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Should You Be Drinking Coffee in Recovery?

Coffee and cigarettes have always been associated with sobriety. There’s an old joke that if you can’t find your AA meeting, look for a church with a group of smokers outside. There’s research that supports this old stereotype. One study of AA members in Nashville found that nearly 57 percent of members smoked cigarettes and nearly 89 percent of members drank coffee. Both of those figures are far above the national average. Smoking cigarettes is clearly bad; smoking kills about 480,000 Americans every year, whereas alcohol kills about 88,000. And studies suggest that smoking actually increases your risk of relapse, so if you smoke, you should definitely quit. What about coffee though?

What science says about coffee

Current research suggests that moderate coffee consumption–typically defined as four cups a day or fewer–is fine for most people. It may even have some mild health benefits. Studies have found that coffee can reduce many serious health risks including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and some forms of cancer. Coffee can also improve your liver health and help you metabolize sugar more effectively. If you have a history of heavy drinking, moderate coffee consumption might offset some of the damage caused by alcohol. Too much coffee can make you jittery and anxious and irritate your digestive tract but as long as you keep it under four cups a day, you’ll probably be fine.

When you should consider cutting back

In the Nashville study cited above, AA members typically said that they drank coffee to feel better, to be more alert, and to concentrate better. Those are the normal reasons everyone drinks coffee but it’s important to be aware that chronically low mood and poor concentration are also symptoms of depression, which is very common among people with substance use issues. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should stop drinking coffee but if you are using coffee to self-medicate depression, you should definitely seek professional help for the underlying cause.

Coffee, in excess, may also interfere with sleep. Caffeine has a half life of between four and six hours so if you drink coffee in the afternoon, more than a quarter of that caffeine may still be in your system at bedtime. This can lead to insomnia or poor quality sleep. Lack of sleep has been linked to a number of mental health issues including depression and anxiety disorders. You need enough quality sleep to stay mentally healthy and succeed in recovery, so if you have issues with insomnia, try cutting back on coffee. 

Recovery from addiction isn’t just about abstinence from drugs and alcohol; it’s about living a healthy, fulfilling life. Exactly what that means is different for everyone. At Tree House Recovery of Orange County, California, our holistic treatment program helps men build a life free from drugs and alcohol. Call us today at 855-202-2138 to learn more about how we can help you.

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