Just as replacement drugs or augmented drugs could spark a cross addiction, so could habits and behaviors. In fact, some of the behaviors people might pick up during rehab could become targets for abuse in time.
Exercise is a good example. When people exercise, the brain releases a little spurt of dopamine, which is the feel-good chemical released by drugs of abuse. When people with damaged brains exercise, they might get the boost of dopamine they have been missing, and that could spark an addiction to exercise.
About 3 percent of regular gym-goers are addicted to exercise, per research in Psychology Today, and about 50 percent of marathon runners have an exercise addiction. While exercise is a healthy habit, it can move into unhealthy territory when it becomes an addiction.
Food can also be a panacea for people in recovery, and that could also lead to cross addictions. Some people use food to give their mouths and hands something to do, since they have no “busy” tasks since sobriety took hold. Others use the boost of energy a sugary snack can provide to help them deal with the loss they feel when they cannot drink sugary alcoholic beverages. And still others use salty foods to help them overcome cravings for snorted drugs. In time, those addictions can translate into weight gain and serious health problems.
Sex can also be a target for an addictive process. Some 12 million people struggle with sex addiction, according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, and this addiction is characterized by:
- Loss of control over the sex act
- Need for more and riskier sex acts
- Negative life consequences due to sex
- Inability to stop indulging in risky sex
These symptoms are achingly familiar to anyone who has lived with an addiction to drugs. The same chemical interplay is involved. Sex releases many of the same chemicals drugs release, and it prompts the same good feelings and sense of calm. In recovery, people might find that they are having more sex than they once did, and they may become addicted to sex over time.