The Complexities of Recovering From Multiple Addictions

November 8th, 2018

Addiction doesn’t happen in a vacuum; people who are dependent often become so because they are battling a variety of difficulties. Substances ranging from alcohol to prescription pills – and even illegal drugs – become a way to manage issues like mental illness, PTSD, chronic pain, past abuse, or even the challenges of daily life. Unfortunately, this attempt to find balance through self-medicating or overuse can lead to not just one addiction but several.

Addiction impacts a person’s physical health, state of mind, daily interactions, and relationships with others. If there is more than one addiction, those impacts could be even more intense – and it may not even be another substance that forms the second or third addiction; sex, gambling, and food are a few things people can also become addicted to.

Whenever someone struggles with multiple addictions, it can be that much harder to achieve complete recovery – and patients with multiple addictions have a higher risk of relapse than those facing a single addiction. Successfully recovering from multiple addictions takes a specialized approach that acknowledges the challenges that these patients face.

Understanding Multiple Addictions

Multiple addictions can occur whenever someone experiences addiction to more than one substance or activity. Non-substance addictions can include activities and items like:

· Sex

· Shopping

· Food

· Work

· Love

· Gambling

· Technology

Within the term "multiple addictions," there are two major categories. The first is co-occurring addictions, where someone engages in their addictive behaviors concurrently. A person struggling with co-occurring addiction will pursue their addictions simultaneously.

The other major type of multiple addiction disorders is cross addiction. Rather than engaging in both binge eating and drug use at once, someone struggling with cross addiction will alternate which activities and behaviors they engage in. Cross addictions can be especially dangerous, because it may look like someone is recovering (a patient stops using drugs) when in fact they are substituting another behavior.

No matter what combination or types of addictions someone faces, the underlying issue generally runs much deeper than substance abuse on its own. Without appropriate treatment, someone with multiple addictions can have a much more difficult time becoming and staying sober.

The Dangers of Multiple Addictions

Any type of addiction can drastically impact the lives of the person struggling with addiction and those around them. Many of those effects are physical – prolonged substance abuse can severely impact one’s health. If someone has both a drug and an alcohol addiction, then they could easily consume a dangerous combination of substances and harm themselves – if the consumption isn’t fatal.

The mental impact of multiple addictions can be just as severe. People struggling with any type of addiction can ultimately fall into patterns of destructive behavior to sustain their addictions, impacting all aspects of their lives. Relationships can crumble, emotions can become twisted, and the cycle often continues until outside intervention appears.

Multiple addictions are dangerous from a behavioral standpoint as well. People struggling with multiple addictions regularly engage in multiple behaviors that reinforce the positive feeling that can come with fulfilling an addiction. The level of ingrained behavior can make the struggle to change and build positive habits much more difficult. Some combinations of addictions can even worsen each other, creating a dangerous loop.

Providing Appropriate Treatment for Multiple Addictions

Patients who seek to recover from multiple addictions cannot receive the same treatment approach as someone working to recover from a single addiction. Treating just one addiction means it’s very likely that the mindset of addiction will persist. As with what happens in cross addiction, one addiction may seem to recover, while another one takes its place.

As important as it is to detox from substances and behaviors when treating addiction, it's the act of changing thoughts and behaviors that allows for successful recovery. It then becomes crucial for those struggling with multiple addictions to receive treatment for all their problems at once. If not, the patient’s mind will remain in a state where compulsivity and escape from reality are the norm.

Patients identifying the underlying cause of their addictions is a critical step to any substance abuse recovery. Most addiction patients have some reason for their behaviors, often tied to past events or even internal conflicts. By identifying the related problems and learning to cope with them through therapy, a patient can gain a stronger mental foundation for successful recovery. In cases of multiple addictions, understanding the underlying reasons helps control the root cause for both addictions, not just one.

An effective treatment program will have staff that understand how addictions can interact and even fuse with each other, creating complex addictions that can require additional treatment. The staff will not only know how to treat substance abuse but these behavioral addictions as well.

Treatment centers can also pay attention for signs of replacement addictions, where patients transfer their previous attention to drugs or alcohol with other behaviors, like gambling or dependence on technology. By recognizing signs of these conditions early, treatment staff can make the appropriate choices to encourage changes in habits and prevent the formation of cross


Windmill Wellness Ranch Can Help Those With Multiple Addictions on the Road to Recovery

Just because there are challenges in recovering from cases of multiple addiction does not mean it’s impossible. Like other cases of substance abuse and addiction, the right combination of treatment and patient effort will yield positive results, helping patients recover and steadily get their lives back on track. At Windmill Wellness Ranch, we have the resources to help make that journey a possible.

Our staff has experience working with non-substance-based addictions, like sex, gambling, technology, and more. If you or a loved one is struggling with multiple addictions, our specially prepared treatment programs can help lower the risk of relapse that comes from these conditions. We understand that everyone’s addiction is different, and we work to provide treatment that meets the unique needs of each patient.

We work to not only help patients through the initial steps of detoxification and recovery, but also in building new habits that help them avoid acting on their old impulses that facilitate addiction. We work with patients to help them understand the underlying causes of their substance abuse, and our staff provides the essential support necessary to recover.

Overcoming a substance addiction takes time and dedication to be successful, and the unique needs of multiple addictions can require even more. However, the effort is worth it, as it can help patients struggling with addiction succeed in building well-balanced and healthy lives.

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