In a recent BBC interview, frontman of 80s rock group Status Quo, Francis Rossi recalled the highlights of his career without shying away from his battle with cocaine dependency. Most interestingly, he mentioned a phenomenon known to addiction specialists but that has remained more or less unknown by the public: cross addiction.
Cross addiction happens when one form of addiction leads to another. This is not limited to substance abuse, in other words gambling and other psychological behaviours can be included.
Rossi said that alcohol was the main trigger of his 8 year cocaine abuse which caused him, amongst other things, irreparable damage to his nose.
In an interview with BBC’s HardTalk, Rossi said: “What I find interesting is how certain drugs lead to other drugs…No one wants to say alcohol but it was definitely alcohol that led me to cocaine. I would have never touched it otherwise.”
My impression is that the term cross addiction is not known by the public and ignored by the media. The problem is that cross addiction is remarkably common.
The media seems unaware of the term and I tested this suspicion by searching for the term “cross addiction” on the BBC’s website. Not one relevant result appeared.
I asked our Maltese representative, therapist Audrey Cassar Grant, to answer the following questions about cross addiction:
Q: What is cross addiction and why is it important?
A: Cross Addiction refers to dependence on more than one substance or compulsive behaviours such as eating, gambling or sex. It is also the single greatest relapse factor.
Q: Why do addicts migrate to other substances/behaviours?
Those who seek treatment generally have an honest desire to remain abstinent from their drug of choice but sometimes they think they can safely consume other addictive substances. They may think it’s less dangerous: for example an opioid dependent may think that drinking alcohol is not so bad. This type of behaviour often leads them back to their drug of choice.
Q: Is cross addiction common?
A: In my experience as a therapist I worked with individuals who had swapped one substance for another, some using a cocktail of other substances to help them withdraw from their main drug of choice. Many alcoholics use painkillers as a substitute for alcohol. Others may substitute alcohol instead of heroin.
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