Cross-addictions can occur when someone with a substance use disorder begins using another substance or engaging in compulsive behavior, replacing one addiction with another. This could be anything from alcohol to other drugs, even other addictive patterns like gambling, sex, or shopping. It doesn’t always happen right away. It might take months or even years before the new addiction takes over.
Cross addictions are not the same as the original addictive behaviors. They involve new compulsions. For example, people wrecovering from addiction may become obsessed with exercise and pursue that endeavor to an unhealthy degree.
In this article, we will examine factors that play a role in the formation of cross-addictions and insights into breaking and preventing them.
Why Do Cross-Addictions Happen?
There are various reasons and factors by which an individual can engage in cross-addictions. Many of these reasons can be intentional or subconscious.
Stressful events can often trigger cross-addiction. For example, a person recovering from an addiction can rationalize using a new addictive behavior to cope with stress. However, when the underlying cause of the addiction is not addressed, the individual can become addicted to a new behavioral compulsion.
Cross addiction can also occur when someone takes prescription drugs that were not intended to treat them. This can often happen to people who aren’t aware of how addictive some painkillers can be.
Cross addictions can also occur when people use substances or engage in compulsive behaviors to cope with underlying mental health issues. People who suffer from mental illnesses often turn to addictive substances such as alcohol and drugs to help them deal with their problems.
People who become addicted to drugs often end up going to rehab. Treatment programs help them get off drugs by teaching them how to control their cravings. However, when they leave rehab, they may still experience withdrawal symptoms, making them crave more drugs. This cycle continues until the person stops using drugs.
People who try to stop using substances by switching to another drug or activity usually end up getting addicted to something else. Some people think that they won’t get addicted to drugs again if they do something else. This isn’t true. Substances affect your brain chemistry, and you need to change how your brain works to break free of addiction. You need to use a new method to help you stay clean.
Dopamine Substitution And Addiction Transfer
For individuals with substance use disorder, their brain structure is altered by repeated drug use.
Drug and Alcohol abuse activates dopamine, the brain chemical responsible for reward response. Dopamine is the main element behind making users feel high, and can be responsible for reinforcing addictive behavior. Without this chemical brain reaction, people would feel no euphoric effect. A vast amount of research shows that dopamine-inducing behavior plays a massive role in substance and behavioral addictions.
Dopamine also plays a vital role in cross-addiction development. When substance-addicted individuals decrease or abstain from their original substance of choice, they often face a dopamine deficiency. Over time, the brain becomes dependent on the substance to produce the release of dopamine.
This is where many individuals are at increased risk of engaging in either another substance or a behavioral pattern that can produce that same dopamine release.
What Are Common Cross Addictions?
There are an infinite amount of potential cross-addictions. But these are some of the most commonly seen behavioral patterns and addictions.
People in recovery of drug and alcohol use disorders may be at risk of developing a gambling addiction. This can be incredibly damaging to an individual’s finances and relationships. Some people who are addicted to gambling will resort to stealing money from friends and family members to pay off debts. Others may start borrowing large sums of money from loan sharks, pawnshops, or credit card companies.
Given the dopamine-releasing nature of sexual activities, there is an increased risk of those in recovery to engage in compulsive hypersexual behaviors. This can cause many additional difficulties in one’s personal life and relationships.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) defines shopping addiction as “a condition characterized by excessive buying, spending, and debt incurred through compulsive shopping.” It’s not uncommon for people who suffer from this disorder to spend thousands of dollars each month on clothing, shoes, handbags, makeup, and other items they don’t need.
Eating Disorder Cross-Addictions
Eating disorders can be a common risk for those recovering from substance use disorders. One of the most common eating disorders is binge eating disorder (BED). BED is characterized by episodes of uncontrollable overeating that occur once every week or more.
The most common form of exercise addiction is called “compulsive exercise.” It occurs when people feel compelled to exercise despite the physical pain, injury, illness, or fatigue. This type of addiction can lead to depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
Gaming can also become a compulsion for some people in recovery. These addictions can cause feelings of isolation and loneliness, but the reward centers in the brains of addicts continue to stimulate themselves by the artificial dopamine cycle of gaming.
Breaking and Preventing Cross-Addictions
Cross addiction is preventable. People with a previous history of drug use should be careful about taking prescription medications that have a potential for misuse, such as stimulants like Adderall, benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium), and narcotics, such as OxyContin. They should inform their doctors of their addiction history and ask them to prescribe alternatives if appropriate. Someone with a previous history of addiction should avoid mood-changing drugs altogether. If someone is unsure whether a medication has mood-changing properties, they should ask either a pharmacist or their prescribing physician.
Those in recovery should avoid places with a strong temptation to use drugs or alcohol. This includes bars, clubs, and other social situations where people tend to drink. People recovering from drug abuse should also avoid drinking because it may open the door to relapse into drug abuse.
However, avoiding places where bad choices aren’t always an option. For example, if you’re addicted to eating junk food, avoiding the grocery store might be impossible. But learning ways to cope with temptations is very important. In addition, you will need to learn how to manage stress and emotions. Therapy and support groups can help you deal with negative feelings. Moderate exercise often helps burn off energy, and nutrition is essential to helping you feel better about yourself. In addition, volunteering gives you something productive and fulfilling to do while also giving back to the community.
Find Holistic Help for Addiction with Schick Shadel Hospital
At Schick Shadel Hospital, we take immense pride in offering the most effective recovery program for drug and alcohol addiction. When you enroll with Schick Shadel, we target addiction at its root, allowing for you to live a well-balanced life in recovery long after treatment has concluded. Our support groups and alumni also provide an additional layer of social support to ensure you have the knowledge and skills to make your recovery last.
Call us at 1(800)CRAVING today!