I have found that the early stages from the recovery of addiction can be difficult to maintain. One of the things that can most contribute towards relapse is something we call “cross addiction”. Cross-addiction means that if you are an alcoholic or addicted to other mood altering drugs, you could potentially be predisposed towards being addicted to all other mood altering drugs and addictive processes such as gambling addictions, compulsive over eating and sex/relationship addiction.
In order to best understand cross-addiction it greatly helps to have a good knowledge of the character of addiction and the nature of mood/mind altering drugs. Addiction is a disease. It is frequently described as a primary, chronic, progressive, and relapsing disease. It has been shown time and time again through evidenced based research that addiction is a brain disease. It can often be a point of contention for people to accept addiction as an illness/disease because of voluntary first use of the chemical. It has been recognised that although someone chooses to use alcohol or other drugs initially, the changes that occur in the brain over time do not in any way reflect a deliberate choice. Addiction changes the neuropathways of the mind. It is these changes within the neural pathways that are suspected of creating the thinking and feeling distortions that lead on to the phenomenon of craving and compulsion to want to continue to consume drugs despite what appears to be obvious negative consequences. Thus, the nature of addiction is that of compulsive drug use despite negative consequences. This “compulsive use despite negative consequences” observation has become a part of an accepted definition of addiction.
Again research has proved that addiction induced brain changes are common to all drug addictions and to some process addictions as mentioned above. We also know that addiction involves a bio psychosocial combination of factors in the genesis, maintenance, and recovery periods. Myself and others working in the addictions field have found that certain people appear to be “hardwired” for addiction, due to biology (i.e., genetics). This means that they become addicted with first use of any mood altering drug. People use drugs to numb, alter, enhance or avoid their feelings, thoughts, and behaviour. This is the nature of mind and mood altering substances. They distort your reality or they allow you to escape or ignore reality.
Any mood/mind altering drug can be cross addictive. It is the mood altering effects of drugs that people are addicted to. You choose a particular drug for its unique pharmaceutic effects, based on your own individual needs. As your needs change, your drug of choice may change. The effects of the drug on your body can change over time as well. Other variables are often involved in an addict’s choice of drug. Consciously or unconsciously, other factors, like availability, “social acceptability”, perceived lack of negative consequences, and cost may be part of the selection process
Mood altering drugs operating in the altered brain neuropathways are self-reinforcing in a number of ways. They meet specific individual needs (e.g., relaxation, feelings numbing, reducing behavioural inhibitions, etc.), which is self-reinforcing. The altered neuropathways help maintain the compulsion. The specific drug(s) selected meet individual needs over time so that living skills to meet those same needs do not develop. A common example is where a drug is chosen for its anxiety reduction properties because the addicted individual has few (if any) anxiety reduction skills. When stress and anxiety levels exceed some threshold, relief will be sought. Without skills to reduce the anxiety, a pharmaceutical solution will be sought, regardless of whether the drug is last drug of choice or a substitute. This is one reason why it is so crucial to identify the roles that the chemicals have played in a recovering person’s life, and to develop the living skills with which to replace those roles. When a person in recovery acknowledges the problems caused by the drug of choice and believes that s/he can safely use a different drug of choice, they are not taking into account the fact the “new drug”. Like the “old drug” will still operate in the brain in the same way(s). When an addict substitutes one drug for another they are not abstinent. His/her brain is still in an active state of addiction. Thus, someone who is addicted to one mood altering drug is potentially addicted to all mood altering drugs. An addicted brain is qualitatively changed. Changing drugs of choice does not return an addict to a non-addicted state. An addicted person will continue to experience the same negative consequences of drug use. You cannot regain persistent control over drug use by changing drugs.
Many people, in the process of trying to regain control over their life, chase an “illusion of control”, believing that the latest attempt at control (switching drugs) has, and will have a lasting effect and that control is once again re-established. It has not. It is only a matter of time, usually a short amount of time.
If you have found that you have stopped using one addictive substance only to find you have replaced it with another addictive substance or process please contact me on 07983726647 or complete contact details on contact page