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.