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Journal of Behavioral Addictions
Deborah Louise Sinclair
Wouter Vanderplasschen
Shazly Savahl
Maria Florence
David Best
, and
Steve Sussman


The global spread of COVID-19, subsequent stay-at-home requirements, spatial distancing measures, and long-term isolation present additional challenges for persons in recovery. Using an illustrative case from South Africa, we discuss COVID-19 related pornography use through the lens of relapse and substitute addiction. South Africa is the epicenter of the pandemic in Africa, and has issued an alcohol and cigarette ban. Historical examples suggest that responses to forced abstinence may include compliance and abstinence, but also seeking alternatives to the original addiction and substitution. Substitution of alternative activities/objects may provide similar appetitive effects to fill the void of the terminated addictive behavior, temporarily or in the long-term. While substitutes do not necessarily portend a relapse, coupled with isolation and reduced recovery support, they can potentiate relapse to the former or ‘new’ addictive behavior. Addiction professionals should be aware of the potential for such negative impacts during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open access