The use of intoxicants on the Buddhist path has always been a contentious issue. However, the Buddha’s advice for everyone contained in the 5th Precept is really quite clear and quite simple; if you want to avoid suffering then you should avoid all intoxicants.
"A layman who has chosen to practice this Dhamma should not indulge in the drinking of intoxicants. He should not drink them nor encourage others to do so; realising that it leads to madness. Through intoxication foolish people perform evil deeds and cause other heedless people to do likewise. He should avoid intoxication, this occasion for demerit, which stupefies the mind, and is the pleasure of foolish people." [ Buddha : Dhammika Sutta: Dhammika SN:2.14 ]
For addicts, there are many paths that lead to healing, health and wholeness including the approach that is sometimes called ‘Buddhist recovery’ or ‘recovery in a Buddhist context’.
Personal experience informs us that ‘paying attention’ is not the easiest skill to maintain even when sober. Furthermore, it is difficult – if not impossible – for an ordinary human being to maintain ‘mindfulness’ while under the influence of even small amounts of alcohol or other drugs.
For non-addicts the use of intoxicants may simply mean a loss of mental clarity to a lesser or greater degree. But for an addict ‘in recovery’ the use of any intoxicants – alcohol or other drugs – may significantly increase the chances of relapse. A small number of cases of relapse will lead to death.
It is the 5th Precept Organisation’s belief that the use of intoxicants during recovery is a hazardous practice that causes further harm to individuals and families; potentially leading to unnecessary and avoidable deaths.
Therefore, it is misleading and dangerous for any individual or organisation to promote or consent to the use of intoxicants as being either ‘Buddhist recovery’ or ‘recovery in a Buddhist context’. It is by abandoning all intoxicants and intoxication that we gain freedom for ourselves and freedom for all of those around us.
"Furthermore, abandoning the use of intoxicants, the disciple of the noble ones abstains from taking intoxicants. In doing so, he gives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. In giving freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings, he gains a share in limitless freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, and freedom from oppression." [ Buddha: Abhisanda Sutta: Rewards AN:8.39 ]
Webpage : A Discipline of Sobriety – by Bhikkhu Bodhi
Webpage : Drugs are Darkness – A Poem by Tiffany Jean Little
Webpage : Abhisanda Sutta: Rewards AN:8.39 – translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Webpage : Dhammika Sutta: Dhammika SN:2.14 – translated from the Pali by John D. Ireland