Many recovery facilities teach that heroin and alcohol dependencies are similar in the fact that there are also physical aspects of the addiction. However, the dynamic of how the physical dependency is eliminated is different. Most addictions are primarily mental disorders that place significant priority on using the drug or chemical of choice. The primary difference between heroin and alcohol is that heroin addiction is a physical need as well as a mental release device that can develop in a very short time frame. Physical alcohol dependency normally comes after a long period of pattern drinking.
When addicts are recovering from a primarily mental dependency, such as using cocaine or marijuana, some of the simple theories that are utilized in 12-step groups can be very useful. With alcohol and heroin, that is not necessarily the case. Using is often a mind or matter issue that can be solved effectively with lifestyle changes. The detoxification process starts immediately and lasts for the amount of time it takes for the latent traces of the particular drug to leave the system, which varies among chemicals.
While alcohol generally leaves the body in two days and completely within three, the body still responds to the brain by impulse. Alcohol can be stored in the skin cells for up to five years. This provides ample opportunity for the impulse to manifest as the notion of replacing the alcohol in the body system. Alcohol is clearly the most baffling chemical addiction among the usual drugs of choice. In addition, cross-addiction is also very common among recovering alcoholics, so the detoxification process can be intensified. Alcoholics that are cross-addicted to marijuana often attempt to quit one without the quitting the other, which then brings them back into the dual usage pattern.
Many heroin addicts are not cross-addicted like alcoholics may be, largely because of the immediate physical intensity of detoxification. Once the heroin addict goes through the process of physical detox, the aspects of alcohol and heroin detox can be very similar. The problem with heroin is that the mental aspect of the drug use can still be enticing, but the physical pain is gone. From that point the addict can build their own personal recovery program.
There is one similarity that all drug addiction entails. Success in detoxing and staying clean will usually include seeking help from a reputable drug addiction facility that can provide the tools for living a clean and sober life based on the seriousness of the patient. They show you the tools, but it is up to you to use them.