Breaking free of heroin addiction is a major achievement, and one that should mean significant improvements to life. The one thing that would prevent this from happening would be falling into a new type of addictive behaviour. It is common for those breaking free of heroin addiction to believe it will be safe for them to drink alcohol, but this can be a huge mistake. Recovering fully from addiction entails a willingness to give up all mind-altering substances (with the possible exception of very mild drugs such as caffeine).
Is Drinking Alcohol Better Than Using Heroin?
Moving from heroin to alcohol on the surface can appear to be a huge improvement. This is because heroin has a reputation for being far more dangerous than alcohol. The reality is that this is a myth and alcohol actually causes far more suffering and death than heroin does; it would is considered far more dangerous because alcohol is relatively cheap and easy to obtain when compared to heroin. Western culture has managed to successfully demonise heroin while promoting alcohol as ‘safe and normal’, but this does not reflect what is actually happening. Experts agree that alcohol is essentially deadlier than heroin or other illegal drugs like crack (source: The Lancet).
What is Cross-Addiction?
Cross-addiction refers to a situation of moving from abusing one substance to abusing a new one. It may have been the case of being able to drink alcohol in the past without any problems, but this does not mean that it would be safe to use this substance once heroin has been given up. Every person falling into addiction has a drug of choice; as long as this substance is available, there may be little interest in other substances, which means the person can appear to use them safely. If the drug of choice is no longer available, the individual could easily move to a new drug of choice – in this case, alcohol – and this is what we mean by cross-addiction. The reason alcohol was not abused in the past, for example, was that heroin was providing the release required, but alcohol can easily replace this function.
The Addictive Personality
Descriptions of an addictive personality can be vague, but there is plenty of evidence to show that those falling into one addiction are more likely to develop other addictions. The reality is that the factors that drove the person into abusing heroin are likely to still be there when he or she stops using, so these same factors can be the driving force behind alcoholism.
Are Those Still Drinking Alcohol After Giving Up Heroin Really in Recovery?
People in recovery from heroin abuse can be very sensitive when it comes to using alcohol. The person is likely to feel that he or she has already made a huge effort to change, and it may seem unfair to be asked to give up alcohol as well. In the mind of a heroin addict, alcohol can appear as much of a threat as a soft drink, but this is just delusional thinking. It is as safe for this person to drink alcohol as it is for a recovering alcoholic to begin using heroin. There are many examples of those giving up heroin only to die a few years later due to alcohol abuse. Recovery is about living a life without the need of mind-altering chemicals, so it is questionable if those who continue to use alcohol are really recovering at all.