What is Addiction Transference?

Addiction affects millions and millions of people every year. While most people associate addiction with drugs or alcohol, you can actually become addicted to almost anything in life, including a habit or an activity. More and more people are discovering non-traditional addictions such as sex addiction, gaming addiction, addiction to their phones, and even social media addiction. 

So, what happens when someone has a non-traditional addiction, while at the same time also suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction? When that happens, it’s known as cross addiction. There are also instances where, in order to get over one addiction, you might focus on another activity. If you then end up developing an addiction to that other activity, it’s known as addiction transference. Let’s take a deeper look at both of these conditions as well as how you can get help for them.

What Is Addiction Transference?

Simply put, addiction transference occurs when someone develops an addiction to something as a result of getting rid of an addiction to something else. An example of this is someone who might be recovering from an opioid addiction who takes up smoking cigarettes as a way to help them kick their opioid addiction. If they, in turn, become addicted to nicotine, they have then essentially transferred their addiction from one substance to another.  

While it doesn’t happen every single time, addiction transference often leads to cross addiction.

What is Cross Addiction?

Cross addiction occurs when someone finds themselves addicted to more than one substance or activity at a single time. For example, someone might have a sex addiction while also dealing with a gambling addiction. People who have or have a history of one addiction have a higher propensity for developing a cross addiction or addiction transference.

How Does Addiction Transference Develop?

As we touched on briefly above, there are many different ways in which addiction transference can happen. The majority of the time, it even happens by accident. This is especially true when the addiction develops as a result of trying to kick another addiction. A person might suffer from a gambling addiction, and in order to get their mind off the urge to gamble they might turn to another activity. However, this could only end up becoming an addiction to the new activity.

Another common cause of addiction transference or cross addiction is the lack of understanding that another addiction even exists. While someone might be aware that they have an addiction to one thing, they may not realize that they also have an addiction to another substance, activity, or behavior. 

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders also play a major role in the development of addiction transference or cross addiction. Many people who suffer from mental health issues will turn to drugs and alcohol as a way of self-mediating. In some situations, they might realize that they can’t keep drinking or taking pills to take care of their mental health issues. They might turn to another activity to get that feeling of gratification and, as a result, develop an addiction to that new activity. 

How Common Is It?

While addiction transference doesn’t get the attention that other addictions do, it’s much more common than you may think. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there are about 21 million people aged 12 or older who reported having a cross addiction. The reason why it doesn’t get more attention is because most people who suffer from it don’t get help and simply just live with it. 

Additionally, there are many people out there who don’t even realize that they suffer from cross addiction. Since so many people associate addiction with alcohol or illicit substances, if they suffer from non-traditional addictions such as a gambling addiction or a social media addiction, they might not even view themselves as addicts. In their minds, they tell themselves that they don’t have a problem and can stop at any time, when in reality they’re suffering from cross addiction.

The most common subset of people who suffer from addiction transference is those who are new to recovery. During early recovery, a person is most vulnerable to developing a new addiction or relapsing. As a result, that person is much more likely to turn to a new substance or a new activity and, in turn, develop an addiction to that new substance or activity. In fact, some experts say that as many as 25% of all people who are new to recovery will develop some sort of cross addiction at some point during their recovery process.

Can You Prevent Addiction Transference?

The short answer is yes, cross addiction and addiction transference are preventable. However, it might not be as easy to prevent as you may think. If you are someone who already suffers from addiction or are someone who has addiction run in your family, it is important to be conscious of this in order to try and prevent any sort of addiction transference from developing. This means actively avoiding putting yourself in a situation where an addiction can be triggered.

What are some examples of actively trying to prevent addiction transference? Here are just a few to consider:

While avoiding any and all temptations in life is virtually impossible, there are still ways that you can be proactive when it comes to preventing cross addiction. If you’re already in recovery from another addiction, you can use some of the techniques you learned during therapy and apply them to other activities. This way, you can try and actively prevent an addiction from developing.

Is Addiction Transference Treatable?

If after reading this you realize that you might be suffering from addiction transference or cross addiction, the good news is that they are both treatable. Like all addictions, the best course of action for treatment is to enter a treatment program.


Depending on the addictions that you may suffer from, detox might be required as a first step before you can begin treatment. The detox process is done to rid the body of all harmful substances. Due to the side-effects that are often associated with detox, it is important that the entire detox process be done under constant medical supervision. 

This can be done at either a hospital, a dedicated detox facility, or a treatment facility that also provides detox services like CNV Detox.  


After detox has been completed, you can then begin treatment for addiction transference. Addiction transference treatment will focus largely on therapy as well as psychological treatment. This can help not only pinpoint how the addiction developed, but also allows for the brain to be essentially reprogrammed. This way, it doesn’t think it needs those substances or activities in order to function. 

One of the biggest keys to successfully treating cross-addiction is through 12-step programs as well as education. Since a person in recovery is more likely to develop a cross-addiction, even if it happens years down the line, educating yourself and becoming aware of the risks can go a long way in actively preventing a cross-addiction. 

Do You Suffer From Cross Addiction?

While cross addiction and addiction transference don’t get the same attention as more traditional addictions such as substance abuse, it should not be ignored. Many people suffer from some sort of cross-addiction or addiction transference and might not even realize it. They might think that they don’t really have a problem or they might not even realize that they are addicted. In many cases, it occurs accidentally when someone turns to a new activity in order to help take their minds off of the substance or activity that they used to abuse.

If you or someone you know suffers from either of these issues, it is important to know that not only are you not alone, but there is help that you can get to address your issues. At CNV Detox, we know that cross addiction and addiction transference can occur at no fault of your own. That’s why we offer treatment programs specifically designed to treat you and your unique set of issues. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs and how we can help you recover from cross addiction and addiction transference.