What is Addiction Transfer/Cross addiction?
Cross addiction, also known as addiction transfer or Addiction Interaction Disorder, occurs when a person has two or more addictive behaviours. Addictions might include alcohol or other drugs, but they can also include eating, gambling, sex, gaming or other obsessive behaviours.
Addiction is defined as the continued use of a substance or participation in a habit in spite of the risk of personal issues, harm, and negative consequences.
Speaking to IOL Lifestyle, Sheryl Rahme, founder and director of Changes Addiction Rehab in Northcliff said that rehab does not automatically cure addiction, whether it is for drugs, alcohol or food.
“It’s an ongoing treatment that requires unconditional support from friends and family. Addiction is a life-long disease that you must manage for the rest of your life.
“It is crucial to learn to replace old, bad behaviours with new, better options, but it is also important to keep an eye out for your old patterns, ensuring that you do not revert to destructive habits.”
How addiction replacement works
She explained that individuals with addiction disorders carry a lot of guilt and shame, and as a result, they will move from one substance to another, like a game of whack-a-mole.
"Assume a patient's go-to drug is alcohol; after extensive use, a patient will feel so bad that they will make a conscious decision to stop drinking but will find another alternative to fill the void, which is still an addiction.“
Rahme brings to attention that patients typically forgo using hard substances in favour of “light substitutes“; this is sometimes referred to as process addictions for what will make them feel better.
Further, she stresses that changing your routines and habits can be uncomfortable, which makes it easy to fall back into addiction if you are not diligent.
A study conducted by Jonathan Cupido, a clinical social worker based in Cape Town states that between 7.5% and 31.5% of South Africans already have a drinking problem or are at risk of developing one. Moreover according to the country's Central Drug Authority, at least 15% of South Africans have a substance abuse issue.
What causes addiction transfer
After consistent use of drugs or alcohol for a long time, a person's brain gets wired in such a way that they will do practically anything to obtain the addictive substance, even if they are aware of the severe effects on their life, health, and finances. This lack of enjoyment in ordinary life may encourage a recovering addict to seek another form of substance to feel euphoric again.
To cope with the painful emotions that accompany being newly sober, many people who are in recovery turn to cross-addiction. People can turn to alternative addictions for respite from the daily challenges they endure, such as anxiety and stress.
Addictions can also be to “healthy” habits or other activities. Common addiction replacements include moving away from cocaine addiction, an eating disorder or food addiction, opioid addiction, alcohol addiction heroin addiction, or other compulsive behaviours, replacing them with other addictive behaviours like overworking, binge eating, compulsive exercising, shopping, pornography and nicotine.
“I usually advise sending alcohol and drug addicts in recovery to alcohol/narcotics anonymous. The most typical one is gambling, in which we refer our patients to Gambling Anonymous and a treatment programme for patients struggling with food to Overeaters Anonymous.
“Our therapeutic approach is simple really, anything external you use to fill a void inside and is causing complications for you and your loved ones is a problem,” said the addiction specialist.
“From a clinical perspective, recovery is about balance while addiction destabilises that. It's crucial that loved ones understand what addiction is and for people in recovery to know it's okay, it's a disease that can be managed.
More than anything, families need to be aware that cross-addiction is a high possibility for people in recovery and they need to be vigilant in supporting the treatment process should the need arise, encourage their loved ones to speak to sponsors and attend support group meetings, etc.
Because if left untreated it can cause addicts in recovery to relapse, Rahme said.