“No Mind Altering Substances In AA!” (Except caffeine, sugar & nicotine)

Dave Tieff
5 min readAug 1

What is a mind-altering substance?

With the widespread legalization of marijuana across the US, the debate among AA members about “mind-altering substances” is picking up steam. For many years, using marijuana for any reason was viewed as a relapse in AA, and would summarily revoke your sober time. Your sober time is how many consecutive days, months, or years you have gone without a drink.

If you use marijuana while in AA, you have to start back on day one. At least if you admit to it.

Even if you use it medicinally and have a doctor’s prescription, most AA members regard using marijuana as taboo. That’s valid in regard to smoking indiscriminately, as it can be easier to slip back into old drinking habits when using mind-altering substances. But — it largely depends on the person and the substance.

The meeting is about to begin

If you’ve ever been to an AA meeting, one of the first things you notice is the hoard of people outside the door huffing down cigarettes before the meeting starts. AA pertains to alcohol addiction, so nicotine is free game. You can smoke as much as you want. Nicotine may not be seen as a mind-altering substance, but, it absolutely is. Any chemical that your body is addicted to is, by definition, mind-altering.

Once you enter the door, you are likely to see members pouring themselves hot cups of coffee from the fresh pot that’s been brewing. There’s one at every meeting because the job of “coffee maker” is a staple in AA. It seems harmless enough — right? It’s just coffee. Not a mind-altering substance.

Or…is it?

The AA sugar high

Last but not least, there is almost always a table with donuts, cookies, and/or cake set out for the group to devour. Obviously, these foods are loaded with sugar, but sugar doesn’t alter your mind.


Dave Tieff

Alcohol Free (AF) singer-songwriter & cyber journalist. Here to discuss everything sex, drugs, rock, and culture🤘🍄🎙💋 www.davetieff.com