Cross Addiction: Here’s What You Need to Know

Man smoking tobacco

Cross addiction is when a person moves from one addiction to another. It can be common for newly recovering addicts to relapse, but they don’t always return to the same drug. In some cases, the user thinks they can “control” the new drug. For example, someone who abused heroin might abuse prescription painkillers because they feel they’re safer.

Let’s talk more about cross addiction and the important things you need to know.

Cross addiction is most common in early recovery.

The longer a person stays sober, the more likely they are to have a complete, healthy recovery. However, a person who is just starting their recovery has a higher risk for relapse. This means they are at an increased risk for cross addiction, too.  

Of course, you know by now that addiction doesn’t have “rules” it follows. It’s still possible to develop another addiction even when an addict is further into recovery. For example, if a person has surgery and takes painkillers, they could become addicted more easily than someone else.

Cross addiction doesn’t always raise red flags at first.

Not all cross addictions are viewed as a threat early on, particularly because they don’t have to be drug or alcohol related. Sometimes, a recovering addict might replace their past drug use with gambling, excessive exercise or internet usage. These behaviors can be just as dangerous and addictive.

Unfortunately, when the brain and body become addicted to something else, it makes the original addiction look more appealing. Trading one addiction for another starts the addictive pattern all over again. With the new addiction taking over, the brain considers the old drug as pleasurable rather than something to stay away from.

Cross addiction can be avoided.

Recovery is a lifelong process. Part of a successful recovery includes making smart choices, avoiding temptation and being open and honest about past abuse. Those who have struggled with addiction should talk to their doctor before accepting sleep medications or painkillers. For many recovering addicts, continuing to attend support groups and counseling keeps them on the right track with their goals.

If you or someone you know is dealing with a cross addiction, contact The River Source. Help is available. Without professional intervention, it’s possible that you will return to your previous addictive behaviors.