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What is Cross Addiction?


Cross Addiction can be described as a pattern of replacing one addiction with another that has similar effects. Cross Addiction is a common risk for people addicted to a harmful substances or behaviours.


These can include addictions to multiple substances or pleasure-inducing behaviours such as eating, sex, shopping and gambling.


Cross addictions often occur when people addicted to a specific substance stop or minimise use of that substance. These people then begin using a new substance under the false belief that it will not cause the same addiction problems. For example, someone who overcomes using heroin may start abusing alcohol because it has similar depressive effects on the body.


Cross addictions do not always involve drug or alcohol use. Many people replace a substance abuse disorder with an impulse control disorder, which affects the reward pathway of the brain in the same way that substances of abuse do. People may develop addictions to sex, pornography, gambling, shopping, food or other impulsive behaviours.


Treatment is available for individuals with addictions to multiple substances or impulsive behaviours. Appropriate therapy can provide a balance that allows them to reach recovery.


Dopamine, Reward and Cross Addiction


Drug and alcohol abuse activate dopamine which is the brain chemical responsible for reward response. This chemical makes users feel high and reinforces the abusive behaviour. Without this chemical brain reaction, people would feel no euphoric effects.


A vast amount of research shows that dopamine-inducing behaviour plays a massive role in substance and process addictions. Dopamine also plays a vital role in cross addiction development.


When substance-addicted individuals decrease or abstain from their substance of choice, they often face a dopamine deficiency. Over time, the brain becomes dependent on the substance to produce the release of dopamine. People may turn to a new substance that produces the dopamine-induced high they are lacking to prevent withdrawal or alleviate discomfort, even if they are determined to avoid using their problem substance.


Impulsive behaviours such as sex, watching pornography, gambling and eating also cause the brain to release dopamine, producing euphoria and reinforcing the behaviour. The impulsive behaviour often becomes the new drug for individuals who develop cross addictions because these behaviours activate the same brain pathway and produce effects similar to those produced by drugs or alcohol.


Common Cross Addictions


Cross addictions come in many different forms. People can become dependent on almost anything that causes dopamine activation in the brain. Using new drugs or engaging in impulsive behaviours can provide a dopamine fix. Some alternative cross addictions may include:


· Alternative Drugs

· Gambling

· Compulsive Sexual Behaviour

· Pornography

· Shopping

· Food


Cross Addiction Treatment


Cross addictions require specialized care. Professionals are best equipped to assist individuals struggling to overcome addiction, whether it is an impulsive behaviour or a substance use disorder. Underlying mental health disorders can also cause multiple addictions and may require co-occurring disorder treatment.


Addressing the addiction and co-occurring disorder simultaneously through integrated treatment is generally the most effective way to help people recover from cross addiction. Reducing triggers for substance abuse and impulsive behaviours is a key focus of teaching people to live sober and avoid engaging in destructive behaviours.


Cognitive behavioural therapy in group and individual settings allows individuals to explore thought patterns and feelings that contribute to their substance use and compulsive behaviours. Additional counselling can teach people how to prevent addictive behaviours by recognizing signs of destructive behaviours or feelings.


If you or a loved one is suffering from multiple substance use disorders or compulsive behaviour disorder, contact us for professional help. Treatment is available at Journey Recovery Centre to assist people in overcoming their addictions and living healthy and happy lives.




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