Addiction Displacement
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Basic Information

Addiction Displacement is a characterization trope where a character who is recovering from alcoholism or other addiction is using some lesser substance in place of the thing they're trying to overcome. So instead of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, stimulents, gambling, etc, they're doing caffeine, indulging their sweet tooth with some binge-eating, giving in to an oral fixation (like Kojak and his lollipop), chewing nicotine gum, or just keeping themselves super busy with some new hobby.

If they can't get their substitute, they might suffer withdrawal symptoms, a panic attack, or start indulging the old destructive vice all over again. It could be the start of a downward spiral. (…or it might just be played for laughs, depending on the genre.)



Game and Story Use

  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld treats the bloodthirst of vampires as nothing more than an addiction … most of the vampires in the setting have some kind of suitably amusing displacement addiction.
  • There is a significant tradition of replacing addition to one drug with another … this may make the habit more legal, but is rarely any genuine use.
  • The gap between psychological and physical addiction is a significant one - new hobbies and habit breaking work on the psychological aspects, but physical addiction needs to be sweated out … and can be dangerous. Amusingly, alcohol comes with one of the more severe physical addictions on the market - once you are physically hooked to alcohol, withdrawal will lead to shaking, nausea and hallucinations known as delirium tremens ("The DTs"), which in severe cases can progress to seizure and death. Thus, breaking an alcohol addiction takes either skilled medical support or a regime of gradually lowering consumption to reduce the shock of final withdrawal … this is where the psychological aspects become really helpful.
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