What Is Cross-Addiction?

What Is Cross-Addiction?The popular anti-anxiety drug Xanax is not always addictive, but some people who develop a dependence on the drug are more likely to be addicted to other substances. Being addicted to multiple substances, known as cross-addiction, can be overwhelming in a person’s life and require intensive interventions.

Xanax Uses

Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam, a type of benzodiazepine. Drugs in this class are used to treat a variety of conditions and are most commonly prescribed to treat the following, according to an April 2000 article in American Family Physician (AFM):

  • Anxiety disorder
  • Insomnia
  • Panic disorder

Benzodiazepines also are used to treat the following, according to the journal article:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Convulsive disorders
  • Pre-surgical sedation
  • Involuntary movement disorders
  • Alcohol/substance detoxification
  • Anxiety along with cardiovascular or gastrointestinal conditions

Cross-Addiction Basics

Cross-addiction is more likely when two substances affect similar areas in the brain, as is the case for Xanax and alcohol. Xanax stimulates brain receptors that promote relaxation, according to American Family Physician. The dominant receptors affected by Xanax and other benzodiazepines are known as GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors. Alcohol is another substance that affects the GABA receptor complex.

Who Is at Risk for Xanax Dependence?

Xanax is a high potency drug with a short half-life. Many people successfully use the drug to treat symptoms, such as anxiety and insomnia, for a short period and then discontinue using it.

Only one to two percent of U.S. adults take benzodiazepines daily for a year or longer, according to a 1990 report on benzodiazepines conducted by the American Psychiatric Association. In contrast around 11 to 15 percent of adults have taken these drugs one or more times during the course of a year. Individuals receiving psychiatric treatment and addicted individuals are at a substantially higher risk of becoming dependent on or addicted to benzodiazepines.

Xanax and Dangerous Drug Interactions

When used alone benzodiazepines such as Xanax are relatively safe and unlikely to cause death in the case of an overdose. However, the drugs can cause a fatal overdose when combined with alcohol especially when combined with alcohol and an opiate. Other serious side effects may occur, such as heightened sedation, when Xanax is used with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or nefazadone (Serzone).

In addition individuals who are addicted to Xanax and other benzodiazepines experience a withdrawal syndrome even when they gradually and slowly stop taking the drug. Symptoms include the following, according to the AFP article:

  • Prolonged anxiety that lasts several months
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Certain physical symptoms, affecting the body’s gastrointestinal, neurologic and musculoskeletal systems

Reasons Behind Cross-Addiction

There are several theories behind the roots of cross-addiction. A dominant theory behind addiction is that some people are more likely to become dependent on substances because of the sensitivity of certain receptors in their brains, according to the AFM article.

Cross-addiction is expressed in various ways, and all of them are a more intense form of addiction. People who are addicted to multiple substances or behaviors will experience one or more of the following states, according to a paper on Understanding and Treating Cross Addictions written by Steven Davidson, LCSW, CST. Davidson’s paper is published on the Tennessee Association of Drug Court Professionals’ website.

  • Coexistence – the simultaneous addiction to two or more substances
  • Withdrawal mediation – using less of one substance just as a person begins using more of another substance
  • Replacement – ending the use of one substance and then transferring completely to another substance
  • Alternating addiction cycles – using one substance and then a second substance in an often repeated cycle
  • Masking – using a specific substance in situations where the second substance is not acceptable, such as taking Xanax when it is not acceptable to drink alcohol
  • Ritualizing – taking two substances at the same time as part of a pattern or ritual
  • Intensification – taking two substances at the same time to intensify the effect
  • Numbing – taking one substance as a way to calm down after using another substance
  • Disinhibition – taking one substance as a way of lowering inhibitions to use a second substance

Best Treatment for Cross Addiction

As with any addiction treatment, the best cross-addiction treatment addresses the unique needs of the individual. There are many strategies a person can use to overcome substance abuse, but the most effective tools come from a personal understanding of the disease.

Davidson’s treatment emphasizes a multipronged approach including the following to address all areas in a person’s life:

  • Begin treatment by addressing all of a person’s addictions, including compulsive behaviors such as sex, overeating, gambling and spending too much time on work or video games, etc.
  • Offer education to the individual and his or her family about the disease of addiction.
  • Treat the addiction by addressing all of a person’s needs, including mental, physical and spiritual needs along with any co-occurring mental health issues.

Need Help Finding Treatment for the Xanax Abuse?

Xanax is an effective remedy for anxiety and sleeplessness that can be highly addictive when taken for multiple months. Withdrawal symptoms for Xanax can be serious and uncomfortable and require a diligent plan to manage them. If you or a loved one is abusing Xanax along with other substances, reach out today for help by calling our toll-free helpline. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to offer guidance on the best treatment options. Take the first step toward a better life and call today.

Are you ready to seek treatment?

If you are ready to beat a Xanax addiction and start a new life in recovery then we can help. We have admission counselors standing by 24 hours a day to take your email, live chat request, or phone call to get you in the addiction treatment center that best fits your unique & specific needs.