Addiction Interaction is defined as a disorder with two or more addictions present which interact with one another.
Dr. Patrick Carnes was the first to describe the way multiple addictions interact with one another as more than pure coexistence. Therapists have long observed that compulsive behaviors occur in multiples. The alcoholic was often a “womanizer” as well. The gambler may have spending and debting issues. The codependent might have an eating disorder. Rarely do we find a client with a single addiction or problem area. We now know that these behaviors interact in quite complicated ways such that the whole is much more than the sum of the parts.
Historically, therapists believed that clients should focus on one addiction at a time. They would not ask the alcoholic to stop smoking or the eating disordered patient to stop acting out sexually. The rate of relapse in these clients was great. It is now known that even though they may have remained abstinent from their primary addiction, these clients were never actually sober. Unless the multiple-addicted individual abstains from all addictive processes, the likelihood of relapse will remain high.
By abstaining from all addictive processes simultaneously, the multiple-addicted individual is offered the opportunity to enter recovery with a sober brain that now has a chance to heal. Pain and other hard to experience emotions (shame, fear, anger, guilt) are known drivers of addiction and must be experienced in the treatment process. As long as the recovering addict has a parallel addiction to fall back on, these difficult feelings will be medicated rather than processed. Unless the therapist addresses the way various compulsive behaviors interact and the client commits to complete abstinence from all addictions, sobriety will prove to be elusive.