Cross Addiction – Why do Addicts Switch Drugs?

Cross Addiction – Why do Addicts Switch Drugs?


A couple of readers have asked me about cross addiction, and why do some addicts switch drugs?

Well they switch for a couple of different reasons, and the end result is pretty much always the same: they don’t come any closer to solving their drug problem, and the drug that they switch to almost always leads them back to their drug of choice eventually.  Even if it does not, the switch to a different drug simply sustains their addiction…they are usually no better or worse off for the switch.  A drug is a drug and it is all about how we are trapped in a cycle of medicating ourselves and our feelings.

Now one reason that an addict will switch drugs is so that they can maintain their denial and still feel like they are in control.  For example, you might have someone who drinks every day and they decide that they need to stop drinking so much they know that if they can go for a few weeks without taking a drink then they will feel more in control and they can prove to themselves that they are not really addicted to alcohol.  So they might find another drug to replace the booze with and start taking painkillers every day.  So they are popping pills all day, every day, and staying quite heavily medicated and they find that they can easily go without the booze for a few weeks as long as they have enough pills.

Now to anyone who is watching this from the outside it seems like an obvious case of cross addiction.  But to the addict who is wrapped up in this behavior, they believe that they are genuinely doing well in that they can actually go without drinking!  They might even brag to others that they quit drinking for a few weeks with no problem, even though they were obviously “cheating.”  But in their minds, they have conquered alcoholism and are a strong person who can control their intake.

Sometimes addicts switch drugs just because it is convenient to do so.  Whatever is available and cheap is what they will use.  Other times, an addict will switch drugs because they are genuinely seeking a new way to self medicate.  I know that during my active addiction, I was always excited to try a new drug that I had never tried before, simply to see if I liked it.

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