No one will claim that recovery from addiction is easy. The road to full recovery from substance abuse is a long journey of self-discovery. Most people in early recovery assume that once they have stopped using their drug of choice they are ‘safe’. This is a potential dangerous assumption as addiction is rooted in long established self-destructive habits that can take years to overcome. And just as in life, circumstances will change and new pitfalls will need to be navigated.
Cross-addiction on a simple level happens when an addict moves from one addiction to another. For example, a heroin addict may stop using illicit drugs only to start abusing painkillers. Prescription medication addiction is equally harmful and just as dangerous. As with heroin, the chance of overdosing is just as real. Relapse prevention comes from understanding the emotional component associated with the undeniable urges to use. Urges and cravings can cause addicts a lot of anxiety. For this very reason most rehabs offer aftercare programmes to help addicts and alcoholics remain sober and live a meaningful and productive life.
Here are a few facts about cross addiction:
- Cross addiction usually occurs in addicts or alcoholics in the early stages of recovery. It may not even be a cross addiction to another substance but also food, sex, gambling and even shopping.
- Even addicts who have been in recovery can be susceptible to cross addiction and relapse. This often happens when faced with a crisis.
- Cross addiction can be relatively harmless at first. For example, an addict may start a diet which then escalates into an eating disorder.
- Cross addiction can also trigger the need to return to the original drug of choice, which quickly spirals into a full blown relapse.
- Cross addiction can be avoided. A support structure is vital here and the addict must be able to feel comfortable talking about their thought process before they act.
- Addiction didn’t happen over night, nor will recovery reached immediately after a 28 day in-patient programme.