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Treating Multiple Addictions

Multiple addictions come in two varieties: cross- and co-occurring addiction. A cross-occurring addiction is when you move from one addiction to another and a co-occurring addiction is when you have have two or more addictions simultaneously. Each can present challenges for recovery.

Multiple addictions, like dual diagnoses of addiction and another mental health issue, are very common. Most of the time, addiction is not about one particular drug. People tend to have an affinity for a certain class of drug–opioids, stimulants, alcohol, etc.–but if that drug is unavailable, any chemical substance will suffice. That is, addiction is more about the person than the drug and addictive behavior is relatively indiscriminate.

Co-occurring addictions are particularly dangerous because the effects of the drugs become amplified. The most common co-occurring addictions are alcohol plus something else. If you read the warnings of pretty much any medication, you know that alcohol does not play nice with other drugs. It’s a depressant that slows breathing and heart rate and when you mix it with other depressants, especially opioids or benzos, the risk of overdose is much higher. Although opioids are the single most common cause of fatal overdoses, fatal overdoses involving opioids and something else, like alcohol or benzos, are far more common.

Alcohol and cocaine is another dangerous combination. People often combine them in an effort to balance out, but what actually happens is they put a huge strain on their hearts. Binge drinking alone can cause arrhythmia, but binge drinking with cocaine makes it much worse.

Treating polysubstance addiction can be challenging, especially early on. The treatments for different drugs can sometimes conflict. It’s best to have capable medical supervision when detoxing from multiple drugs.

After detox, people recovering from multiple addictions often attend multiple meetings, such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous). There are even different groups for specific drugs. Addiction must be addressed on several fronts–emotional, psychological, social, and physical–so most of recovery will be determined by healthy life changes, but there may be specific issues related to each of your drugs of choice that different groups can help with.

Cross-addiction is something you will always have to watch out for. You may stay sober from your drugs of choice, but then you find yourself eating constantly or gambling your paycheck away. This is an indication that you haven’t sufficiently addressed some issue related to your addictive behavior. Guarding against new addictions requires honesty and, often, therapy.

If you or a loved one is struggling with multiple addictions, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at to learn more.