The Difference Between

Cross Addiction & Dual-Diagnosis.

Is It Rare?

People confuse the meanings of cross addiction and dual-diagnosis disorder. They are separate concepts. Cross addiction means an individual who has a substance abuse disorder and they are more than likely at a higher risk to develop an addiction to another substance; whereas, an individual with a dual-diagnosis disorder has one or more psychological disorders combined with a substance abuse disorder.

Addiction is a serious disease that many people struggle with on a daily basis. Many addicts have a cross addiction, or a dual-diagnosis, and it is harder for them to recover; therefore, keeping them in active addiction longer. There are even some studies that indicate that as many as half of individuals with a drug or alcohol addiction can also have some form of mental illness, which means that these types of addicts are not rare. The combination of cross addiction and dual-diagnoses possibilities are almost endless.

Cross Addiction

People who end up moving from one addiction to another addiction, or may start abusing another substance while trying to recover from an already active addiction, that person ends up developing a cross addiction. People struggling with one addiction oftentimes relapse by choosing a new drug of choice because they feel it is “safer” or they think they can control their new drug of choice.

For example (1), someone who is addicted to alcohol may use prescription painkillers, thinking that this choice is “safer” because a doctor prescribed them, and then over time they find themselves addicted to these prescriptions; whereas, on the other hand, it’s common for a person to abuse a substance that has similar effects to the original substance of abuse. For instance (2), a person who is addicted to heroin might start abusing prescription painkillers, or a person who was originally addicted to cocaine may abuse a different stimulant, such as a prescription amphetamine, and they will abuse that drug in place of their previous drug of choice. These two examples are examples of cross addiction.

Dual-Diagnosis Disorders

People with dual-diagnosis disorders have a mental illness, such as anxiety or panic disorders, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), depression, or bipolar disorder. When people with dual-diagnosis disorders combine their disorder with a drug or alcohol addiction, they can become difficult to treat, and until that individual has detoxed from all substances, there is no way to know whether the alcohol/drug addiction, or the individual’s mental illness, is causing the problem.

Substance abuse disorders include excessive use of alcohol, opioids, prescription drugs (barbiturates, benzodiazepines, sleep aids), Dextromethorphan (DXM) (found in cough syrups), cocaine, cannabis (marijuana), amphetamines or methamphetamines (such as meth), hallucinogens, phencyclidine (PCP or Angel dust), or any other mind-altering substance.

Impulse-control disorders can include Intermittent Explosive Disorder (compulsive outbursts of anger, Kleptomania (compulsive stealing), Pyromania (compulsive setting of fires), compulsive gambling, Trichotillomania (compulsive twirling and pulling of the hair and sometimes the urge to eat the hair), or Unspecified Impulse-Control Disorder (an individual with various impulse-control disorders, not being able single out one particular disorder because many are evident), just to name a few.

Behavioral addictions can include any of the following behaviors that a person does in excess: working, exercising, shopping, eating, sex, pornography, using a computer compulsively, such as “surfing the Internet” or playing video games, being excessively spiritual or religiously devoted.

Treatment Centers

Cross addiction, and dual-diagnosis disorders, can come in many forms and can be difficult to treat if an individual goes to a rehabilitation facility that is not equipped with psychiatric staff that is on-hand and is ready to deal with individuals who have this diagnosis.

Treatment centers that deal with substance addiction and mental illnesses are more successful with their cross addiction and dual-diagnosis patients in the recovery process. By combining medication therapy and group therapy for the treatment of a substance addiction and for a mental health disorder is not only effective but imperative because not only is an individual abstaining from controlled substances but they are being prescribed medication for the treatment of their mental health disorder. Treating both addictions this way helps clients realize their unique relapse triggers, such as panic attacks, mood swings, or even depression.

But keep in mind, even if the treatment center has psychiatric staff and on-hand medications, there is no “quick fix”. Individuals who have a dual-diagnosis may have to be under psychiatric care for months, or even years, because the program is designed to fit the individual’s pace. A supportive rehabilitation team specializing in dual disorders and one-on-one treatment are essential because trying to face a mental health disorder can be overwhelming, especially when in recovery.

Treatment Strategies

Residential Treatment Programs: Supervised, structural support in a residential setting may help ease and remove the stresses and triggers of your past normal, daily environment.

Outpatient Treatment Programs: Many rehabilitation facilities offer alternatives for patients who don’t need 24-hour supervision. Those individuals with work commitments, outpatient care may be the best way to get the proper treatment without interrupting their important life routines.

Medication Therapy: Medications, such as antidepressants, anti-psychotic medications, and anti-anxiety drugs, are often prescribed as part of a dual-diagnosis disorder. Also, anti-addiction medications are also useful when prescribed to individuals; thereby, minimizing cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Individual Therapy: Individual therapy for dual-diagnosis disorders build motivation, identify self-destructive feelings and thoughts, and help an individual learn new positive behaviors, reinforcing the client’s sense of self-worth, and, by combating an individual’s dual-diagnosis through this therapy, may prevent future relapses.

Support Groups: When an individual combines alcohol or drugs with a mental disorder, isolation can become a problem and get worse over time. Support groups, such as 12-step programs and aftercare programs and other recovery resources, during the rehabilitation process and after discharge from these programs, are imperative because an individual needs to grow and evolve in their recovery.

Transitional Housing: Halfway houses can offer detox, and rehabilitation graduates, a secure and structured environment to teach an individual how to live and find ways to still live a healthy and stable lifestyle and minimize their chance of a relapse.

Education and Counselling for Families of Loved Ones: Families of a loved one with a dual-diagnosis of a substance abuse and mental illness problem, can tear families apart because they are frustrated and heartbroken and they don’t know what to do to help their loved one. Being educated and finding support groups with people with similar problems can make all the difference in the world when finding a way to cope and deal with dual-diagnosis individuals.

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