Are people who are overcoming one addiction more likely to develop another?
During the recovery process, you probably got a warning about the danger of cross addiction. The term is used to describe the risk of developing another addiction for people who have had addiction problems in the past or are in early recovery. Cross addiction is not the same as a dual diagnosis. The former one implies the risk for people in recovery to start abusing another substance because they abused one in the past. Dual diagnosis is a condition where the person has two disorders at the same time, usually one of them is a mental health disorder.
An example of cross-addiction is being in recovery for cocaine and not being allowed to consume alcohol. Certainly, there are many examples when people became victims of cross addiction. But, it turns out that there is more common sense reasoning behind this, than scientific evidence. One of the two main standpoints behind this belief is the increased vulnerability the person experiences due to addiction recovery. The second standpoint is practically the aftermath of addiction. To satisfy cravings, the person may start using alcohol to compensate previous cocaine use. Further implications are that continual alcohol use will consequently lead to alcohol addiction.
Related Read: How Addiction Affects your Mental Health?
Is Cross Addiction a Real Risk?
One of the facts of cross-addiction is that it is common among people who are new to recovery. Cravings happen for those who are newly sober and long-time recovering addicts. So, it doesn’t matter if the person is in recovery for twenty years or twenty months, there is a chance they will develop an addiction to another substance. The biggest reason for cross-addiction is that people in recovery crave the pleasurable response the drug gave them. As a result, they will attempt to achieve the same response with another substance. The brain is not able to distinguish between the substances and automatically releases dopamine; the “feel good” chemical. Therefore, cross addiction can appear from anything that the person finds pleasurable, including gambling, gaming, sex, prescribed drugs, etc.
For years, people in addiction recovery learn about the process of moving from one addiction into another. There is is a fair amount of cross-addiction cases to support that statement. But, there isn’t a robust finding that shows cross addition is a real risk. So the theory of cross-addiction is not much of a myth, but it isn’t a known fact. It is safe to say that the number of people who develop another addiction after completing treatment for substance use disorder is not high.
- Numbers show that as much as 13% of people that completed rehab are more likely to develop another addiction.
- According to researchers at Columbia University, the most vulnerable group are unmarried males.
- The study also found that the risk is higher at males with a relatively early start of their SUD. Also, at those whose SUD comorbid with some mental health disorder.
- A 2004 study published in the journal Addictive Behavior based on the premise that different addictive behaviors are linked, and one addiction may lead to another. The study confirmed that grouping addictions according to how they covaried as well as form further subdivisions of those categories might be useful. What the study found was that the individuals that had a substance use disorder to one substance in the classification were presumably at a higher risk of developing an SUD to another substance in the same classification. The study doesn’t exactly center on testing the premise of cross addiction. It tests the notion that addictive behaviors may be connected based on the similarity of the addictive substances.
- Another study published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, in 2008 found that alcohol and cocaine abusers that engaged in Methadone Maintenance Treatment Programs showed a decrease in alcohol and cocaine abuse. This finding goes against the belief of cross addiction.
- The 2010 study published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal investigated whether consumption of alcohol and other substances changes during marijuana abstinence. The study followed marijuana users who had past alcohol problems. The study showed a significant increase in alcohol consumption in people that had a previous history of alcohol abuse (53% increase). In comparison, those without past alcohol history showed only a 3% increase. This study mildly confirms the validity of drug substitution.
A 2014 study discovers that former addicts are at a lower risk of developing new addictions. This study debunked the cross addiction myth.
Published in JAMA Psychiatry, the study had an objective to determine “whether remission from an SUD increases the risk of onset of a new SUD after a three-year follow-up.”
The study researched the behavior of two group of adults. One of the group were people that managed to overcome their substance abuse disorder. The other group was people that didn’t overcome their SUD. After three years, the researchers discovered that the group that overcame their substance abuse were nearly 50% less likely to develop a new one. In conclusion, those that were able to maintain a long-term recovery were not at high risk of developing a new addiction.
Note: The results of any study depend on the types of observations reported by clinicians. They interpret the findings based on their personal experiences. It is important to note that each study has its strengths and weaknesses which significantly affect the outcomes of the research.
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