Can recovering drug addicts drink alcohol?

Abstinence of drugs and alcohol

Here at the Haynes Clinic, we often face the challenge of convincing some of our younger drug addicts that the way forward for them is total abstinence. This means no alcohol. Many of them protest that they have never had any problem with alcohol, so why should they not continue to drink?

Quitting drugs – but not alcohol

Many drug addicts do decide to give up their drugs but not to give up drinking alcohol. It is true that some addicts do manage to drink ‘normally’. But, the vast majority do not. They end up either being addicted to alcohol and having to go through the whole drying out process again. Or, they drink with alcohol not being enough. This leads them back to the drugs, and increasingly harder ones. At the Haynes Clinic, this is true from almost every drug addict we know who has decided that he or she knows best on the alcohol question. Almost all of them have relapsed (though admittedly not all have got back to tell us this).

Research and experiments

More scientific research on this has been conducted in America where certain therapeutic communities for recovering drug addicts allowed alcohol consumption. At the time, alcohol dependency and drug addiction were viewed as two separate issues. There was no view of a common ‘addiction’ or ‘chemical dependency’ field, as there is today. It soon became apparent that many could not control their drinking at social occasions and many developed alcoholism. Nonetheless, because a small number of recovering heroin addicts did manage to drink ‘normally’, this experimentation continued into the early 1980s. Even though some of the individuals, most notably those with leadership positions, literally drank themselves to death.


The change in policy was lead by Michael Darcy and the Gateway Foundation. After 8 of the 10 staff there were recovering addicts developed alcohol problems, they began to push for change. There was resistance to this change and it did not become accepted policy until the mid 1990s. By this time, there was the merger of the alcohol and drug abuse fields. There was growing scientific evidence that there was such a phenomenon as cross-addiction.

Providing help with abstinence

Here at the Haynes Clinic we support the concept of the addictive personality and cross-addiction. We witness and work with it every day. Alcoholics and addicts use alcohol and drugs in order to escape from themselves. In this sense, alcohol performs in a similar way to drugs. Too often those who do not believe us find to their cost that this is true. After going through rehab for drug problems, is it really worth the risk of going back to that dark place through drinking alcohol? We don’t think so – the price could be too high.

The Haynes Clinic is an alcohol and drug rehab clinic which offers detox and counselling for people with addictions. It follows the Twelve Step Programme of recovery.

Call 01462 851 414 for free and confidential advice.

Can recovering drug addicts drink alcohol?