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Having Multiple Addictions – How To Begin Recovery

Addiction does not happen overnight and often results from attempting to manage a problem or deal with stress on one’s own by turning to drugs, alcohol, or some other behavior that is misused, like eating excessively. In some cases, people may end up having multiple addictions. 

What Does Having Multiple Addictions Mean?

When we discuss multiple addictions, it is essential to remember we are not referring to only drugs and alcohol. Having multiple addictions can include a wide range of behaviors. 

Multiple addictions occur when someone has developed an addiction to more than one substance or action. In some cases, people can develop a third, fourth, or even fifth addiction. Besides drugs and alcohol, people can become addicted to things like:

  • Shopping
  • Spending money
  • Gambling
  • Food
  • Work
  • Sex
  • Pornography
  • Technology
  • Video games
  • Infatuation/false sense of love

Those diagnosed with multiple addictions also have an increased risk of lapses and relapses because they have to overcome more than one addiction. Fortunately, successful recovery from multiple addictions is possible through personalized addiction treatment programs that focus on treating each and every addiction. 

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The Difference Between Co-Occurring Addictions and Cross-Addiction

There are two different categories of multiple addictions: co-occurring addictions and cross-addiction. With co-occurring addictions, more than one addiction occurs at the same time, meaning the person engages in the addictive behaviors together. For example, someone who abuses alcohol and drugs together has multiple co-occurring addictions.

The second category called cross-addiction is where the person switches between each addiction. For example, they may misuse drugs for a short period. Next, instead of abusing drugs, they may binge eat. Then, instead of returning to drug misuse or binge eating, they may turn to gambling or sex.  

In other words, they move from one addiction or addictive behavior to the next one. So essentially, what they are doing is trading one addiction for another. 

Dangers of Having Mulitple Addictions

Part of the dangers of having multiple addictions is it creates challenges for those around the addict. They may not know how to react to the physical and emotional aspects caused by the addiction. In addition, in cases of a co-occurring addiction, it can lead to financial problems, risks of accidental overdose, and long-term health issues.

For those suffering from cross-addiction, the danger is it can appear like they are recovering from their substance abuse addiction. However, since they are trading another addiction, they have not recovered. 

Additionally, people that trade one addiction for another can do so unexpectedly. For instance, when they no longer find pleasure in drinking or using drugs, they can move on to another behavior that provides them with a sense of fulfillment and euphoric feelings. Once those feelings wane, they move on to another addictive behavior. 

Ultimately, whether someone suffers from multiple co-occurring addictions or cross-addictions, eventually, their addiction can lead to destructive behaviors. The person might put their addiction first and foremost above family, friends, work, or even finances. Furthermore, certain combinations of addiction can feed off each other, causing the dependence on the addiction to worsen. 

How to Treat Multiple Addictions

When one wants to recover from multiple addictions, the first thing they must realize is their treatment will need to be tailored to each addiction. They will not be successful in recovery if they only focus on one particular addiction, such as substance abuse or alcohol abuse. 

Focusing on only one addiction does nothing to change the chemical imbalances brought about by addiction. Instead, the person may successfully overcome their drinking problem only to develop a new addiction to shopping or pornography. 

In addition, it is essential that the person undergoes detox for both substance and alcohol misuse and non-substances. For example, someone with an addiction to video games would need to stop playing video games. As such, they would experience withdrawal symptoms similar to someone going through detox for alcohol or drugs. 

Another essential aspect of recovering from multiple addictions is being aware of how each addiction is related to one another. You want to learn how to look at the underlying causes that led to the addictions, how they are related to each other, and how they sometimes trigger each other. 

An effective treatment plan will include various options to help you better understand the complex nature of your multiple addictions and how to treat each one effectively. It is equally vital to become aware of the signs and signals of replacement addictions. In this way, you can notice them early on before they become a serious issue and cause you to relapse into cross-addiction behaviors. 

Most importantly, overcoming multiple addictions is ongoing. Once your complete a recovery treatment program, you will want to continue specific aftercare therapies and treatments to help you maintain a strong emotional and physical foundation to reduce the risks of lapses and relapse.  

Begin Recovery From Multiple Addictions in Atlanta, GA

Even though recovery from having multiple addictions has its challenges does not mean recovery is impossible. The right treatment program at Buckhead Behavioral Health in Atlanta, GA, can provide you with positive and successful results. We have the resources and custom treatment options to make recovery possible for teens and adults. To speak with an intake specialist about our multiple addiction treatment programs or to learn more, visit our admissions page today.

author review

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Rahul Gupta, MD

Written by: Erika Dalton, LMSW
Updated on January 9, 2023
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