What is cross addiction? When an individual gets addicted to a particular drug, for e.g. heroin, they are much more likely to develop a similar dependence on other drugs in the same drug class, for e.g. prescription painkillers. This is what’s known as cross addiction. It is an unfortunately common problem in today’s world.
Tolerance and Cross Addiction
When an individual uses drugs or alcohol repeatedly over a long period of time, they develop a tolerance to that substance. This means that their body no longer responds to the drug in the same way as it used to.
So why does tolerance matter? In the case of an individual developing a tolerance to opioid pain medications, tolerance develops as the pain receptors become less responsive to the drug. Consequently, the individual starts to take higher doses or more frequent doses of the drugs to feel the same effects. Furthermore, since the initial drug is not working as well, this may lead the individual to seek out other similar drugs, for their comparable mechanisms of action and effect, thus developing a cross addiction.
Dangers of Cross Addiction
Tolerance is not the only reason that an individual with an addiction might start using other similar drugs. Prescription painkillers are cheaper and more easily available than Heroin, therefore much more accessible to the individual. Sometimes individuals who use Heroin will take prescription painkillers to relieve the withdrawal effects experienced when trying to reduce or stop taking the drug. Because the two are in the same drug class, the painkillers can prevent some negative withdrawal symptoms. However, individuals who take prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons are highly likely to try Heroin within the next 10 years.
The danger is, that as tolerance develops for the drugs in the same drug class, and individuals start to switch drugs back and forth, they can end up developing an even higher tolerance, as they continue to take more and more to achieve the desired effects. Regrettably, Heroin is a much more addictive drug than prescription painkillers, and the individual is 3 times as likely to develop a dependence on it.
Even when an individual is taking prescription painkillers as prescribed, for pain management purposes, they can develop a tolerance. Because there is a perception that prescription painkillers cause less harm, individuals who develop a tolerance to them may think it’s ok to take higher than prescribed doses.
Benefits of Cross Addiction
While any kind of addiction does not benefit the individual, cross addiction has been beneficial to the development of pharmacological treatments for detoxification, and treatments for opioid related disorders such as overdose. There have been new prescription painkillers developed that act in the same manner as certain opioid drugs and can reduce withdrawal effects for individuals in treatment for addiction.
The Villa offers different treatment programs for addiction. If you want to take the next step to recovery, call us to find the best treatment for you.