While many substance abusers achieve sobriety by completing a treatment program, some have difficulty avoiding another type of addiction. An example of a recovering addict replacing their previous addiction with another addiction (cross addiction) would be Dan’s story.
Addicted to heroin for five years, Dan finally hit the quintessential “rock bottom”–homeless, sick, in and out of jail–before voluntarily entering rehab. After six months in a residential treatment center, Dan transitioned to a halfway house to continue working on his recovery.
Dan divided his time between a part-time job and attending group therapy. During this time, Dan relaxed in the evening by playing poker with his halfway house companions. Using loose change as poker chips, Dan and his friends rarely shared an ante that was more than five dollars. However, Dan proved to be exceptionally skilled at playing poker. In fact, he won nearly every poker game he played.
Somebody mentioned Dan should try his luck with online poker games that paid out much more than five-dollar antes. After checking out online poker sites, Dan obtained a Visa debit card, put money on the card, and started playing.
Within several weeks, Dan had replaced his heroin addiction with a gambling addiction. He spent all his free time playing online poker. He began missing therapy sessions, claiming he was tired, didn’t feel good, etc. While he never missed work, he often ran out of money before payday and would ask his housemates to “loan him a few bucks”.
Why did Dan replace his addiction with another addiction? Is there such a thing as an “addictive” personality that can’t be properly treated to prevent cross addiction after recovery?
Personality Disorders, Mental Illness, and Cross Addiction
Research indicates that antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is more associated with addiction than other personality disorders. ASPD, alcoholism, and substance abuse especially share several genetic risk factors that have been investigated in twin studies. Borderline and bipolar personality disorders are also common personality disorders affecting people with both substance and behavioral addictions.
Many addicts suffer from one or more unresolved mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They may further have combinations of personality disorders and mental illnesses that demand intense dual diagnosis treatment in an inpatient treatment center.
When a recovering addict replaces one addiction with another, it is likely due to one or more of the following:
A strong genetic predisposition for addiction. Individuals with substance-abusing parents, siblings, or grandparents may have a much harder time resisting cravings.
Unresolved mental and emotional issues. Unless all psychological concerns are diagnosed and addressed during treatment, recovering addicts are more likely to relapse or replace one addiction with another addiction. Treatment programs should also provide comprehensive aftercare support services to patients completing their treatment program.
Being prescribed painkillers or anti-anxiety medication. The quickest and easiest way a recovering addict replaces one addiction with another is by taking prescription drugs with high addiction potential. For example, if Dan had fallen and broken his leg in two places at work, he would likely need pain medication to deal with severe pain for several days after the accident. And, he would probably replace his previous heroin addiction with a painkiller addiction.
Call Baystate Recovery Center Today for Help with an Addiction
If you are in recovery and think you may be addicted to food, shopping, gambling, exercise, or sex, please contact us today for immediate assistance with finding treatment.
Baystate Recovery Center, a clinically Infused 12-Step Treatment Center for Drug and Alcohol Addiction, was founded by two partners in addiction treatment services, John Checchi and Michael Wilson.