. During COVID, studies found that people who had successfully recovered from substance abuse found themselves with transfer addiction to things like alcoholism, online gambling, or pornography within a matter of weeks because of the isolation. 

We work hard to encourage clients to build a network of sober, supportive friends. We also highlight the importance of aftercare, sober activities, and attendance with community support groups. Each of these small steps offers a chance to avoid feelings of isolation after recovery and avoid a transfer addiction. 

We offer personalized inpatient programs to help you acquire the skills you need to avoid a transfer addiction long after leaving our facility. 

Contact our team today at 1-866-393-5174 to learn more about our inpatient treatment.