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Substituting substances: Cross addiction may prove more harmful


Life is not a bed of roses, rather it is full of ups and downs and one needs to look at positivity to carry on. Many believe that a few glasses of alcohol or a sniff of weed can help reduce anxiety or grief. But it doesn’t really happen so. It not only makes the person dependent on alcohol or drugs, but also gives him a life full of behavioral problems. And, while trying to get rid of their compulsive dependency on drugs, some people might swap one substance for another, believing it to be less harmful. However, this cross addiction poses more problems and also delays the process of recovery.

Cross Addiction: Subject of further probe

The extent of harm caused due to replacement of one addiction with another depends on the kind of addiction and it is still a topic of further study in psychology. But cross addiction is being considered a disaster as it disallows an addict from taking full control over his choices and decisions in life. The Psychology Today quoted research neuroscientist and psychologist Dr. Nicole Avena as saying, “Though still somewhat controversial, the theory of cross-addiction is gaining more traction as research into the subject expands.”

The original compulsion gets replaced with a new compulsion, triggering a new and vicious cycle of addiction and disorder. The new compulsion, just like the earlier addiction, results in physical and mental dependency and withdrawal from the same may seem almost impossible. Valium for alcohol, alcohol for heroin, and marijuana for cocaine are just a few examples of such a cross addiction.

While substituting one kind of psychedelic drug for another or alcohol, people suffering from depression or anxiety believe that they are resorting to coping mechanisms less harmful than the previous ones. Addicts fail to realize that any kind of narcotic or substance use has the capacity to stimulate dopamine in the brain. The substance might be changed, but the pattern of addiction still remains the same and therefore, the risks continue.

The biggest risk factor associated with cross addiction is that while the addict may be recovering from one kind of addiction, he might be prone to getting addicted to other more powerful substances, such as opiates. Cross addiction is also viewed as one of the biggest causes of relapse. There could be many factors responsible for cross addiction.

Effects of cross addiction

The belief that replacing harmful substance with alcohol or nicotine reduces the harm makes more people hook on to addiction without realizing its ill effects. Some of the ill effects of cross addiction are:

  • Cross addiction leads to relapse as the underlying compulsive behavior has not changed as opposed to the change in substance.
  • The substitution behavior remains temporary; the person concerned has the tendency to switch back to the drug he was earlier addicted to.
  • The recovery process gets delayed or blocked due to cross addiction.
  • Symptoms associated with addiction return.

Seeking recovery

It’s hard to believe that your loved one has been replacing one addiction with another. Seeking appropriate help is necessary as the roots of addiction and cross addiction are keys to sobriety in the long run. The pain and problems associated with substance abuse in the long run cannot be ignored. The mode of addiction and symptoms may differ with change in substance, but the compulsions remain the same.

Complete recovery is possible. At Sovereign Health Group, we design individualized treatment programs for each client to facilitate safety and maximize comfort during the treatment process. We incorporate a wide variety of strategies to ease discomfort and speed recovery. For more information, call 855-683-9756.

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