What is cross addiction?

Cross AddictionCross addiction is one of those terms that is often bandied around, so I thought I would talk a little about cross addiction for those who may be unsure. Many people struggle to believe that their addiction exists beyond the confines of their substance or behaviour of choice. For instance, an alcoholic may feel that heroin addiction poses no risk to them, or a gambler may feel that alcohol will never become a vice. Sadly, this is often not the case. It is fairly safe to assume that the majority of people with addiction issues are more susceptible to becoming addicted full stop. It is lack of awareness of the dangers of addiction that result in relapse.

Relapse can occur as a result of the person believing they are “cured”. Sadly, no such cure exists for addiction, and so many relapses happen when the person attempts controlled drinking or social substance use. Relapse can also happen if the person is not vigilant about the substances entering their body – for example someone visiting the dentist may be prescribed antibiotics and pain medication. Although they will intend to take the medication as prescribed, their pre-disposition towards addictive tendencies means they are more vulnerable to prescription drug misuse. This can be a minefield for those in recovery; they are not invincible and are just as likely to have medical issues as those without addictive tendencies. However, it is vital that anyone in recovery talks openly with their GP or other medical professional to make sure there is an awareness of the potential for cross addiction to occur. It is the responsibility of the person in recovery to ensure they remain in recovery.

There is also the possibility that engaging with addictive behaviours will lead back to the original drug of choice. To stay with the dentist example, an alcoholic may begin to abuse the pain killers and as a result their mind frame will return to the way it was before their recovery began and so picking up again may seem like a good idea. Cross addiction happens because the pleasure-seeking part of the brain which is stimulated by drug use becomes active and produces craving for more.

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UK Addiction Treatment Group.

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