How or what can you advise, or what might help, anyone who drinks too much, or who may want to stop drinking?

Maybe based on experience and not only on Dhamma-theory (but an answer must include at least some Buddhist doctrine or practice or perspective).

  • 1
    If this is more about Buddhism, than alcoholism, why do you not trust your Buddhist teachers? Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 21:34
  • 4
    @Mazura When I was detoxing I was instructed to NOT be in withdfrawal when I arrive. They prefer to manage the patient's withdrawal from drunk to sober. Spare them the emergency of dealing with an addict in crisis. Commented Oct 27, 2023 at 14:23
  • Isn’t it a self-destructive habit. And according to Buddhism, human life is precious? Not sure if this will help. I fail to see how my life is valuable most of the time.
    – Noob
    Commented Jul 4 at 20:17
  • @Noob Perhaps you're right, thank you. Your saying "precious" reminds me that a Western may talk about "self-worth" or maybe "self-esteem", I guess the theory being that if you lack this quality then you may be self-destructive. But I'm not sure whether that (needing "self-esteem") is the Buddhist doctrine. People like me might really struggle to explain drinking, or cure its causes. Another explanation might be that people drink because they're not doing something else. It's a reason I for one earned to avoid it, i.e. it impairs my strength for mental and physical work, even the next day too.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jul 5 at 4:57
  • @ChrisW I sometimes struggle to understand the understand the concept of 'precious human life'. Intuitively, it seems to me that this concept should be explainable devoid of the attribute 'self'. I fould the following answer helpful: buddhism.stackexchange.com/a/47457/17846
    – Noob
    Commented Jul 9 at 15:21

7 Answers 7


My main fear of drinking is the loss of courage. Alcohol robs a person of their ability to face reality and the pain it inflicts. Be it the pain from the loss of someone dear, a broken relationship, joblessness, the tedium from the constant façades we wear or the grind of living for ourselves and others.

When alcohol becomes an escape, it feeds our fear and the thirst for solace. I guess there is always two sides in everything. In this case, we get temporary comfort and release from pain, fear and anxiety but we pay in terms of diminished resilience, lucidity and resourcefulness.

Perhaps, there is a reason why age and alcohol tend to go hand in hand. Who needs a resilient, lucid and resourceful mind in old age in a world that has moved on? In religions that believe this life is the end of the road, maybe alcohol makes sense but I don’t think this is the case for Buddhists. We know that there will be another place, another time and another opportunity to make right, to do better; provided we don’t repeat our follies. In line with karma, actions had a tendency to repeat themselves.

The next time round, with a mind that is clearer, sharper and wiser, we will be in a better position to care and protect our loved ones when we meet again. Another chance to better handle the difficulties in our relationships. To create a more fulfilling career. To surround ourselves with like-minded people rather than interacting under false pretences. To want to grind instead of being forced to face the daily grind.

I believe abstaining from intoxicants helps whether it is for Nirvana or to go from strength to strength as we journeyed through samsara; either for ourselves or the people we care about. With Metta.


As Desmon said, drinking is an escape. Question is, what are you escaping from?

Escaping means, you hit an obstacle but instead of fighting it you gave up. So now you don't go there, you are drinking which is a way to pretend the problem does not exist. It's a way of fooling oneself. But deep down you know you're fooling yourself so it's even worse, double pain.

In the Zen definition, Buddhism is the path to finding your true self. True self is when you don't lie to yourself, and your relationship with the world is also true. That means, you don't pretend everything is alright when it's not, you don't wear a mask, you show the real you to the world. That's hard because it means now you have to take responsibility for the results of your actions, whereas previously it wasn't your fault, you weren't really living your life you were faking it. But now you have to be honest, first and foremost with yourself: you decide what you want to do, you do it, and you face consequences of what you did.

When you are true like that, you don't keep on accumulating an ever bigger gap between where you are and where you think you should be. Not accumulating that gap, you don't get in the situation when things are irreparably wrong. And as things are never irreparably wrong, you don't need to go hide and get drunk.

So the key to not drinking is authentic living, and the key to authentic living is being honest with oneself, not wearing a mask, making your own decisions and taking responsibility for the consequences.

That's what I learned from my Buddhist teachers and books in my own experience. I hope it makes sense in your world.


Too much alcohol is bad for health. It can damage kidneys or liver or can cause gall bladder stone. I used to drink a quarter of alcohol for almost 2 years but I gave up alcoholism simply by deciding against it. And choosing what I like the most. Today I don’t drink at all. If you are unable to quit alcoholism then try rehabilitation center. Rehabilitation center for 1 month would be sufficient.

Always be happy and keep smiling and be grateful for all the unfortunate happenings because that is the truth. Develop love for the Truth.There is suffering and unfortunate events just reveal that.

  • @blue_ego one of the meditation is to rejoice. There is nothing wrong in rejoicing. Others subjects of meditation are love , compassion, equanimity and ugliness…. Commented Oct 27, 2023 at 15:20

Please see this answer about a video by Ven. Yuttadhammo on addiction to pornography and addiction in general. That answer also states:

The other technique he proposes is to watch your mind for triggers and observe how lust arises in the mind and recognize it (basically insight meditation). You can find more info on this in his chapter entitled "Daily Life" of his booklet "How To Meditate".

I would say that the same technique could be applied to alcohol addiction as well.

Please watch the video.


Buddhism contains various teachings about alcohol & alcoholism, such as:

There are, young householder, these six evil consequences in indulging in intoxicants which cause infatuation and heedlessness:

(i) loss of wealth,

(ii) increase of quarrels,

(iii) susceptibility to disease,

(iv) earning an evil reputation,

(v) shameless exposure of body,

(vi) weakening of intellect.

In four ways, young householder, should one who brings ruin be understood as a foe in the guise of a friend:

(i) he is a companion in indulging in intoxicants that cause infatuation and heedlessness,

(ii) he is a companion in sauntering in streets at unseemly hours,

(iii) he is a companion in frequenting theatrical shows,

(iv) he is a companion in indulging in gambling which causes heedlessness.

The man who has evil comrades and friends is given to evil ways, to ruin does he fall in both worlds ** — here and the next [the other].

Dice, women, liquor, dancing, singing, sleeping by day, sauntering at unseemly hours, evil companions, avarice — these nine causes ruin a man.

Who plays with dice and drinks intoxicants, goes to women who are dear unto others as their own lives, associates with the mean and not with elders — he declines just as the moon during the waning half.

Who is drunk, poor, destitute, still thirsty whilst drinking, frequents the bars, sinks in debt as a stone in water, swiftly brings disrepute to his family.

Sigalovada Sutta: The Discourse to Sigala: The Layperson's Code of Discipline

Footnote: the word 'world' in the Buddhism refers to both the social world & the mental world therefore the term 'other world' (paraloka) does not necessarily refer to another physical world

In Buddhism, a practicing Buddhist (rather than a mere social faith follower) lives according to the five moral precepts, which are:

  1. abstaining from killing breathing creatures

  2. abstaining from taking what is not freely given

  3. abstaining from sexual misconduct

  4. abstaining from false speech (telling lies)

  5. abstaining from intoxications, such as alcohol, that cause heedlessness

Therefore, Buddhism obviously views alcohol & alcoholism as something perilous & dangerous to human life. Buddhism would regard this view of danger/peril as a 'wisdom'.

According to one scripture, the practice of Buddhism requires five tools:

  1. mindfulness (sati)

  2. situational wisdom (sampajjana)

  3. concentration (samadhi)

  4. moral shame (hiri)

  5. moral dread (ottappa)

The word 'mindfulness' means 'remembrance' or 'non-forgetfulness'. In the context of alcoholism, 'situational wisdom' means to clearly understand the dangers of alcohol & alcoholism. Therefore, when a Buddhist practitioner has 'mindfulness', it means they always never forget alcohol is a dangerous thing. When this mindfulness of knowledge-of-danger is maintained by the mind continuously, this is concentration, namely, the mind having one object of focus, which is the cognizance of the perils of alcohol plus the maintenance of abstinence from alcohol.

Moral shame (conscience) & moral dread (fear of the results of alcohol) are also important in Buddhism. The Buddhist Internet world has many ex-Christians with Christian baggage who assert fear & guilt are evil unskillful things. But, in true Buddhism, having a sense of moral shame & having fear of the consequences of harmful things is considered to be a virtue & skillful tool. Therefore, when if a recovering person starts to feel shame about their situation, again, they need to be mindful/remember that feeling shame is OK. Shame is a protective mechanism rather than something evil. Its is OK to feel shame. As the Catholics used to say before they became evangelists: "God loves a person with a contrite heart" (Psalm 51:17).

More subtly, the person developing the wisdom to stop drinking needs to be vigilant & mindful of the tricks the mind plays, in respect to both feelings of shame & desires/cravings for alcohol. So, as already said, if a sense of shame arises in the mind, the mind must be mindful & cognizant with situational wisdom & reflect: "It is OK to feel shame"; even humiliated. It is the alcohol that has caused the sense of humiliation. It is not oneself or the self that has done this.

The same applies to cravings. 'Addiction' is conditioned habituated cravings, called an 'underlying tendency' ('anusaya') in Buddhism. When habituated cravings from past actions (such as past drinking) 'emerge/flow out' (called 'asava') from the subconscious mind, in Buddhism, these are called 'hindrances' ('nivarana'). They are hindrances to progress & hindrances to wisdom. Buddhism lists five hindrances, which are:

  1. sensual craving, which includes craving for alcohol

  2. ill-will, which includes anger towards the difficult situation alcohol has caused

  3. sloth & torpor, which may include any lethargy or laziness; the will to give up & succumb to craving

  4. restlessness & remorse, which will especially be experienced by a recovery person, as their body & mind became agitated, stressed & frustrated due to abstinence

  5. doubt/lack of faith, where one lacks belief recovery is possible.

The five hindrances can strongly takeover the mind, which is why the Buddha used strong metaphor/similes to explain their power/influence (refer to the Sangaravo Sutta).

Having mindfulness (sati) & situational wisdom (sampajjana) towards the five hindrances will be the great challenge for the recovery aspirant. Here, mindfulness must have the situational wisdom that:

  1. Any of these hindrances are expected to arise. They are par for the course.

  2. Any of these hindrances are impermanent. They should be noted, acknowledged, but not followed. One must patiently endure the arising & persistence of any hindrance until it naturally passes away. Buddhism guarantees, according to the laws of nature, that any hindrance will be impermanent. It must subside, sooner or later.

To end, my impression is common recovery programs require submission to a Higher Power. In Buddhism, there is actually a higher power. However, this higher power is an impersonal force of nature, similar to gravity. In Buddhism, this higher power is called the 'cessation element' ('nirodha dhatu'). What this simply means is purification from acquired habituated addiction is fully possible because there is a force/power in nature than dissolves unwholesome unnatural cravings; similar to how white blood cells can purify the physical body of a disease/infection.

Therefore, wisdom includes, not only completely trusting the five hindrances & acquired addiction craving symptoms are impermanent when they recur/rearise, but also trusting they can be completely dissolved & one day may never arise again.

Also, Buddhism contains children's stories called 'Jataka'. Jataka 512 is about alcohol.


The benefits of alcohol are illusory.

Through an accident of nature, alcohol excites opioid receptors. Alcohol is not as addictive as opioids only because it is a poison.

If you want to see the types of tricks the mind can play on you, block your opioid receptors with an blocker like naltrexone. Then drink, and find that you know longer experience the illusions of alcohol benefits. This is called the Sinclair method, if you want to search some experiences on youtube.

You must also use mindfulness, which you learn through meditation. In your daily habits, you use the cannabinoid circuits in your brain; that is, you go through life without noticing. If you switch to a mindful state, you immediately use a different set of neural circuits. As you observe in this state of mind, you'll clearly see what is good for you.

You'll also notice, using the Sinclair method, how incredibly persuasive excited opioid receptors are, and how many illusions in your mind are rationalizations of the brain.

  • 1
    At least on opium you know what you want. Alcohol is for feeling a little better not knowing why you feel so bad in the first place. I didn't notice when I was drinking how bad I felt. And now I don't notice feeling good per say. But every once in a while I have to stop and remember why I don't feel like crap.
    – Mazura
    Commented Oct 27, 2023 at 23:33

I think that the truth of the matter is that the Buddha never talked about or gave much advice about escaping from alcoholism specifically.

The Buddha advised us in general to reflect and take skillful actions that will lead to long term welfare and happiness.

So, the Buddha would recommend that somebody with alcoholism seek professional help from experts.

You (or whoever) should seek help.


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