Cross Addiction in Recovery

Cross Addiction in Recovery

Different manifestations of Addiction

Addiction based on behavior rather than a specific substance, it can manifest in various different forms. The five most common forms of addiction are drugs, alcohol, sex, food and gambling, although new forms of addictions are branching out today such as social media, co-dependency and compulsive behavior such as Gym or spending, as well as many other new areas that are appearing in today’s modern society. There are often many different 12-step meetings and support groups for different types of addiction and these are often a valuable asset to any person’s recovery.

Misconceptions around different types of Addiction

There are many misconceptions and denial around the fact that addiction can come in many shapes and forms. For example, often when someone comes into treatment, specifically someone who is addicted to a specific substance, there may be denial about the fact that they may be able to still do certain things or substances because they are only in treatment for this or that. Here are some example: ‘I only drink, I can still take prescription medication.’ ‘My problem is only drugs, and I can still drink, right?’ ‘I’m only and alcoholic, I’m not nearly as bad as these other people.’ These are common sayings amongst in-patients that come into treatment for various reasons. What they often do not understand is that addiction is the way a person acts or behaves and in what they are trying to satisfy within themselves by trying to fix an internal problem with an external factor. It is common for someone undergoing in-patient treatment that do not realize this and anything that is mind or mood altering may fill a void and they feel better about themselves. It is important for someone undergoing treatment to learn and understand this and work on the root cause of the behavior before they can fix the actual addiction.

What is Cross Addiction?

Cross Addiction is when two addictions occur in one individual or when a person who is already addicted to one substance may in fact become addicted to one or more other substances. As the chemistry in the brain of a person with the disease of addiction is different to that of a normal person, when a substance consider the dopamine levels in the limbic system are not able to tell the difference between addictive substances. An example of this if someone is recovering from a heroin addiction and given a specific painkiller such as Oxycontin, this may lead to a relapse on the individual’s original drug of choice. An alcoholic that begins drinking cough syrup containing alcohol may become addicted to cough syrup. This is however, not a proven fact. It is rather, solely based on belief systems rather than scientific evidence. In the movie, Thanks for Sharing, it shows a great indication of how addicts in recovery struggle with more than one addictive substance or behavior.

How to manage Cross Addiction?

12-Step treatment can be a great way to manage and/or prevent cross-addiction from occurring. Appropriate therapy can allow individuals to work on themselves, as well as their behavior, which could allow them to find a balance within themselves and their lives.

Addressing the addiction through integrated treatment is usually the most effective way of treating cross addiction. It is also important to reduce triggers such as dangerous people, places and things and work on the behavior through CBT therapy. This allows for thought patterns and emotions that contribute substantially to their substance abuse and destructive behavior.

If you or your loved one is experiencing any symptoms that display any type of addiction, it is important for yourself or your loved one to seek professional help through your nearest treatment facility, 12 step fellowships or support groups. Recovery is possible from any substance and even from inside yourself.


-Dominique Le Claire Rossouw