What is cross-addiction? Is it a real condition? The short answer is, yes. Cross addiction has an official medical term – Addiction Interaction Disorder, and it describes when an individual has more than one interlinked addiction.

The most common cross addictions are with drugs and alcohol. For instance, an alcoholic might be out for a drink, and someone offers them a bump of cocaine. The alcoholic who is typically feeling slow and tired when drinking might find solace in the fact that the cocaine wakes them up, allowing them to drink more than usual.

How Does Cross-Addiction Occur?

However, cross-addiction comes in many forms and across many classes of addictive substances. For instance, a person addicted to Adderall might also find themselves becoming addicted to sleeping medication like Ambien. The “Z-drug” helps them come down off of their amphetamine high and get some sleep.

Cross addiction might also occur with other self-destructive behaviors as well. For example, a gambling addict might find themselves regularly drinking at a casino because of the free alcoholic beverages on offer.

As a result, they end up with both gaming and alcohol addiction. The same person might also win at the tables and find that prostitutes are courting them. As a result, the person could end up with addictions to gambling, alcohol, and sex.

Dormant Triggers

Addiction is a behavioral pattern that lasts for a lifetime. Addicts experience a dopamine rush in the brain that provides them with a chemical rush everything they complete their addictive behaviors. As a result, they hard-wire the dopamine response into their neural pathways, and they feel depressed or anxious if they’re unable to receive the fix of their substance or behavior of choice.

If the addict decides to get sober or stop the cycle of self-destructive behavior, causing their addiction, it’s not as simple as “just saying no.” The hard-wiring neural pathways remain, creating withdrawal symptoms that force them back into their old habits.

For those that do make it into sobriety, they are never truly free of their addiction. All it takes is one drink or one session at the tables to cause the conflagration that ignites their old dopamine response.

Cross addictions can occur when a person receives the same dopamine response from another substance, even after being clean for years. For instance, an alcoholic that’s in their 10th year of sobriety might experience a severe injury. The doctor prescribes the opioid painkiller, like oxycodone, to stop the pain.

The patient then quickly experiences addiction to the new substance, even though they received the medication in a professional setting, from a doctor.

What Is Dual Diagnosis?

Your mental health also plays a significant role in the development of cross-addiction, as well. Patients treated for mental health issues like depression or anxiety might start to develop an addiction to substances to manage their mental state.

For example, the patient might receive a diagnosis of high-anxiety and receive a prescription for Xanax. The patient might over-consume their script, developing a reliance on their medication that leads to addiction.

Is Cross Addiction Common?

According to research from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 20-million Americans suffer from the effects of substance abuse. However, only one in every ten addicts every get the treatment they need to break the cycle of addiction.

If you find yourself suffering from the grip of addiction, reach out to someone you trust for help, it’s never too late to try.


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