What Is Cross Addiction: An In-depth Overview and Understanding

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Cross-addiction, also known as addiction transfer or addiction substitution, is a significant and common occurrence that deserves careful attention. It is as crucial for addiction treatment providers to be aware of cross-addiction and tailor their services accordingly, as it is for individuals to know what it is.

At Archstone Behavioral Health, we recognize the importance of understanding and addressing cross-addiction in addiction treatment. We prioritize cross-addiction prevention and treatment, recognizing that comprehensive care must address the primary addiction and the potential for cross-addiction. Our approach fuels the best detox programs Florida has to offer, as it focuses on empowering individuals to overcome addictive patterns and develop healthier coping mechanisms to sustain long-term recovery.

With this in mind, let us dedicate this article to this substantive phenomenon.

What is Cross Addiction?

Cross addiction, also referred to as addiction transfer or addiction substitution, is a phenomenon where individuals recovering from one addiction develop a new addiction or become dependent on a different substance or behavior. In other words, the individual replaces one addiction with another. This is not to be mistaken with polydrug use, or concurrent addictions, as we’ll see next.

Cross-addiction can manifest in various forms, such as substituting alcohol addiction with drug dependency or replacing a gambling addiction with compulsive shopping. The concept of addiction transfer or addiction substitution highlights how the addictive patterns and psychological mechanisms that fueled the initial addiction can resurface and be channeled into a new addiction.

The causes of cross-addiction vary, as we will also explore next. Typically, however, this shift can occur because addictive behaviors often stem from underlying psychological and emotional issues that are not fully resolved, leaving individuals vulnerable to developing new addictive patterns to fill the void left by the initial addiction.

A syringe next to pill bottles, illustrating what is cross addiction.
Cross addiction is the transfer from one addiction to another.

Cross Addiction vs. Polydrug Use: Clearing the Confusion

That said, cross-addiction and polydrug use are two terms that are often confused, but they represent distinct concepts. So here we should juxtapose what is cross-addiction and what is polydrug use.

Cross-addiction refers to the phenomenon where individuals recovering from one addiction develop a new addiction or become dependent on a different substance or behavior. It involves a shift from one addictive substance or behavior to another, often due to underlying psychological or emotional factors.

On the other hand, polydrug use refers to the simultaneous use of multiple substances, typically involving different drugs. It does not necessarily involve a transition from one addiction to another but rather the concurrent use of multiple substances.

The confusion likely arises because polydrug use can sometimes lead to cross addiction if the individual develops dependence or addiction to one or more substances. It is important to differentiate between the two terms

How Likely is Cross Addiction to Occur?

The likelihood of cross addiction occurring varies among individuals, and several factors influence it. Florida medical detox programs increasingly account for its occurrence, however, so this too bears exploring.

While not everyone who overcomes one addiction will develop a new addiction, the risk of cross-addiction is present, particularly in those with a predisposition to addictive behaviors or underlying psychological and emotional issues.

A struggling man curled up on a bed.
Cross addiction tends to manifest more frequently in cases where the individual faces mental health disorders or has poor behavioral health.

To illustrate this, consider the following research on what is cross addiction and its impact:

  • American Addiction Centers finds that cross-addiction is far from a myth, and reports that 13% “of individuals who had successfully dealt with their substance use issue did develop another substance use disorder”.
  • According to a study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, nearly 60% of individuals recovering from alcohol addiction reported developing a new addiction within three years.
  • Another study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine found that individuals who had received treatment for opioid addiction had an increased risk of developing cross-addictions to substances such as cocaine or benzodiazepines.

These statistics underscore the importance of addressing the potential for cross-addiction in addiction treatment and highlight the need for comprehensive care that targets underlying issues and provides support to prevent the development of new addictive patterns. For instance, the final finding should inform the course of every opioid detox center Florida has to offer. 

Causes of Cross Addiction

What muddies the waters regarding cross-addiction is that its causes remain relatively unclear. Research into what cross-addiction is driven by pinpoints a combination of underlying factors:

  • Psychological and emotional factors seem to play a significant role in cross-addiction development. Individuals may turn to new substances or behaviors to cope with unresolved emotional issues, trauma, stress, or mental health disorders. The allure of escaping negative emotions or seeking pleasure and excitement can drive the transition from one addiction to another. Studies dub this the “substitution hypothesis”.
  • Genetic predisposition also plays a role in cross-addiction. Some individuals may have a biological vulnerability that increases their susceptibility to developing addictive behaviors.
  • Environmental influences also contribute to cross addiction. Growing up in an environment where substance abuse or addictive behaviors are prevalent can shape an individual’s beliefs, attitudes, and coping mechanisms, making them more prone to cross addiction.
  • Lastly, the availability and accessibility of addictive substances or activities in one’s environment can also influence the likelihood of developing a new addiction.

Nonetheless, understanding these causes behind each individual case is crucial for effective addiction treatment, as Lantana drug rehab centers increasingly do. Addressing underlying psychological and emotional issues, providing supportive environments, and implementing coping strategies are essential to preventing and treating cross-addiction.

Two young women smoking indoors, illustrating that what is cross addiction fueled by may be social pressure.
An environment that’s permissive to addiction can contribute to cross addiction.

Notable Substances and Activities with Cross-Addiction Potential

Having analyzed what is cross addiction, it’s equally notable that certain substances and activities have been identified as having higher cross-addiction potential.

Substances such as alcohol, opioids, and benzodiazepines tend to exhibit cross-addiction rates. For example, individuals recovering from alcohol addiction may be at risk of developing dependencies on opioids or other drugs. Similarly, individuals who have overcome opioid addiction may be more susceptible to cross addictions involving other substances.

In addition to substances, certain activities can also lead to cross addiction. Gambling, for instance, has been linked to cross addictions, where individuals who have overcome one addiction may develop a compulsive gambling habit. So has social media addiction, which can encourage or enable substance addictions.

Similarly, behaviors like excessive exercise, shopping, or even work can become addictive and replace one addiction with another. The potential for cross-addiction in these cases stems from shared psychological mechanisms and the ability of these substances or activities to provide similar feelings of pleasure, escape, or relief from emotional distress. The interplay of physiological and psychological factors contributes to the reinforcement of addictive patterns.

Underlying Mental Health Conditions and Cross Addiction

Specific pre-existing addictions aside, there is a notable, strong connection between underlying mental health conditions and cross-addiction. Indeed, co-occurring mental health disorders often fuel the development of cross addictions.

Conditions such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder are frequently associated with cross-addiction. These mental health disorders can create a cycle where individuals turn to substances or addictive behaviors to self-medicate or cope with their emotional distress. Untreated mental health issues contribute to cross addiction by intensifying cravings, impairing judgment and decision-making abilities, and increasing susceptibility to relapse.

A struggling man in military uniform during a psychotherapy session.
PTSD is a common underlying factor in cases of cross addiction.

Treating Cross Addiction: Dual Diagnosis and Therapeutic Practices

With the above in mind, addressing co-occurring mental health disorders is vital in preventing and treating cross addiction. This is particularly true in cases of dual diagnosis, which inpatient detox in Florida increasingly focuses on.

What is dual diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis refers to the co-occurrence of a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder in an individual. The term describes cases where someone experiences both addiction and a diagnosed mental health condition simultaneously. This phenomenon is, unfortunately, rather common. NIDA finds that:

  • Almost 38% of those with substance use disorders also have mental health disorders
  • Over 18% of those with mental illnesses also have substance use disorders
  • Of those with dual diagnoses, 52.5% receive care for neither condition and only 9.1% receive care for both conditions

Combining addiction and mental health issues requires specialized treatment that comprehensively addresses both aspects. By understanding the relationship between dual diagnosis and cross addiction, treatment providers can implement integrated approaches that target the addiction and the underlying mental health conditions. This holistic approach is crucial in promoting lasting recovery and improving overall well-being for individuals with dual diagnosis.

A man during a psychotherapy session, illustrating what is cross addiction often treated through.
Extensive psychotherapy is a staple therapeutic practice in dual diagnosis cases, as it can also help prevent cross addiction.

Treating Dual Diagnosis and Cross Addiction

Treating dual diagnosis and cross addiction requires a comprehensive approach that integrates care for both the addiction and the underlying mental health condition. Integrated care offers several benefits, including a more holistic understanding of the individual’s needs and the ability to address the interconnected nature of addiction and mental health.

In the treatment of cross addiction, therapeutic practices play a crucial role:

  • Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can help individuals identify and modify dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors related to addiction and mental health.
  • Counseling sessions provide a safe space for exploring underlying issues, developing coping skills, and fostering self-awareness.
  • Support groups, such as 12-step programs, offer peer support and a sense of community, which can be immensely beneficial in maintaining sobriety and managing mental health challenges.
  • Holistic approaches that incorporate mindfulness techniques, art therapy, exercise, and nutrition promote overall well-being and aid in recovery.

By combining these therapeutic practices, individuals with dual diagnosis and cross addiction can receive comprehensive care that addresses the complexity of their needs, enhances their resilience, and supports long-term recovery.

Medical professionals in blue scrub suits smiling at the camera.
From detox to aftercare programs, addiction treatment providers must deeply grasp what is cross addiction and account for it.

In summary, cross addiction is a significant phenomenon that demands attention within the realm of addiction treatment. Understanding what is cross addiction and recognizing its potential occurrence is crucial for effective rehabilitation and long-term recovery.

At Archstone Behavioral Health, we deeply comprehend the complexities of cross addiction and its impact on individuals seeking help. We recognize that addressing cross addiction requires tailored approaches that encompass the unique challenges it presents. As such, we specifically tailor our services to prevent and treat cross addiction, taking into account the underlying factors, such as co-occurring mental health disorders and the potential for addiction transfer.

If you or your loved ones need cross addiction treatment or further information, please feel free to contact us today. Our teams are always available, and will be more than happy to assist you.