Addiction A-Z

Sober / sobriety

The word “sober” is used in two ways when talking about addiction. Sober can mean the state of not being intoxicated or drunk or otherwise free from using a substance or a problematic, compulsive behavior. For example, you might say, “A police officer gave him a breath test to determine if he was drunk or sober.” It can also describe a lifestyle without drugs or alcohol. When people ask, “How long have you been sober?” they’re asking how many weeks, months or years someone has gone without using drugs or alcohol or practicing a problematic behavior. People who work and live in therapeutic communities also speak of “sober living” and “sober houses,” and they are again referring to a lifestyle without using, or a place where the residents do not use drugs or alcohol. The term sobriety also has specific meanings depending on the context. In the case of drug and alcohol recovery, sobriety typically refers to abstinence, or the conscious choice to discontinue use of harmful substances or behaviors. The World Health Organization defines sobriety as “a continued abstinence from alcohol and psychoactive drug use.”

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