What is Cross Addiction? | Don’t Swap One Addiction for AnotherShelby Wall
Cross addiction occurs when those addicted to a specific substance decrease or completely cease their use of that substance. These people then begin using a different substance under the false assumption that it won’t cause the same problems with addiction. For example, someone who has received treatment for an opioid addiction may start misusing alcohol, believing that it is safer and in pursuit of its similar effects on their system.
How Does Cross Addiction Happen?
Those who have substance use disorders are at the greatest risk of developing cross addictions. These addictions do not always involve drugs or alcohol – many people instead replace their substance use disorder with behavioral disorders, particularly those related to impulse control. In these instances, behaviors like shopping or sexual activity affect the brain’s reward system in the same way that drug use does, which can simulate the rush associated with their now-discontinued substance.
The brain chemical at the root of this process is dopamine. It creates a reward response which makes users feel high, reinforcing whichever behavior is associated with it. Continued substance use seriously affects the levels of dopamine in the body, and eventually the brain becomes dependent on the substance to restore levels of the neurotransmitter. Once someone enters a rehab program and gets sober, they are now deprived of their substance of choice and frequently experience a dopamine deficiency.
After this happens, the newly sober will want to protect their recovery by avoiding the substance that they were addicted to. However, they will likely also want to find a way to mimic the dopamine-induced high to alleviate their discomfort. This combination of factors will often result in replacing one’s substance of choice with a new substance or set of impulsive behaviors.
Common Cross Addictions
- Other Drugs – This is the most common type of cross addiction. Dependence on one substance, such as prescription opioid medications, can often lead one to consume other drugs with similar effects, such as heroin. People often attempt to fill the void of their old addiction with substances they perceive as “less harmful,” specifically alcohol and marijuana.
- Sexual Compulsion – Sexual addiction statistics are higher in those with substance use disorders, with men outnumbering women. These behaviors can be brought on by drug use, environmental factors, and mental health conditions.
- Shopping – People may spend too much money on unnecessary items or shop compulsively as a form of cross addiction. Doing so gives them a rush. Often, this self-soothing behavior develops in an attempt to manage depression and anxiety. Eventually, compulsive shopping can exacerbate financial issues associated with substance use disorders.
- Gambling – Those with substance use disorders are four to five times more likely than the general population to have a gambling problem. This behavior can develop as a way to fund drug use, or vice versa; some gamblers will turn to drugs in order to prime themselves for improved performance or to celebrate victories.
- Eating – Food activates reward pathways in the brain in a way that drugs and alcohol can, which can cause eating disorders and food addictions in some people. This is particularly associated with sugar intake.
How to Avoid Cross Addiction
The best way to avoid cross addiction is to educate yourself about the risks and monitor behavior. Take regular self-inventories to analyze your actions and assess whether your actions could lead to developing cross addictions. By understanding that you are at greater risk than the general population, you can begin to take preventative measures. Tell your doctors about your substance use history in order to avoid taking addictive medications, particularly opioids like codeine and oxycodone.
You can also avoid cross addiction by staying away from situations that could make you want to use alcohol and other drugs, or that could foster impulsive behaviors. These could include locations like bars, nightclubs, or parties, and may also involve those who are actively using or old friends from when you were under the influence.
Cross addiction is completely avoidable if you take the necessary steps to protect your sobriety.
Cross Addiction Treatment
Treating cross addiction requires a comprehensive and specialized approach under the supervision of trained professionals. Because these issues also often exist hand-in-hand with mental health concerns, it’s especially important to treat the whole patient – body, mind, and spirit. Concise Recovery’s well-appointed California addiction treatment facility employs proven methods, including CBT, DBT, and EMDR. If you are interested in learning more, call us today at 888-978-5424.