Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

Substance Abuse & Sex Addiction: Co-Occurring Disorders & Recovery

Addiction comes in many forms, most addictions involve the abuse of a psychoactive substance such as illegal drugs or alcohol. The word “addiction” comes from the Latin phrase, “ad dictum,” which means “to the dictator.” That alone is very instructive. But addiction might best be described as a progressive disorder of choice where the sufferer persists in a given harmful behavior despite both the pernicious consequences and a desire to stop.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Of course, few addictions come as stand-alone behaviors with no compulsive build-up involving other compulsive, destructive behaviors. It is much more common for one compulsive behavior to coincide with, or compliment, another. Alcohol and tobacco abuse often go hand in hand, for example. Likewise, overeating and compulsive TV or Internet use also tend to work in tandem.

In addiction medicine, we treat co-occurring disorders very seriously. Also known as co-morbid disorders- addictive behaviors that come in pairs or clusters- can be extremely destructive, and startlingly dangerous.

Sex Addiction in Tandem with Other Addictions

So it should not be surprising that substance abuse and sex addiction – what might better be referred to as a compulsive intimacy disorder – would also tend to coincide for many people.

Sex addiction might best be described as persistent and recurring compulsion to engage in harmful levels or amounts of sexual activity. This could mean abusing pornography, spending inordinate amounts of time and/or money on erotic materials. It could mean compulsively seeking out more and more sex partners. It could also mean excessive masturbation.

Common signs of sex addiction include, but are not limited to;

  • Sex with multiple partners despite wanting to quit
  • Libido interferes with other responsibilities and commitments
  • Excessive sexual activity, even when the addict does not want to
  • Failure to curb sexual activity
  • Behavior restricted only to those that could lead to sex
  • Canceling obligations to pursue sex
  • Sexual behavior that damages other important relationships
  • Escalating intensity of the behavior to achieve the same effect
  • Feeling like a “failure” during long periods of abstinence

Whether sex addiction comes in the form of pornography and masturbation, or the seeking out of sexual adventures – it is extremely common to pair these behaviors with other drugs. Alcohol, cocaine, and other drugs associated with hyperactive social seeking are common drugs of abuse which pair with the compulsive behavior of the sex addict.

Alcohol, for example, is a powerful dis-inhibitor and anti-anxiety substance. Cocaine, on the other hand, gives the user a powerful (albeit brief) boost of endorphins and energy, and can drive the user to be inordinately enthusiastic about social situations.

Co-occurring addictive behaviors can be mutually triggering, one leading to the other – or one being necessary to obtain the other. Some people may use sex to obtain drugs, while others may use drugs to obtain sex. Whatever the case may be, the destructive downward cycle can be devastating to the user and to the people who care about her or him.

Recovery from Co-Occurring Sex and Substance Abuse Disorders

As with any addictive disorder, recovering from co-morbid sexual and substance abuse, addiction can only happen when the addicted person is ready to admit that he or she has a problem and is willing to do the necessary work to achieve lasting recovery.

Addiction is an impairment of the facility of choice. It is a condition wherein the afflicted person’s ability to make healthy, long term decisions is impaired. It is not a moral failing or a sign of weakness, but a medical condition that requires treatment.

The good news is that evidence-based therapies and techniques exist and have been in use for many years that have been shown to make recovery much more obtainable. All that is needed is for the addiction sufferer to commit to treatment. Sometimes, reaching the bottom is the only way for the addicted person to see that treatment is necessary.

If you or someone you love is suffering from a sexual compulsion and substance abuse co-morbid disorder, programs exist with proven track records of helping those who are ready to change. Lasting recovery may be months or years away, but it can only start by reaching out for help.

Your decision to pick up that phone and contact us might be the first step to achieving a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life – free of the cycle of abuse and addiction. Principles Recovery Center is here to help.