What Is Cross Addiction?

People who are addicted to a substance or behavior, whether they are addicted to alcohol, drugs, or have a behavioral addiction like gambling or an eating disorder, are probably susceptible to falling into other addictions too. When an addict picks up a second (or third – etc.) addiction, this is called cross addiction, addiction interaction disorder, or addiction transfer. Whatever you call it, the problem is real and widespread. If you arm yourself with knowledge, you can protect yourself and help make others aware of the risk of cross addiction.  So what is cross addiction?

How Can You Recognize Cross Addiction?

We can broadly define addiction as a mental state where someone will continue to use a mind-altering substance or engage in a behavior despite this causing them significant harm. So if you are an alcoholic, and you manage to get your alcoholism under control but now you like to play blackjack at the casino, do you have a cross addiction? If your gambling is making it hard for you to pay your bills or straining your personal relationships. You may be addicted to gambling. Combining drugs in search of a new high can easily create cross addiction too.

People who are able to get clean from drugs or alcohol may have only conquered their problem with the substance, but failed to address the problems underlying their addiction.  Sex addiction or pornography addictions are also common behavioral cross addictions. If your sexual activity or use of pornography is making it hard to maintain meaningful relationships, you may have a problem with cross addiction.

Cross addiction does not have to occur while an addict is engaged in their first addiction. The new addiction may arise when they are beginning the process of recovery, or even after they have been clean for many years. Your first addiction is a sign that you are generally susceptible to all forms of addiction.

very close up dice

For addicts, gambling affects brain chemistry like a drug

What Causes Cross Addiction?

Some substances are inherently addictive. But in many cases, there are other factors that contribute to addiction. Children who see their parents modeling addictive behavior grown into adults who are apt to repeat their parents’ mistakes. Other forms of trauma and stress may make it difficult for addicts to connect with other people or find meaningful engagement and happiness in life. Addiction feels like a salve for these wounds. To some extent, heightened susceptibility to addiction may also be genetic.

When our brains are functioning normally and healthy, chemicals like dopamine are released when we accomplish something or feel connected. Addictive substances and behaviors release these chemicals. Artificially creating good feelings wears down our bodies ability to produce these healthy chemicals naturally. When we suffer from addiction, we crave these things. We may actively seek out or accidentally discover other substances or behaviors that produce similar chemical reactions to replace what we are truly missing.

Some prescription drugs have a high potential for abuse. These drugs affect parts of the brain involved in addiction, stimulating dopamine receptors in much the same way other addictive substances and behaviors do.

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How Can You Prevent Cross Addiction?

Getting clean from your first addiction is perhaps the most important thing you can do. In one study, patients who got into recovery from their primary addiction were 50% less likely to develop a cross addiction. Once you are in recovery, awareness and vigilance are the keys to success. If you are in recovery from addiction, make sure your physicians are aware of your status and discuss the addictive potential of any medicine they prescribe for you. Realize that as an addict, behaviors and substances that other people can experience in a controlled fashion pose a special risk for you. You can limit your risk a lot by simply abstaining from anything that can be addictive.

Ultimately, it is a lot easier to remain in recovery and avoid falling into the trap of cross addiction if you work on the underlying issues that drove you to addiction the first place. With a good comprehensive rehab program, you will learn to develop ‘emotional sobriety’. Because addiction leaves scars. To fully heal and become whole again, you will probably need therapy. One on one and group therapy will help you recognize unhealthy habits of thought and build new patterns to guide you to a better, happier, more connected more fulfilling life.

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Learn More About Our Addiction Recovery Program

Seasons Bali offers support for people struggling with addiction. You are here reading this, so it’s probably time for you or someone you care about to take some steps toward a much better life. It takes work but you can leave the unfulfilling cycle and the suffering behind.

If you or someone you care about has a problem with addiction, talk to someone who understands. We are here to help. Call one of our experts today at (toll-free Australia) 1800 288 348 +61 398045757 or email us at and we will call you.


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