What Is Cross Addiction?


cross addiction

Cross addiction, also known as addiction transfer, is when an individual substitutes one substance or behavior for another. For example, one might stop drinking but perhaps start smoking many more cigarettes or develop a sugar addiction.


The addictions can include alcohol or substances, but can also include addictions to work, gambling, sex, gaming, excessive exercising, compulsive shopping or other compulsive behaviors.


Addiction is the continued use of a substance or engagement in a behavior regardless of negative impacts such as problems in relationships, health problems, harm and negative consequences. For example, if you go to the doctor and find your liver enzymes elevated, the doctor gives advice to reduce or stop alcohol use...but you continue despite the consequences. You may even want to stop but are unable to do so on your own because you are addicted.


Cross addiction doesn’t have to occur at the same time as another addiction, in fact it can occur when an individual is in recovery. Without even realizing it, individuals with an addiction have filled so much of their day with substance use that when they discontinue use, it seems there are hours of idle time.


In addition, in the past the individual has used substances to receive endorphins, and now their body isn’t getting those same endorphins so the body looks for other ways to get the same effect. There is a very real risk in recovery of cross addiction.


The key to avoiding cross addiction during recovery is:

  • Awareness

  • Having a clear schedule

  • Knowing what to fill idle time with / identifying healthy habits

  • Having a strong recovery plan addressing the possibility of cross addiction

  • Connecting with supportive family and friends

  • Practicing mindfulness


A strong recovery and relapse prevention plan will address cross addiction. At Care Addiction Center, individuals not only learn about cross addiction, but identify at least 5 possibilities in their life and what they are going to do to combat it. At the end of treatment, their support system is also made aware of cross addiction and the signs so they can watch as well.


It is to accept that sometimes, as a recovering addict, you will feel tempted to use. It is what you do with those feelings that matters. Resolve to fill your life with healthy activities such as exercising, enjoying nature and healthy relationships with sober friends and family. 



If you or a loved one need help or are in danger of developing cross addictions in recovery, call us at: (630) 402-0144.