Often times, it is believed that those individuals who have developed a substance addiction in the past are more likely to develop another and recently, the idea of “cross-addiction” has been studied. Cross-addiction posits that as some people who go into addiction treatment for a specific substance, health care professionals and addiction experts in those centers must consider that those people might also have issues with multiple substances.
What is Cross-Addiction?
Cross-addiction describes the existence of two or more addictions to different substances; it is a typical characteristic among individuals who have developed at least one substance addiction. Many patients have developed a cross-addiction because they are trying to heal the effects of the primary addiction. In many cases, cross-addicted individuals use a substance that has almost the same effect as their original drug of choice. For instance, a person who is addicted to cocaine could develop an addiction to prescription stimulants to treat ADHD. People who are struggling with a cross-addiction may also abuse other innocent drugs without knowing, such as over-the-counter sleeping pills or prescription tranquilizers. Cross-addiction not only describes drug addiction, but may also include being addicted to a particular behavior like excessive shopping, sex, or gambling.
Though cross-addiction is common among substance abuse patients, it does not necessarily mean that every patient will develop the disorder. Although it may affect anyone who is in recovery, cross-addiction mostly affects those individuals who are in the early stages of their sobriety. In addition, a person who has been in recovery for years still has the possibility of developing the disease. For instance, a recovered alcoholic may develop an addiction to hydrocodone after taking the drug for a dental procedure.
Research about Cross-Addiction
Various studies have shown that individuals who are struggling with a particular substance are more likely to become addicted to another substance. The strongest link is between alcohol and tobacco. Research has shown that smokers drink alcohol twice as much compared to those who don’t smoke, making their risk of developing alcoholism twice as likely than non-smokers. Another study has proven that alcohol abuse is 10 to 14 times more dominant to individuals who smoke. For these individuals, “self-medicating” causes cross-addiction to develop while helping them avoid the symptoms of their primary addiction as well.
Recovering from a substance addiction is a lifetime process. In taking the road towards sobriety, cross-addiction is one of the toughest challenges that people struggling with addiction face. Even for those who have successfully overcome their original addiction, falling into another is still possible. Nevertheless, by becoming more aware of the dangers and communicating with their rehab treatment providers, anyone can reduce their risk of developing another addiction and increases their chances of achieving lifelong sobriety.