ClickCease Cross-Addiction - Granite Recovery Centers


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Cross-addiction is replacing one addictive substance or compulsive behavior with another, essentially developing two or more addictions. It is also referred to as Addiction Interaction Disorder or addiction transfer. The concept slightly differs from co-occurring disorders or dual diagnoses, as cross-addiction typically happens after treatment for an initial addictive disorder.


What Causes Cross-Addiction?

While cross-addiction is primarily accidental, certain factors increase vulnerability. For instance, without the understanding and support of a recovery program, a client could resort to other drugs or behaviors to cope. Cigarettes and alcohol are substances that are considered more socially acceptable. One may feel a false sense of security in indulging if it helps them overcome their primary addiction, possibly to “hard” drugs.


Cross-addiction may also occur when:


  • Taking over-the-counter or prescribed medication with an addictive element, a new addiction develops or relapses into the primary.
  • Shifting from “hard” drugs to “soft” drugs to control the primary addiction and eventually becoming addicted to the soft drugs.
  • Using ‘rescue’ drugs to manage the symptoms of intoxication or withdrawal from an original addiction.
  • Quitting one drug and starting using another, thinking there are no consequences.


Common reasons for addiction replacement are stress relief and coping with anxiety in sobriety. However, no matter how it starts or what addictive behaviors or substances are involved, cross-addiction leads to a loss of control and has devastating consequences.


Most clients substitute their primary addictions with:


  • Gambling
  • Sex
  • Overworking
  • Nicotine
  • Shopping
  • Binge Eating
  • Pornography


Reaching the point of cross-addiction rewires the brain so that a client only craves the addictive substance despite its negative impacts. As a result, brain dopamine levels may reduce so much during recovery that individuals may find it challenging to feel happiness or excitement. This may cause recovering clients to relapse or substitute past addictive behaviors with new activities to fulfill the urge or relieve the unpleasantness of sobriety.


Signs of Cross-Addiction

Different clients display signs of cross-addiction differently. It may not involve indulging only in consumable substances such as pills and alcohol. Some clients transfer their addiction to seemingly harmless or healthy habits such as working out, shopping, and working. Unfortunately, these seemingly “safe” activities may produce the same outcomes as primary addiction.


Signs and symptoms of addiction transfer include:


  • Discomfort or restlessness at work, school, or home
  • Giving up sleep to indulge in new activities.
  • Anxiety and stress associated with new activities.
  • Complications with relationships
  • Poor personal hygiene and self-neglect
  • Constant thoughts about a new vice or adventure


The Danger of Cross-Addiction

It is common to think that certain drugs are better since they are legal or more socially acceptable or that a second alternative will help you recover from the primary addiction. But unfortunately, all addictive substances can develop into full-blown addictions and severely impact the brain.


The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that in the previous year, an estimated 20 million people 12 years or older developed substance use disorders stemming from alcohol and illicit drug use. Yet only 1% sought treatment. Most weren’t confident enough or were in denial about their condition.


Denial is a defense mechanism that leads to a lack of recognition of the harmful effects of ongoing addiction. Clients who are in denial tend to continue abusing addictive substances. Such impaired, addictive thinking leads to the continued use of alternate drugs, which have devastating mental, physical, and psychological effects.


The common dangers of addiction transfer include:


  • Pregnancy complications
  • Financial insecurity
  • Strained family and romantic relationships
  • Detox issues
  • Loss of hygiene
  • Brain damage
  • Complicated social interactions


Dopamine is activated as a reward response when a client gets high from drug and alcohol use disorder. This chemical reaction is responsible for the euphoric effects of drug use. As a result, dopamine-inducing behaviors significantly affect the process and substance addiction replacement.


Dopamine is essential for the development of several addictions. Individuals who misuse substances frequently experience a dopamine shortage when they cut back on or stop using their drug of choice. The drug eventually becomes necessary for the brain to produce dopamine. Even if they are committed not to using their issue substance, people may resort to a new substance that gives them the dopamine-induced high they are missing to combat withdrawal or ease distress.


The brain releases dopamine during impulsive actions like eating, gambling, and watching pornography, exhilarating, and reinforcing the behavior. Because impulsive actions stimulate the same brain circuit and have consequences comparable to those of drugs or alcohol, they frequently serve as the new substance for people who acquire cross-addictions.


Prevention and Treatment of Cross-Addiction

The key to preventing cross-addiction is educating individuals about the risks and encouraging complete drug abstinence. Awareness of the condition and taking note of vulnerabilities can strengthen a client’s recovery plan. In addition, individuals are encouraged to inform doctors about their substance use disorder history before taking any medication home.


Generally, it is advisable to avoid OTC and prescription medication, marijuana, alcohol, and all other addictive substances. The following are tips for preventing cross-addiction:


  • Educate your support network on the dangers of addiction replacement. For example, a client’s sober friends and family should know about addictive substances and activities that could lead to cross-addiction or relapse.
  • Be cautious about OTC drugs and other seemingly “safe” medications. These include nasal sprays, cough syrups and tablets, and mouthwash. Some have alcohol or another addictive substance as an ingredient.
  • Check medication labels for ingredients to avoid.
  • Consult your doctor or recovery specialist.
  • Get a recovery partner.


Using therapy to address the underlying causes of addictive thoughts and behavior is the key to cross-addiction treatment. Viewing addiction as a permanent condition and not just temporary dependence on a particular addictive substance can decrease relapse and cross-addiction rates. In addition, by tackling unsettling emotions and seeing a therapist throughout recovery instead of taking it out on other substances, a client has better chances of avoiding addiction replacement.


Educating clients in recovery centers on the risk and possibility of addiction transfer also aids in preventing cross-addiction. In addition, clients can work with a sponsor or specialist to identify triggers and addictive thought patterns.


Avoid situations and places involving drug and alcohol use or similar triggers. These include clubs, parties, or gatherings with other active clients. One should be open about their condition for more substantial support and to avoid any associated stigmas.


Techniques to Overcome Cross-Addiction

A lifestyle change that aligns with future recovery goals is the key to overcoming addiction transfer. Resisting temptations requires that one finds new means to cope with unpleasant feelings. Some tips for using together with treatment and specialized programs include:



You can quickly note events and your feelings during the day. You can record the bad and good aspects and notice thoughts and behavior patterns. Understanding what excites you might aid in breaking the cycle of addiction transfer.


Total Honesty

Fear and shame should not get in the way of expressing your thoughts and feelings. It is healthy, to be honest, so your sponsor or caregiver knows how to care for you. Even while negative emotions may be a lot more, it still helps to be completely honest.



Exercising contributes to a healthy lifestyle. Besides jogging or team sports, dancing, yoga, and martial arts are also fun, alternative ways.


Consult a Behavioral Therapist

Working through addiction and its triggers is difficult alone. However, if you are stuck in an addiction transfer cycle, seeking professional guidance until you are stable enough is the best course of action.


Watch What You Eat

The hormonal and blood sugar balance affects your mood and recovery. Switch to a healthier diet and notice a difference in your feelings and behavior.


Get Enough Sleep

Adequate and consistent sleep has positive mental health benefits.


Make New Friends

Getting a new group of friends shouldn’t make you feel guilty, especially if your old buddies still struggle with substance use disorders. Instead, you can make new friends with similar interests or hobbies you would like to get into.


Be Easy on Yourself

Low self-esteem, shame, and poor mental health can sometimes drive people to cross-addiction. Instead, think of yourself with the same kindness you would have for the individuals you cherish most.


Treatment Programs for Cross-Addiction

Treatment schedules are adjustable to the client’s lifestyle, and they may vary according to your location, duration, and type. There are different programs available:


Short-Term Residential Treatment

Based on a 12-step process, this technique offers intensive yet relatively short therapy. This comes within the traditional residential therapy concept but only lasts around 30 days on average. You’ll want to continue participating in outpatient therapy and aftercare sessions throughout the stay. Once your residential treatment is over, these programs assist in reducing your risk of relapsing.


Long-Term Residential Treatment

You can get care 24 hours a day with long-term residential therapy. This frequently happens outside of hospitals. Residential treatment is organized. It comprises exercises meant to aid participants in examining limiting ideas, negative notions about themselves, and detrimental behavioral habits. In turn, it aids people in creating fresh, better, and constructive ways to engage with their environment.


Outpatient Therapy

Many levels of intensity and services are offered through outpatient therapy. If money is a concern, this alternative is often less expensive than residential or inpatient therapy. It is a fantastic choice for people with jobs or other demanding commitments due to outpatient therapy. Typically, this kind of treatment necessitates spending 10–12 hours each week at a treatment facility. Group therapy is a crucial component of treatment in many outpatient treatments.


The Importance of Treating Cross-Addiction


Understand that therapy is the only way to overcome addiction if you have studied the warning signs and think you or a loved one is experiencing addiction transfer. Clients must break addiction patterns via treatment to be effective, regardless of how it chooses to appear. There is also the possibility of relapsing. While reverting to a habit is a distinct stage of recovery, it can be fatal if left unchecked while dealing with substance misuse and other illnesses. You can safely traverse these ups and downs thanks to treatment.


Treatment should be prioritized since it aids in developing new habits that can be applied to all addictive disorders. In addition, you are forced to concentrate on your inner thoughts and behaviors while in recovery. For this, behavioral therapy is a well-liked and effective method.


Your attitude and behavior toward substance use can be changed with the help of behavioral therapy. You will be reminded to pay attention and care for yourself while working. The continual support that therapy offers is among its other top advantages.


When you enroll in recovery, you create a support system of individuals who will stick by you long after you leave the facility. Addiction is a path with many turns. You can manage the highs and lows of the road to recovery with the assistance you get in therapy.


Get Professional Help Today!


Addiction transfers require specialist treatment. Our professionals at Granite Recovery Centers are most suited to help people overcome addiction, whether it is impulsive conduct or a drug use problem. In addition, multiple addictions may result from underlying mental health illnesses, calling for co-occurring disorder therapy.


The most efficient approach to aid individuals in recovery from cross-addiction is integrated therapy, which addresses addiction and co-occurring conditions. One of the main objectives of educating individuals to live sober lives and refrain from harmful conduct is minimizing triggers for substance misuse and impulsive actions.


In both group and individual settings, cognitive behavioral therapy enables clients to examine the thoughts and emotions that underlie their substance use and compulsions. People can learn how to avoid addictive habits through additional treatment by learning to see the warning indicators of negative emotions or actions. Consult a specialist if you or a loved one has numerous drug use disorders or obsessive behavior problems. Our treatment centers are accessible to help people get over their addictions and lead fulfilling lives.