Is Drinking Coffee OK in Recovery?

In Recovery by Tree House Recovery

One common stereotype of members of AA and other 12-step groups is that they drink a lot of coffee and smoke a lot of cigarettes. While studying members of a group with “Anonymous” right in the name is difficult, one study found that there is some truth to the coffee-and-cigarettes stereotype. [] Nearly 57 percent of AA members in the study smoked cigarettes, compared to about 14 percent of American adults, and nearly 89 percent drank coffee daily, compared to about 64 percent of the general public. The rate of smoking is clearly a problem. While alcohol kills about 88,000 Americans every year, tobacco kills about 480,000 Americans every year. What about coffee though? Is it a problem for people in recovery? It depends on the following factors.

How much coffee are you drinking?

As with most things in life, moderation is key. Johns Hopkins says that coffee contains antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation and protect against conditions such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, liver disease, and colon cancer. [] Three to five cups a day is typically considered safe, although everyone is different, so your mileage may vary. The study above found that a third of AA members drink four or more cups a day, so some of those people should probably cut back.

Why are you drinking coffee?

In the study cited above, most of the respondents said they drank coffee to feel better, to concentrate better, and to be more alert. While those are the normal reasons for drinking coffee, anyone recovering from addiction should dig deeper. Is it possible that your poor mood and concentration are symptoms of depression? Do you have other symptoms such as loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, fatigue, or irritability? If so, you should definitely talk to your doctor about possible depression, which commonly occurs with substance use and makes recovery harder. 

Are you sleeping well?

Caffeine has a half life of about four to six hours, which means if you have a cup of coffee in the afternoon, about a quarter of that caffeine may still be in your system when you go to bed and it may keep you awake or impair the quality of your sleep. Adequate sleep is crucial for mental health and sleep problems have been linked to cognitive problems as well as an increased risk of depression and anxiety. [] If you’ve been sleeping badly, try cutting down or quitting coffee for a while and see if that helps.

Do you have anxiety issues?

Finally, if you have anxiety issues, coffee probably isn’t helping. As with depression, anxiety frequently overlaps with substance use issues. Common anxiety issues include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, PTSD, panic disorder, and OCD. If you have symptoms such as digestive issues or frequent headaches, these may be caused by anxiety, even if you haven’t been diagnosed. Try cutting down on caffeine and see if your symptoms improve.


Tree House Recovery of Portland, Oregon uses cutting-edge techniques in individualized programs to help men achieve freedom from addiction. Taking a holistic, sustainable approach to the inner and outer effects of addiction ensures you or your loved one will emerge with the confidence and skills to manage your addiction independently. No one is beyond help- our Admissions Counselors are available 24/7 at (503) 850-2474