Question: What is cross addiction?
Dr. Gala’s Response:
It’s very rare for an addict to engage in only one addictive behavior. All addicts have a primary addiction. This is the problem that is getting all the attention.
Most addicts are also dealing with several secondary addictions. The secondary addictions are referred to as cross addictions.
Once you understand that addiction’s effect on the brain is virtually identical regardless of the addiction, it’s easy to see why this happens. When the primary addiction is not easily accessible, the addict will have other go to addictions that can be used in a pinch. These other addictions might also be used to enhance the high as the brain becomes conditioned to the effects of the primary addiction.
In the game Whac a Mole, beating one mole into submission has the effect of another mole popping up to take its place. Focusing on one mole at a time will make you crazy!
At RecoverYES, we recommend a holistic approach to recovery. Along with healing body, mind and spirit, we’re going to suggest that you address ALL addictions.
For example, let’s say that you have been doing drugs and this led to legal consequences. You’ve been ordered into treatment for drug addiction. A holistic approach to recovery would involve more than simply eliminating the drugs.
The statistics have shown that treatment programs fail 90% of the time. To improve your odds of sustaining recovery, you’re going to arrest your primary addiction along with your secondary or cross addictions.
For the drug addict, this will include drinking alcohol. Many people think, Oh, I don’t really have a problem with alcohol. Drugs were the problem. In the early stages of recovery, you’ll find yourself consuming alcohol to replace the effects of the drugs.
For alcoholics, once they quit drinking alcohol they find that they are consuming massive amounts of sugar (in the form of sweets or sweetened drinks). Add sugar to caffeine and you have a potent toxic substance that makes it really difficult for the brain to heal.
We also find that nicotine addiction is one of the biggest cross addiction challenges for substance abusers. The addict thinks, Well, there’s no way I can give up my smoking especially at the same time that I’m trying to kick my other (primary) addiction.
Unfortunately, this approach increases your risk of relapse AND interferes with your brain’s ability to heal. In order to heal your brain, you must quit interfering with the healthy functioning of your pleasure receptors. We’ve discussed the effects of addiction on the brain in other posts. In essence, any addiction (whether it is a compulsive behavior or ingesting a substance) is interfering with the pleasure and reward process in the brain. Eliminating the interference forces your brain to begin generating the natural healthy chemicals on its own.
So, the quickest way to heal from addiction is to stop all types of addictions at the same time. For many addicts, that seems incomprehensible but addiction research has proven that it works. Addicts who quit smoking at the same time that they stop drinking or taking drugs have a much higher success rate and are able to more easily sustain recovery.
Cross addiction is something that we talk about regularly. We believe it’s the difference between struggling to stay sober and living a full and fulfilling life.
Addiction can be cured. It requires healing your brain. In order to heal your brain, it must be supported and coaxed into functioning normally again. That requires eliminating all addictive behaviors and substances.
Would you trade a few weeks of slightly increased discomfort for a much lighter load a few short months down the road? That’s the promise of eliminating cross addictions!