Although it’s widely acknowledged in clinical circles as a substance abuse treatment, the concept of cross addiction hasn’t been in the public eye for long. People understand dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorders, but cross addiction and cross dependence are slightly different.
If you’re suffering from cross addictions, you replace one compulsive behavior (drug addiction, alcohol abuse, addictive behaviors, etc.) with another. This can be hugely frustrating as you can complete a treatment program but quickly relapse one way or the other.
What Is Cross Addiction?
Anecdotal evidence suggests that anyone in recovery is in danger of developing substitute addictions to another substance after overcoming a SUD (Substance Use Disorder). If you’ve been through the recovery process, you must understand the risks of transferring one addiction to another.
And even though we want you to address a mental health disorder, the brain chemical responsible for addictions can create compulsive behaviors leading to further addiction treatment. For instance, if you’ve been through rehab because of alcohol and drug addiction, you must inform your doctor if you require pain control or ADHD medications. Narcotic pain relief medications for chronic pain could put you at severe risk of cross addiction. Another example would be to avoid drinking alcohol if you’re in recovery from a benzodiazepine use disorder. The two substances similarly affect your central nervous system, so the chances of cross dependence are high.
Difficulty processing emotions and unresolved past trauma can make you even more susceptible to cross addiction, leading to more significant substance abuse. You might have become highly adept at masking specific symptoms, which can prevent doctors from picking up on underlying mental health issues. This isn’t your fault or something to feel guilty about, but you’ll need to work hard to address the negative consequences when cross addiction can occur.
Addiction transfer, or a substitute addiction, is usually present because the individual has such a hard time coping with their feelings that they need to find a new distraction. People prone to compulsive behavior are significantly more likely to develop cross addiction.
How to Overcome Cross Addiction
When you’re trying to break the cycle of cross addiction, the key is to change your lifestyle so it’s in line with your future goals. Consider what you imagine your future to look like, and think about the person you need to be to achieve this. The harder you work at becoming that person, the happier you’ll be and the easier it becomes to resist temptation.
Implement these techniques as part of your strategy to make the lifestyle changes necessary to feel happier. Cross addiction represents a method you’ve found to cope with challenging feelings — but you’re strong enough to find means of self-soothing that serve you.
1. Write a Journal
People get the wrong impression about journals. Go into more detail if you have a particularly good or bad day, and take note of aspects of your life you’re grateful for. It doesn’t have to be anything artistic or fancy, just a quick record of your feelings and a note about what happened in the day.
Over time, you’ll notice patterns when you look back over your writing. For example, you might see that if you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more prone to anxiety, or you feed your alcohol addiction. Another familiar pattern people notice is a strong correlation between neglecting self-care and feeling low.
You’re more likely to use drugs or alcohol or turn to addictive behavior when you feel low. So understanding what lifts your mood is crucial to breaking the negative consequences or the cross addiction cycle.
2. Be Honest — Especially When It’s Hardest
It’s so vital that you try to notice when shame or fear gets in the way of telling the truth. It’s natural to want to hide thoughts and feelings that you feel ashamed of, but it’s unhealthy. The more you can open up and be honest about your feelings, the better your caregivers can help. It’s also true that negative emotions seem much more prominent and scarier when they only exist in your head — it’s better to express yourself.
3. Find Comfort in Movement
One of the most crucial aspects of a healthy lifestyle is movement. You don’t have to take up running or a team sport — although you can if you like. Dancing to your favorite songs on YouTube, yoga classes, and martial arts are fun, alternative exercise methods.
4. Seek an Expert Therapist and Think Long Term
Working through trauma, past experiences and triggers alone is almost impossible. Therapists undergo years of training to identify traits that lead to cross addiction and mental illness. Seeking medical guidance for a year or more is usually the best course of action for someone stuck in a cross addiction cycle.
5. Assess Your Diet
Regarding the body, diet is arguably even more important than exercise. The food we eat affects the balance of our hormones and blood sugar, so eating a low-nutrient diet that’s high in processed food makes recovery much more challenging.
Meat, eggs, fish, cheese, vegetables, whole-grain pasta, rice, and bread are delicious. Try switching to a healthy diet for just two weeks and note any differences in how you feel.
6. Be Kind to Yourself
The cycle of cross addiction is usually exacerbated by shame, low self-esteem, and poor mental health. Sometimes we tell ourselves negative stories about ourselves without even realizing it. The more we believe these stories, the more inclined to substance abuse we are. Try to make an effort to be as kind about yourself in your thoughts as you would be to the people you love most in the world.
7. Try Meet-Ups With New People
If your old friendship group mainly consisted of people whose friendship with you revolved around getting high or drunk, you might consider finding a new friendship group. There’s no need to feel any guilt for this — the people we surround ourselves with have a massive impact on us.
Use meet-up groups to find people who share similar interests. Whether you’re into drawing, singing, coding or gaming, you can find a group to go on fun days out and participate in activities together.
8. Focus on a Consistent Sleep Routine
For some reason, we pay close attention to children and teenagers getting enough sleep — but many adults are guilty of an inconsistent routine. The body is more sensitive to this than we realize. If you go to bed and wake up at the same time consistently, you’ll notice a significant change in your mental well-being.
What Causes Cross Addiction?
Depending on the individual in question, there may be various causes of cross addiction. One of the likely causes is the idea that using or abusing one substance makes it easier for a person to rationalize using another for the same reasons. For example, if past trauma plays a role in the reason for alcohol abuse, it stands to reason that a cross addiction to drug abuse in that same individual could also be due to past trauma. This could be true of substances that have different effects. The person may no longer be chasing a specific “high,” per se, just a way to self-medicate out of the feelings caused by the trauma.
Cross Addiction & Mental Health
A more complex possible cause could be shifting brain chemistry among substance use disorder patients. Because the brain’s reward system changes during substance use, using a different substance may seem like a rational decision for someone struggling with addiction. The shift in brain chemistry can make them inherently more vulnerable to cross addiction.
Another possible cause of cross addiction is a lack of tools or education regarding substance use disorder. Someone already struggling with an addiction to one thing may not have the internal or external resources necessary to cope effectively with the first addiction. Therefore, they certainly wouldn’t have the tools needed to cope with abusing another substance, which can cause cross addiction to develop. This is where programs like inpatient treatment or partial hospitalization programs can play a role in recovery.
Is Addiction Cured After Recovery?!
Substance abuse recovery can also contribute to cross addiction. Once an individual has successfully navigated the initial stages of recovery from prior substance use, they may not realize that using something else puts them back at square one. They may continue to chase the feelings they got from the original substance.
However, because they think they’re “cured” due to a successful recovery, they may not realize the risks of cross addiction by starting with something new. They may have mentally separated the new substance from the one they just recovered from. This ultimately puts the individual back in the same position and now means they may be struggling with cross addiction to multiple substances.
How Common Is Cross Addiction?
The truth is that research remains ongoing in this area of addiction treatment. However, cross addiction may be more common than many people believe. Individuals with substance use disorder sometimes struggle with addiction to multiple substances. If they’re getting help for one substance at a time throughout this history, it may not be clear if they’re dealing with cross addiction. This may fail to get the help they need.
Another reason cross addiction may be more prevalent than previously thought is the foundation of many substance use disorders. Those struggling with addiction often seek ways to cope with any internal or external challenges. Without fully resolving some of these issues and learning the tools to cope without substances, recovery may be fraught with setbacks, including cross addiction. This is one of the reasons successful recovery starts with an effective rehab program because these tools are needed to avoid cross addiction.
Because the danger of cross addiction is at its most potent when someone is in the initial stages of recovery, a strong support network is essential. This is one of the reasons sober living is stringently recommended for those who just finished the acute stage of drug and alcohol rehab. It provides time for individuals to learn more tools to deal with temptation and cope with challenges that might send someone addicted to drugs or alcohol into a dangerous spiral.
Cross addiction is also dangerous to someone who returns to their home environment without proper support. They may understand how important it is to avoid specific triggers but fail to plan for unanticipated temptations from substances or behaviors they didn’t even realize they had to consider. This is another reason that cross addiction is so dangerous for those still dealing with the initial stages of recovering from substance use disorder. Their vulnerability puts them at greater risk of succumbing to temptation.
Can You Avoid Cross Addiction?
Cross addiction might seem daunting for those recovering from substance use disorder. However, it’s possible to avoid this issue, even for those who may not have recovered from substances in the past. The first step is getting the help necessary for addiction to drugs and alcohol. A good recovery program will lay the foundation to avoid behaviors, triggers and environments that may lead to cross addiction or a relapse.
Things like inpatient treatment, a robust outpatient program and partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) are all elements of recovery that can help someone at risk for developing addictions to multiple substances. The programs work in conjunction with one another to address the underlying behaviors and patterns associated with addiction. By taking this approach, the person becomes more likely to learn how to deal with the factors contributing to such harmful behaviors, allowing them to reclaim their lives from drugs and alcohol.
What Comes After Structured Recovery?
It’s important for someone struggling with substance use to believe they can overcome the temptation to resist using again. Sober living can be an essential part of the journey to avoid becoming addicted to multiple substances. Being more vulnerable to it doesn’t necessarily mean that someone struggling will automatically give in. Sober living can provide an environment in which someone is more likely to lean on a supportive network of like-minded individuals as they recover from addiction’s rigors. This shows them that avoiding this issue is entirely possible, as is a full recovery from using substances.
Avoiding multiple addiction problems also means that individuals struggling with behaviors perpetuating addiction or contributing to compulsions must learn healthy coping mechanisms instead. This means changing unhealthy patterns, avoiding people and places that contributed to addiction behaviors and making life choices more aligned with a reality free from drugs and alcohol.
Apply What You Learn
Individuals dealing with addiction must also learn what tools apply to possible issues with becoming addicted to multiple substances. Perhaps ongoing behavioral therapy can help them avoid vulnerabilities to substance use, or a different job or new hobby is critical. The process differs for everyone, and the toolkit looks different depending on the circumstances. It’s one of the main reasons we take such a customized approach to help people struggling with substance use issues.
We know how important it is to implement the right program for each person’s needs, based on what contributed to their addiction and what they need to be successful in long-term recovery. Therefore, while avoiding multiple addictions can seem impossible for someone just starting their recovery journey, the truth is that with the right team by their side, it can be done.
Avoiding cross addiction is as possible as making a complete and lasting recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. It just takes planning, dedication and hard work to make it happen.
A solid drug rehab program is essential to creating a practical approach. Triggers can be found in the most unexpected places, which a good rehab center will prepare individuals to deal with. Learning to navigate possible pitfalls is instrumental to successful recovery from using substances of all types.
Discover How Alta Loma Can Help With Cross Addiction Today
If you struggle with an addiction to drugs and alcohol and want to reclaim your life today, contact the rehab specialists at Alta Loma Transformational Services.
Our staff is standing by to guide you toward the process of recovery. It’s within reach, no matter how bleak the situation may seem. Call us today at 866-457-3843 or click here to learn more.