Can a person addicted to heroin in recovery (abstinent from heroin use) that has no history of problems with use of alcohol, use alcohol without risk of relapse into heroin use or of developing other problems? Can a serious alcoholic in recovery who has no history of abuse of marijuana, use marijuana without risk of relapse into alcohol use or of developing other problems. The general rule in abstinence based treatment models in the U.S., usually Twelve Step based programs, is that once an individual has developed an addiction to one class of substances, assuming the individual‘s goal is abstinence from use of that class of substance, that individual can no longer safely use any other drug (including alcohol), regardless of history of use of the other drug.
Here are some of the reasons for the position that complete abstinence from all psychoactive substances is necessary for recovery from addiction:
Use of any drug will result in impaired judgment (may lead back to drug of choice (DOC)); Substitution—the person may develop a new addiction; Use of any drug will have an adverse effect on already damaged neurotransmitter systems in the reward pathway of the brain; The resulting high from the new substance will not be the effect of the person’s DOC (not the high desired)
Recovery is an all or nothing proposition; either you’re sober or clean or you’re not; Use of the substance will undoubtedly occur in the company of “slippery” people and in “slippery” places, causing cravings and possible relapse (“slippery” meaning dangerous to abstinence or recovery); Use will result in loss of 12 Step or other abstinence supports because the person will have to lie, keep secret the drug use from 12 Step members. It involves a return to old behaviors of dishonesty, etc and this is also dangerous. The usage of this will also have an unfavorable consequence on spirituality (addicts and alcoholics have made their substances a Higher Power).