What is Cross Addiction?

The nature of addiction can be pernicious. Once we have overcome one problematic behavior, another can seemingly sprout up and take its place. In the addiction field, this is often referred to as cross addiction. It has often been stated in various programs and literature that just about everyone has some form of addiction that if not obliged causes irritability, unease and crankiness, to a host of more intense withdrawal symptoms.

Cross addiction is something that is helpful to be aware of early in recovery, as well as for those who have years of experience with recovery. It can often develop very subtly and outside of our conscious awareness, until we realize we have fallen prey to another form of problematic addiction. One of the main reasons cross addiction can be very subtle and innocent in the beginning is because when someone is overcoming an addiction to alcohol, opiates, gambling, or sex addiction, other “lesser” addictions are easily minimized in their capacity to cause harm and disaster. We may be so close to the consequences of our recent addiction that it is hard to imagine anything else causing such pain, especially if there have never been problems with the behavior.

Common cross addictions for people early in recovery are nicotine, pornography, sweets and processed foods, shopping, and sex. While cross addiction can come in many seemingly bad forms, it can also cloak itself in good behaviors, which can turn problematic. Exercise is often encouraged and since it is viewed as healthy some can use exercise in a problematic way early in recovery in an attempt to re-write the wrongs of our past substance use. Exercise addiction can cause physical harm through overuse of muscles, reproductive harm in females through intense exercise and dieting which can halt or interfere with menstruation and exacerbate other mental health disorders such as body image and restrictive dieting.

Mindfulness and awareness of what we are replacing our addictions with is key to notice if and when cross addiction is happening. All of us will at times develop some habits and behaviors which are compulsive and create discomfort when they are not engaged in, and for most, these are not life changing, nor require professional help. If you feel you have conquered one addiction, just to be pulled into the vortex by another behavior, give Realize Recovery a call and one of our addiction professionals will be able to provide guidance and insight on what might be helpful.

Desensitization of Triggers and Urge Reprocessing

DeTUR™ (Desensitization of Triggers and Urge Reprocessing) is an empirically supported method developed and refined by AJ Popky, Ph.D. DeTur integrates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and the Alternative Information Processing (AIP) model of Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR). Cognitive therapy (inter-weaves) are utilized during the bi-lateral stimulation of EMDR Therapy to rapidly process the desensitization of relapse triggers and accelerate the recovery and healing process. Unlike Standard EMDR where the focus is more on the clients past DeTUR is focused more on the present and future.

Successful results have been reported across the spectrum of addictions and dysfunctional behaviors: chemical substances (nicotine, marijuana, alcohol, methamphetamine, cocaine, crack, heroin/methadone, and others), eating disorders such as compulsive overeating, anorexia and bulimia, along with other behaviors such as sex, gambling, shoplifting, anger outbursts, and impulsive control disorders (such as trichotillomania and intermittent explosive disorder).

The key elements of DeTUR are described by Popsky in his 2020 paper: AAIP DeTUR (Desensitization of Triggers and Urge Reprocessing) Accelerated Adaptive Information Model based on the EMDR Protocol.

  1. Client’s attention is directed towards a positive, attractive, achievable, compelling goal of coping and functioning, NOT, away from a negative behavior. While most therapy sessions start with the therapist asking the client “What’s your problem?” DeTUR begins by asking clients to recall a time when they experienced feelings of being resourceful, powerful and in-control and direct them to those to notice the powerful feelings, and then install and strengthen these powerful feelings with the bi-lateral stimulation of EMDR Therapy .
  2. Abstinence, though highly recommended, is not required in the definition of the treatment goal; coping and functioning in a positive manner as described by the client is the treatment goal. 
  3. Relapse is reframed from failure to new targets of opportunity to be addressed in following sessions.
  4. Chemical withdrawal and anxiety appear to be addressed since the process seems to take place out of the client’s conscious level of awareness, not requiring constant attention on the part of the client.  Clients often report surprise that at the end of the day they had not engaged in the negative behavior, had–but not as often, or had noticed urges to engage and could put them aside.
  5. Targeting the individual triggers for desensitization allows this model to be used with clients early in recovery. DeTUR™ targets the triggers that bring up the uncomfortable feelings leading to the urges and reprocesses the triggers linking a positive state to the triggering urge. Similar to the stimulus-response mechanism, this is replacing the using response with the positive response that has been anchored and set into the individual’s physiology.  Whenever the stimulus is activated the response of a positive state of being comes up that is aligned to their values, helping individuals in functioning more successfully in life.

Perry Passaro, Ph.D. a Realize Recovery Staff member is extensively trained in CBT, EMDR and DeTUR. He can be reached at PerryPassaro@Icloud.com or 714-488-8814.