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Home Knowledge CenterCross-Dependency


Learn about this hidden danger to recovery.

You or someone you know might be recovering from addiction. You probably know that even a tiny bit of the former drug of choice is very dangerous. But did you know that it's also dangerous to take many other substances?

Cross-dependency happens when the old addiction is replaced with a new one. People often become cross-dependent on prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Or they might become addicted to a new substance or activity. New substances can also cause a relapse into the old addiction.

Knowing about cross-dependency can help you spot it. This can help prevent new addictions and relapses.

How does it happen?

People often start taking drugs to cope with their emotions. They may feel fear, anxiety, anger, depression, low self-esteem, or loneliness. A chemically dependent person may try to mask these feelings with drugs. Once he stops using, he comes face-to-face with the feelings he'd been covering up. He may think there's no harm in taking a little bit of something else to calm down.

But this is very dangerous. Dependency on one drug can mean a higher dose of a new drug is needed. This can quickly create a strong new addiction. And a new drug can weaken a person's resolve not to take the old drug. This can cause a relapse into the old addiction.

People can also become cross-dependent on activities. Addictions can form around compulsive eating, exercise, or relationships. These addictions are also dangerous to one's health and recovery process.

Preventing Cross-Dependency

If you know someone who is recovering from chemical dependency:

  • Don't offer them alcohol, drugs, diet pills, or OTC medicines.
  • Ask them if they know about cross-dependency. Tell them about the dangers if they aren’t already aware.

If you are chemically dependent:

  • Tell your doctor that you're in recovery before accepting a prescription.
  • Don't use diet pills, cold medicine, sleeping pills or cough syrups unless prescribed by your doctor.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs, including beer, wine, marijuana, and cocaine. And watch out for changes in your eating habits.
  • Spend time with others who are in recovery.
  • Follow the spiritual path of your choice.

Cigna Healthcare Can Help

If you have coverage through Cigna HealthcareSM, we are available by phone at any time to help you understand what services are available to support you during this time.


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This material is provided by Cigna Healthcare for informational/educational purposes only. It is not medical/clinical advice. Only a health care provider can make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment plan. For more information about your behavioral health benefits, you can call the member services or behavioral health telephone number listed on your health care ID card.

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