How Cross-Addiction Happens
With an increasing use of alcohol and other drugs, Marty somehow survived his college years and graduated. But, after screwing up several job interviews because he was high or didn’t show up, Marty entered rehab for a Substance Use Disorder (SUD) with help of his family. When leaving the program, he vowed to never take drugs, any drug, again. He landed a good job that kept him busy, and he had enough time to attend recovery meetings. Life felt good.
After a few months, coworkers started asking Marty to go out for a drink after work. Marty considered the invitation a good way to engage with his coworkers and relax after a busy day. He did not discuss this with his recovery support group or his family as he thought he could handle it. He would drink non-alcoholic drinks. Then, one night, he rationalized that drugs were his problem, not alcohol. He had his first alcoholic drink following his period of recovery. Nothing bad happened to Marty that night. He actually thought it made the night better and more fun. He continued to have drinks with his colleagues after work. The number of days and number of drinks increased.
Marty continued to keep his drinking a secret from his family and recovery support friends. He progressed to where he was drinking regularly and continued to justify his drinking with, “I’m not using drugs.” He became more distant from his family and quit attending his recovery support group. His alcohol use and the symptoms it created eventually had him meeting the diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder (a type of SUD). Marty never returned to using drugs, though many people in Marty’s situation do. His SUD was, once again, negatively impacting his life.
What Went Wrong?
This story represents a far too common occurrence. The alcohol use in this example could easily be substituted with other drugs an individual in recovery goes back to, never stops using, or starts using. People in alcohol recovery support groups know the people who attempt the “marijuana maintenance” plan for alcohol recovery are setting themselves up for failure. For others, the new drug of choice is spice or kratom. It can also be prescription medications that are prescribed by a medical professional who does not understand SUDs or was not given accurate drug use/addiction history by the individual.
Because of cross-addiction, an individual recovering from a SUD should remain abstinent from all mood-altering chemicals in the same/similar drug classification. There is a high potential for cross-addition when the same or similar neurochemical pathways are impacted by a drug. They should also remain abstinent from all other mood-altering chemicals, except when prescribed by a medical professional who understand SUDs and has that individual’s accurate drug use/addiction history. Any drug use changes neurochemical symptoms in the brain and the potential benefits versus the potential risks need to be addressed for that individual, as with all complex medical situations. Protecting recovery from the SUD should be the first priority.
When you listen to the stories people tell you about a relapse and the mental state at first reuse of some drug, they tend to fall into one of four categories:
- I thought I could control it (whether it was a drug they thought they were addicted to or not). I was using/drinking before because _______. I wasn’t really addicted.
- Eff it! I don’t care! I just want to have fun or relieve this current pain I’m in!
- I don’t have a clue, it didn’t even cross my mind, it just happened. It was there and I did it.
- I went to the doctor and they prescribed… (Sometimes they had given the doctor their accurate history and sometimes not).
Get Help for Cross-Addiction at Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers
The caring staff at LMRC understands the challenges of cross-addiction, and they are equipped to help. They will come alongside you during your new or existing sobriety journey; you only need to take the first step by calling 800.231.4303. To contact us by confidential email, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our admissions team will respond promptly and can help with insurance verification and admissions procedures for new or returning patients.