Can You Drink Alcohol in Recovery From Drug Addiction?

If you or a loved one is in recovery, you may have asked yourself, can you drink alcohol while in recovery from drug addiction?

Addiction psychiatrist and chief of Addiction Services and Blake Recovery Center at Carrier Clinic, Joseph Verret, MD, MPH answers, “No, in general you should not drink any alcohol while you are in recovery.”

He explains, “While using drugs, you’ll get a dopamine high that creates a sense of euphoria, a loss of inhibitions and diminished control of impulses and urges. And that’s exactly what alcohol also does, it creates a loss of control of impulsive behavior and urges, which can lead to relapse and other risky behavior.”

There are exceptions, but they are rare

“With any rule, there can be exceptions. But just because one person is able to get through an occasional drink while in recovery, doesn’t mean another person can,” Dr. Verret notes. “It’s an exception, and very rare, for someone to be able to have even one drink and it does not lead to relapse.”

“For the majority of people, drinking alcohol while in recovery will lead them back to their original addiction/substance use disorder, or an addiction to alcohol,” he adds.

Don’t lose hope, and stick to your recovery plan

“There is always hope in addiction recovery,” Dr. Verret encourages. “Everyone responds differently to treatment, but most importantly, it’s about the effort you put in to stay sober.”

Some tips to stay on track in your recovery include:

  • Join and be involved in peer support groups: Find a Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous or Smart Recovery group near you. Additional resources can be found at Faces & Voices of Recovery.
  • Develop a relationship with a sponsor, coach or mentor: “If you’re having trouble managing a craving, call your sponsor; It’s important to have someone you can trust and call whenever you need to talk to someone,” adds Dr. Verret.
  • Explore therapy options: “Therapy is a good option to help you identify other traumas and begin to heal. Whether it’s a family history of drinking, sexual trauma, sexual abuse or depression, exploring those issues and supporting your mental health needs can help prevent relapse,” he says.
  • Understand what triggers you: A key component of successful recovery is to understand the situations, circumstances and people that may facilitate or enable substance use or jeopardize your sobriety. It may seem difficult at first, but limiting or avoiding exposure to those triggers will increase your chances of success.
  • Find activities you love: Whether it’s some form of exercise, like joining a sports team or swimming, or learning a new instrument or how to paint, finding a hobby you enjoy can be a beneficial way to use your time.

Never give up

“Recovery from addiction is a lifetime commitment and process. Recovery and sobriety is a journey rather than a destination. Sometimes people need to hit rock bottom to rise from the ashes, and everyone has a different low point, but what’s key is to never give up,” Dr. Verret shares.

“Relapse is not the end of the world or failure, sometimes it can take two, three, or more times for all the pieces to come together for long-term success, so don’t be discouraged if you stumble on the journey. Admitting you want to change your life and enter treatment is one of the most courageous decisions a person could make, and we should applaud and support anyone who makes that commitment,” concludes Dr. Verret.

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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