To know if you can drink again after rehab, you have to see where you are in the addiction spectrum. The addiction spectrum tracks substance use from experimentation to chemical dependency (addiction).

The substance use spectrum looks like this:


Experimentation Stage:

Growing up in most of the world’s societies, most people experience alcohol or drugs. Most cultures incorporate substances in their social rituals: celebrations, religious ceremonies, sporting events, etc. As a result, most of us have experimented with substances. Some of us develop a problem that requires treatment.

Can you drink again? YES
If you developed a problem drinking in the experimentation stage, you could probably drink again after treatment. Treatment that stops the chemical abuse, and a period of sobriety to re-set your brain health. After, you probably would be able to drink moderately again.

Habituation Stage:

If a person uses a substance in enough amounts, and long enough, they will develop a “habit”. A habit is created when 2 things are paired together and the mind links them as dependent on each other. For example, drinking beers every time we watch football. After a time, our minds pair up watching football games and beer. Then, if we watch a football game without beer, we feel that something is missing. We don’t feel right. We feel the need to get a beer. We have developed a habit.

Can you drink again? MAYBE

People that moved into the habituation stage will have to do a lot of work. Work to disconnect the connections in the brain. This can be done with therapy. Therapy promotes the creation of new habits that substitute the old ones. This is done by going through a period of sobriety. A period of time to re-set your brain chemistry. Then, you would have to re-learn to drink moderately.

Dependency Stage:

If we don’t stop the progression of experimentation and habituation, we move into chemical dependency. Our brains become dependent on functioning well when it has a chemical (alcohol or drug) that helps it to work right. We become “dependent” on the chemicals. If the supply ends, the brain goes into “withdrawal”. Withdrawal is a mental and physical reaction. It happens when the brain is depleted of chemicals. The way to stop the symptoms is to take more chemicals. At this point, you are “chemically dependent” (addicted).

Can you drink again? NO.

If you moved into the chemical dependency stage, the answer is no. The brain chemistry has changed at this point. There is no evidence that this can be reversed. The only way to not return to substance abuse (addiction-alcoholism) is abstinence.

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