How to Know if You Have a Cross-Addiction

Jul 21, 2022

Can you replace one addiction with another? The answer is yes. Even if you’re committed to remaining alcohol or drug-free, it is possible to replace one addiction with another. The reason lies in your brain.

Genes or Environment

There are many things substance addiction isn’t. For example, people with substance use disorder (SUD) aren’t weak or lack willpower. They’re not from one specific social or economic group, and many are well-educated. Understanding addiction means understanding what it is instead of what it isn’t.

Your body’s cells contain the same genetic information. However, the regulatory system determines different cells. For example, some cells will become liver cells and others brain cells based on their reaction to the environment. So, your choices or the environment you live in can affect or mark your cells. Your relatives are also responsible for your genetic markers. This means if your grandfather struggled with substance addiction, your chance of having an addiction can increase.

Communities with few healthy resources can create a dangerous atmosphere. Stress, as well as a lack of safe exercise or social activities can increase the risk of substance addiction or a change in genetic markers. A change in genes can lead to other health risks, too.

Addiction and Discomfort

Substance addiction is a way to escape from physical and emotional discomfort. People with mental health disorders like depression or anxiety can use alcohol or drugs to help them cope with specific situations. For example, if you have a social anxiety disorder, going to a social gathering can induce fear and anxiety. You may turn to alcohol or a drug to help you cope with your feelings. Despite the initial effects of a substance, the feelings will re-emerge. 

Focusing on One Addiction

Your decision to stop drinking or using a substance is proof of your strength. The commitment to sobriety requires you to acknowledge your weaknesses and build on your strengths. It also requires you to remain aware of all forms of addiction. 

Unfortunately, there is the temptation to focus on one substance. Maybe when you decided to become sober, you promised yourself you would never use your preferred substance again. For example, if your preferred substance is marijuana, you can focus on ways to replace the urge to use it. You are vigilant in remaining marijuana free.

Yet, over time you may think that if you don’t drink or use your preferred substance, you can replace that with something else. For instance, those who adhere to being “California sober” believe they can moderately abstain from alcohol or “hard drugs.” The drugs they consider “hard” are cocaine, heroin, or crystal meth. Drugs like marijuana, Psilocybin, or LSD are considered “soft” drugs. The problem is alcohol or drugs of any kind can be dangerous. 

Addiction as One Diagnosis

The idea that substance addiction stands alone is slowly fading. Researchers realize that there aren’t multiple forms of addictions connected to one specific harmful behavior. Instead, scientists and addiction experts are using the Syndrome Model of Addiction. The model shifts from various forms of addiction to one addiction with several ways to express itself. You can have a substance addiction and another addiction (shopping, exercise, gambling, sex). For any addiction to develop, the activity must produce a desirable result – happiness, pleasure, or love. 


Cross-addiction is when you switch from one activity or substance to another. You can switch from one addiction to another without realizing it immediately. Sometimes, cross-addiction occurs by accident. For instance, if you’re being treated for a physical injury and are prescribed a medication to help with the pain. That medication can become addictive because many of the drugs used for pain have the same effects as substances.

Another expression of addiction doesn’t involve alcohol or drugs. For example, if you stop using substances but have the urge to shop when coping with uncomfortable situations. Activities that bring you pleasure can become problematic if they disrupt your work or relationships. A few ways to know if you have a cross-addiction are:

  • You have a need to increase the frequency of the activity. You have an intense desire to repeatedly engage in a specific behavior despite the risk to your financial, physical, or mental health.
  • You increase the intensity of the behavior. This occurs when you have a need to do more (shop or exercise) to achieve the same feelings of pleasure you had the first time.
  • You have little or no self-control. Over time, you may realize you can’t control your video game activity, social media use, or eating. 

Substance Addiction and Treatment

Substance addiction is a lifelong disease. To learn how to manage it, you can dedicate yourself to substance addiction treatment and recovery. First, comprehensive substance addiction treatment guides you to understand your triggers and reactions. Then, with the help of your therapist, you can replace harmful habits with healthy habits. Once you enter the recovery phase of substance addiction treatment, you can continue integrating healthy coping skills into your daily routine.

The environment you live in or your inherited genes determine your physical and mental well-being. Genes influence how your mind and body respond to specific events or emotions. When you feel threatened or uncomfortable, you can turn to activities that bring you pleasure. Over time though, these activities can lead to an addiction. Most people think of drinking or using drugs as addictions, but there’s more to addiction than dependence on a substance. Whether you drink, use drugs, or shop, you can have an addiction. Because addiction is a response to avoiding discomfort, identifying an addiction is challenging. Renaissance Ranch Treatment Centers provides crucial support and guidance in your commitment to sobriety. We can help you understand and identify the root causes of harmful behaviors. As a result, you can live a life free of dangerous behaviors that threaten your well-being. We’re here for you. Call (801) 308-8898 today.