For decades, the conventional wisdom and clinical lore in rehab facilities and recovery communities has warned against the risks of so-called "cross-addiction". "Be careful," they say, "you're at-risk of picking up a new addiction now that you've kicked one habit." Heroin addicts are warned against developing an addiction to alcohol, and cocaine addicts are warned against developing an addiction to opiates, Cross-addiction can even occur to things like exercise or sugar, according to pamphlets and even therapists who have worked in the field for years and years.
But is it even true? Is the notion of cross-addiction supported by empirical evidence - or does it fall on its face under scientific scrutiny?
According to a new report, published September 10 in JAMA Psychiatry, the answer is a resounding, "No."
The study, "Testing the Drug Substitution Switching-Addictions Hypothesis," analyzed data from the National Epidemiological Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) to investigate whether participants developed new-onset substance use disorders (SUD) after remission from a previous SUD. These data were then compared against people with a SUD who did not achieve remission but also developed a new-onset SUD.
The authors discovered that, "As compared with those who do not remit from an SUD, remitters have less than half the risk of developing a new SUD. Contrary to clinical lore, achieving remission does not typically lead to drug substitution but rather is associated with a lower risk of new SUD onsets."
This is probably the best evidence to-date that addresses the concept of cross-addiction. Will counselors and agencies begin to pull back from this concept - or will clients still be subjected to homework assignments and lectures warning against it?
Here's the abstract from JAMA Psychiatry (found here: http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1901525):