Cross Addiction: If you want to get several answers to the same question, ask treatment professionals and people in recovery (or those supporting people in recovery), “What is cross addiction?” It’s not a medical term. But “cross addiction” is a phrase often used by many addiction specialists and those receiving addiction treatment in a clinical setting, and it means something different to many people. MAT Care Clinics has published the following in the hopes of helping to identify this hazard better and ways to treat or possibly avoid it.
First and foremost, what is Cross Addiction?
Also known as “addiction transfer,” cross addiction is when an individual has multiple addictions. That seems simple, but the nuance missing from that literal definition is the umbrella of compulsive behaviors this can entail, including abuse of other substances, impulsive shopping, rigid eating behaviors, gambling, risky sex, and more.
Part of what makes this so hazardous is that crossing addictions do not have to be active simultaneously. Someone might be sober from cocaine use for years but then abruptly develop a severe eating disorder. Unhealthy eating, in that scenario, is another addiction, even if the person in question still hasn’t used a narcotic in years and would be considered “sober” or “in recovery.” It is essential for those who find themselves in a cycle of addiction transfer to get help the moment they become conscious of struggling.
Addictions happen even when substances, behaviors, or circumstances have changed. From day drinking to compulsive marijuana use, some have rationalized that substituting all that for benzodiazepines is somehow making a healthier choice. But triggering the reward centers in the brain by engaging in ritual behavior, especially when it’s known to have detrimental effects, is addiction. Abstaining from one substance to depend on another is just one long addiction.
Who’s most likely to succumb to Cross Addiction?
Cross addiction can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, or gender. That said, some patterns make individuals more vulnerable. If someone has a history of addictive behavior, they are more prone to struggling with addiction transfer—also people with a history of dual diagnoses.
What’s Dual Diagnosis?
Dual diagnosis refers to someone suffering from a mental health disorder in addition to addiction, be it anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, or any number of comorbidities. Dual diagnosis and cross addiction are terms often used interchangeably, but they refer to completely different challenges in addiction.
Either way, medical professionals should be consulted, as cross addiction and dual diagnosis have devastating emotional, psychological, and physical repercussions.
Are there any Cross Addiction signs or symptoms to look for?
Cross addiction is a common issue with serious consequences, so some common signs and symptoms will often accompany the addiction transfer, including:
- Social withdrawal and a general deterioration of relationships
- Lost interest in hobbies or preferred activities
- Increased problems at work or in school
- An increase in impulsive and risky behaviors
- An increased obsession with the substance or behavior
- Increased tolerance to their substance of choice
- Larger doses are sought to achieve the desired effect or to “stay well”
- An increased focus on drug-seeking behavior
- And regardless of how severe the consequences become, an inability to control intake or behavior
If you or someone you know is demonstrating the symptoms listed above, seeking help from a professional as soon as possible is imperative.
The Dangers of Cross Addiction
Those susceptible to cross addiction struggle with all addictive impulses, making them candidates for dangerous situations and various health problems. In addition to psychological and physical harm, they are more likely to:
- Experience financial problems
- Develop unstable relationships
- Engage in criminal activity
- Become homeless
The Unique Challenges of Cross Addiction
One of the biggest challenges those recovering from cross addiction faces is the stigma associated with addiction. People who experience cross addiction feel isolated, judged, and embarrassed. And if the person is thought to have recovered and begins using again? Even if it’s a different addiction, that sort of history dredges up complex negative emotions that make it even more difficult to be honest about their struggles and get help.
How do you support someone experiencing Cross Addiction?
Your first step might be to connect with a specialist or mental health professional, depending on the severity of the experience. If you or someone you know faces cross addiction, the most important thing is admitting to the problem and recognizing the need for help. A professional can assess your situation to guide your next course of action.
We cannot overstate the importance of a robust support system during recovery. People in recovery advance when surrounded by those they can trust and rely on while focusing on sobriety, and it’s crucial to have a healthy support network when the inevitable urge to relapse comes.
None of that is easy, considering how many bridges are likely to have been set aflame. It may prove too difficult to be a positive role model or mentor when resentment lingers from when the addiction took over. Still, those still connected can recommend sponsorship through a recovery program or encourage them to care for their mental and physical health. It’s equally complicated and rewarding.
Boundaries are important, but the most crucial thing is to show someone in recovery compassion and empathy and to maintain healthy communication.
“What’s the best way to confront my loved one’s Cross Addiction?”
It’s best to create a non-judgmental, safe space to discuss it. Do what you can to assure your loved one there will be no judgment or criticism, and then actively listen to their concerns and experiences. You’re not condoning the behavior by trying to find out more about it, so try to keep as open a mind as possible.
You can be honest about your feelings while also being respectful. Keep the communication open and look for options that can yield results. No one is facing it alone, as alone as everyone might feel. Countless people worldwide and throughout history have beaten addiction and remained sober. No matter how dark the future seems, recovery is never impossible.
Can a relapse into cross addiction be prevented?
Relapse prevention is a worthy goal and a critical aspect of recovery, but it is important to recognize that relapse is a part of the road to recovery for many. Relapses can be discouraging and dangerous and threaten to undo all the progress made up to that point. However, a relapse is not the end of recovery, and the best place to begin is always where you are.
There are no guaranteed methods to prevent relapse. That said, there are steps those in recovery for cross addiction can take to reduce their risk, such as participating in healthy activities, practicing mindfulness and self-care, attending support groups, and engaging in therapy sessions with a mental health counselor, addiction specialist, or licensed therapist. There is a better chance of lasting success when professional help is part of the plan.
What is the Treatment for Cross Addiction?
Treatments for cross addiction can include detoxification, therapeutic counseling, and medication management (such as MAT treatment). Another option is residential stays at treatment facilities dedicated to recovery. Whichever path, lasting recovery from cross addiction is possible with the right help and dedication.
MAT Care Clinics and Cross Addiction
MAT Care Clinics understands that experiencing multiple addictions can derail everyone involved and that cross addiction happens and affects many. We recognize the complexities of addictive behaviors and the unique ways they affect every person touched. We have helped many recover and rebuild their lives without cross addiction.
For more information about our treatment services, contact us to speak to a specialist.
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