Cross Addiction refers to having two addictions at a time or swapping one addiction for another. It can also mean engaging in addictive behaviour that can lead back to the addiction of choice. An alcoholic might move on to cocaine addiction. If he or she gives up on both of these and develops a gambling addiction instead then it’s highly likely that they will end up with the substance dependence again! The same brain processes are fueling the addiction.
Cross Addiction can happen because the brain of an addict has been conditioned to pleasure seeking escapes. Whenever they do something pleasurable – whether it’s eating chocolate or snorting cocaine the brain releases the ‘feel – good’ chemical dopamine. Over time the brain will get used to that feeling and this is why detoxing from a certain substance or behaviour is so difficult.
This is why cross addiction is likely to happen, especially in the early days of recovery. Even though the original substance is no longer in the body. The brain continues to desire that amazing and happy feeling. If it cannot get it via the usual route, it will do gymnastics in order to get it another way – be it a new drug or activity. This can escape notice following the rehab clinic.
Indulging in a form of addictive behaviour can lead a person to develop another, secondary addiction. Simply ceasing the addiction can lead to being addicted to something else.
This can accidentally happen and appear innocent to begin with – an alcoholic might buy over the counter sleeping aids for actual insomnia issues – only to find that they later have become dependent on sleeping aids to boot!
Cross addictions can happen at any time. It’s not unheard of for a person who is 20 years sober get medication following a hip replacement and end up addicted.
Do not underestimate the risk – be careful with your behaviours after recovering from addiction – stay mindful that the behaviour you are engaging with isn’t feeding your addiction and need for that ‘escape’.
The bigger problem is that the newfounda addictive behaviour can expose people to the unnecessary danger of major relapse to the original addiction. For example, if a person’s primary addiction is alcohol, a cross addiction to gambling could put them in a vibrant and lively casino setting where everyone is drinking, betting and partying – it would be even more difficult to resist the temptation to drink.
Recovery is for life
Having to face cross addiction is a challenge that addicts have to face at some stage of life. No matter how long they have been sober, how strong they are – the danger is there. I am not saying that you need to panic that your addiction is definitely going to come back, but it is important to remain mindful.
Keep an eye on your life your mind and your addictions in order to maintain the path to recovery, if you need help, a private rehab can help and can often be funded via NHS or health insurance.