Why can’t a drug addict (who has never had a problem with alcohol) have a drink?

There are a few reasons. First, alcohol reduces your inhibitions and increases the chance that you will make a bad choice. I have known plenty of people, who have stayed clean off drugs for years, get drunk and decide to visit their old drug dealer. The second reason, is known as cross-addiction. This means that people who have one addiction are likely to develop another addiction. Drugs make an addict feel better and act on the reward center. The reward center doesn’t know the difference between one drug and another. Alcohol is just another drug (according to the brain). In fact, any mood-altering drug or activity can affect the reward center, and so any of them can become addictions. Cross-addiction normally refers to substances, but it can also apply to behavior. People often replace alcohol and other drugs with stimulating activities like gambling or shopping. That does not mean that recovering addicts and alcoholics can never shop or gamble. It means – proceed with caution when it comes to risky (addictive) activities.

drug free
Marijuana Anonymous has a pamphlet on cross-addiction. Click here.

There is a lot of grey area here. Some sober people, safely take a sleeping pill, prescribed by a doctor, and it never affects their sobriety. But, I know one gentlemen who started taking his sleeping pill, during the day, because he wanted a nap. To me, that is not sober. If someone takes an anti-anxiety pill, as prescribed, during a severe panic attack, I would still call them sober. If someone takes someone else’s pill during a panic attack – to me – that is not sober.

It’s confusing, and the point here is to make careful choices. These choices should be guided by experts, doctors, councilors and or sponsors. A common problem for sober addicts and alcoholics, is taking medication responsibly. If you are currently taking medication look at the questions below. Do you think you may have a problem?

Prescription Pill Problems

Are you receiving prescriptions from more than one doctor?
Have you “lost” two or more prescriptions, in the last year?
Do you take pills faster than is indicated on the bottle?
Have you continued to use a medication, even after the pain it was prescribed for has stopped?
Are your medical symptoms vague and sometimes inconsistent?
In the last year, have you taken a pill, that was not prescribed for you?
Do you have a higher than normal tolerance for medication?
Has consumption (for other addictive) things increased in the last year?
Do you order medication from the internet?
Have your visited a “pain management” clinic in the last year?
Are you open-minded regarding treatment options that do not involve medication?
Have you ever crushed a pill before taking it?
Do you take more than one drug at a time — i.e.. do you combine drugs for a certain effect?
Do you feel anxiety when you do not take medication at the indicated time?
Can you easily stop taking medication for a day or two?
Have you had any recent weight loss or gain?
Do you go to more than one pharmacy?
Have you ever been turned down for a refill?
Has your job performance suffered recently?
Have you ever purchased medication in another country?
Have you ever “lost time” as a result of taking medication?
Do your family members or friends ever complain about your use of medication?
After taking medication, do you ever feel guilty?
When your prescription bottle has a warning, do you follow this advice?
Have you ever taken medication in an environment where it is dangerous?
Do you hang out with a different set of friends, than you used to?

The short version — avoid all mood-altering substances.  I don’t include caffeine, smoking and chocolate in this category. People need to live a little and have some fun. Feeling some pleasure is good. But when the feelings become the reason for the activity itself  we are headed for trouble.
Our 800RecoveryHub site offers free and confidential help

Question: Can someone with a gambling problem, drink socially?

Answer: I think – yes. I have poured through the gambling addiction literature and I can not find any reference regarding abstaining from alcohol.

Question: Can a person with an eating disorder have a glass of wine with dinner?

Answer: Ditto. I think – yes

Why can certain recovering gambling addicts  sex addicts, eating disorders etc.) safely drink? Is it because these are behavioral disorders as opposed to a substance disorder?

What are your experiences with cross-addiction?

3 thoughts on “Cross-Addiction

  1. I think anyone with an addiction, whether process or ingestive, should refrain from alcohol as the risk of dependency is high. Really, recovery from any addiction requires an understanding of the mechanics involved and I don’t think advocating alcohol consumption is necessarily safe.


  2. Thanks SO much for visiting my Recovery Blog from compulsive addicted gambling and alcohol abuse. Not only did I have cross addiction, I have dual diagnosis as well, meaning I live in recovery and have mental illness. And I can tell you it can be a tough daily challenge.

    My addicted gambling disease is what brought out the full symptoms of my bipolar manic depression, panic, PTSD and mild mania to the fore front. I had gone undiagnosed for years, and had 2 suicide attempts along with all this mess. But no matter how bad & dark life gets with addictions, we can recover.

    You have to do the hard work it takes to attain recovery. I will celebrate 8 years in recovery the end of next month. I look back to the days when I NEVER thought I would ever see the light of day, let alone make 8 yrs!!

    MY POINT? My Higher Power, (God) still performs *Miracles* …. You only have to have your eyes open to see them 🙂 XO

    Great Post!
    Author, Catherine Townsend-Lyon ~ ODAAT! 🙂


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