Alcohol and drug addiction can take over a person’s life and change them from a happy, upstanding citizen to someone who’s prepared to go to any length to get a fix. Repeated exposure to addictive substances actually changes the way the brain functions, hard-wiring the sufferer to seek reward in the form of inebriation or repeated behaviors.
Making the necessary changes isn’t easy, but if you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, they need professional help. Recovering addicts are at risk of transferring one addiction to another if the process isn’t carefully managed by the treatment center.
At Recovery Works, we treat the whole person instead of homing in exclusively on your relationship with your drug of choice. By healing trauma, addressing underlying problems and developing new coping mechanisms, you can free yourself from addiction long term.
What Is Cross Addiction?
It’s important for anyone who needs to seek help for drug or alcohol abuse to understand the risk of cross addiction. In many cases, people turn to alcohol or drug use to distract themselves from challenging emotions or avoid pain caused by underlying issues. If these issues aren’t fully addressed and worked through, the individual could simply exchange the original addiction for a new addiction.
For example, a person who has a problem with opioids can complete detox and a recovery program. However, if any underlying trauma or mental health issues aren’t addressed during treatment, you’re at a much greater risk of developing an addiction to a new substance. Prescription painkillers and alcohol pose a particular threat in this instance because they’re legal sedatives that are easy to gain access to.
Mental Health Issues and Substance Abuse
The main reasons that cross addiction exists are underlying mental health issues and a disordered reward system in the brain. If you’ve got an undiagnosed mental health condition like anxiety or depression, the chances of developing a substance use disorder are much higher. Other factors like exposure, personality and environment play a crucial role — but in many cases, people use substances or addictive behavior to cover up painful feelings.
If you don’t work with mental health experts to uncover why you need to numb your emotions, there’s a strong chance you’ll continue to look for ways to self-soothe after rehab. Even if you don’t go back to the original substance, your brain will be constantly on the lookout for a new coping mechanism.
It’s not just new drugs that pose a risk for cross addiction; addictive behaviors are potentially even more dangerous because they’re legal. Developing unhealthy habits around day-to-day activities can cause serious disruption. In addition to being harmful in themselves, they can also lead to lapses in confidence and mental health that make the sufferer much more prone to relapse.
While most people think of anorexia or bulimia with regards to eating disorders, binge eating and overeating are also forms of disordered eating. Proper nutrition and a balanced diet are essential components of a healthy lifestyle, contributing to the proper functioning of hormones and powering every cell in the body. Eating too little or too much makes it harder to deploy the self-control needed to retain sobriety long term.
Depictions in the media often glamorize this debilitating disorder, which causes people to put themselves at risk of serious health consequences. Sex addiction isn’t just about enjoying sexual contact; it’s a total lack of control over a compulsion to get sexual gratification. Like any addiction, the sufferer needs more and more to get the same buzz as before. This can lead to them putting themselves in extreme or dangerous situations.
If underlying issues aren’t addressed, a person who has overcome a substance abuse disorder might seek escape in behaviors like casual or risky sex.
One of the most common cross addictions that occurs is gambling. Even though gambling is legal, there’s a huge risk that someone out of control can quickly ruin their entire life.
Drugs and alcohol provide an escape from emotions and responsibilities by numbing feelings, and gambling offers a similar level of distraction. As such, someone who stops using substance but hasn’t been through counseling and trauma therapy is at a much greater risk of simply transferring their addiction from one thing to another.
Another common cross addiction is to shopping or spending in general. Buying new stuff provides a pronounced buzz, but it can also lead to serious problems if addictive behaviors take hold. Just like anything else, in moderation, there’s no harm in spending money or shopping. However, for someone who’s been diagnosed with drug or alcohol use disorder, the chances of transferring the habit is strong. At its worst, shopping addiction can lead to debt, theft and loss of relationships.
Gaming and internet use can also be dangerous behaviors for someone who is at risk of cross addiction. Playing video games, watching YouTube videos and scrolling through social media are all processes that trigger the reward system in the brain. If you’ve struggled with a substance use disorder, the chances are these reward pathways have become disordered and are no longer serving you. As such, you’re at a serious risk of developing internet addiction if you detox from drugs and alcohol without getting the necessary treatment in rehab.
Dopamine and Compulsive Behavior
The main cause of compulsive behavior is a neurotransmitter called dopamine. While it’s often associated with pleasure, its main functions in the brain are reward and motivation. When you do something that makes you feel good, like eating, sex or listening to music, your brain releases dopamine to tell you to do it again in the future.
In its non-disordered state, this is ideal. It reminds us to eat food, reproduce and do things that make us feel happy and inspired, such as consuming art. However, in some cases, a negative feedback loop can occur.
With drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling or any other process addiction, the urge to repeat this behavior can override other centers of the brain that contribute to self-control. As such, even when you don’t want to consciously do something, another part of your brain is actively craving relief.
Addiction Interaction Disorder Theory
Addiction interaction theory states that the majority of people who struggle with addiction use more than one substance or combine process and substance addictions. This is a more developed version of the idea that someone can have an addictive personality. People with addiction interaction disorder tend to find that their habits interact with and reinforce each other.
Trauma, shame, guilt, denial and stress are often at the root of this disorder, and people who struggle with it use substances and behaviors to escape. This means it’s vital that addiction treatment programs address more than just the individual’s relationship with their drug of choice. In many cases, treatment providers must address the most severe addiction first but be sure to provide separate treatment for the other issues.
Cross Addiction vs Dual Diagnosis
Lots of people make the mistake of combining the definitions of cross addiction and dual diagnosis. The former refers to the transference of addictive behavior from one (or more) substance or activity to another. On the other hand, dual diagnosis describes someone who has two separate conditions that interact, such as bipolar disorder and cocaine addiction.
How Does Our Treatment Program Address Cross Addiction?
At Recovery Works, we’re uniquely positioned to help people who struggle with cross addiction and addiction interaction disorder. Instead of focusing on helping you overcome the addiction you’ve entered rehab for, our counselors help you learn about yourself. As you explore your motivations for abusing substances and unpack your personality and experiences with a skilled professional, you discover the deeper reasons for your condition.
Instead of teaching you to simply cope without your substance of choice, we help you develop new coping mechanisms and find an array of ways to remain on the right track. In addition to evidence-based treatment, some of the other therapies available at our drug rehab center include:
The 12 Steps
The 12-step program has been helping people around the world overcome addiction for almost 100 years. The 12 steps have been crafted to show addicted people that a full transformation is necessary for overcoming addiction, not just a few lifestyle tweaks here and there.
During meetings, you get the opportunity to share your story and express how you feel while learning about other people’s experiences. A counselor guides the conversation and helps the group to communicate and interact in a healthy, nonconfrontational way while expressing their feelings.
We go the extra mile when it comes to trauma recovery because we believe it underpins many addicted people’s experiences. Contrary to popular belief, trauma isn’t always caused by major incidents like sexual abuse or neglect during childhood — although these are very serious causes of trauma. In some cases, sibling rivalry, playground bullying or other seemingly innocuous experiences can lead to trauma.
At Recovery Works, we offer Alpha Stim therapy, Satori chair sessions and other state-of-the-art technology to help people find the treatment modalities that work best for them.
Holistic therapies such as mindfulness, yoga, meditation, fitness and other similar treatments can help you change your lifestyle and make the recovery process less of a chore. Events during your life and the way you were brought up as a child can contribute to unhealthy patterns of thinking and behavior.
The more focused you become on healing yourself through diet, nutrition, exercise, expressing yourself, and finding joy in healthy activities, the better chance you have of long-term recovery. Holistic therapy helps you understand the value and beauty in all of these pastimes.
Find Out More About Addiction Treatment
If you or a family member is struggling with cross-addiction, call Recovery Works today at 778-430-1212 to find out more about how our program can help.