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Is drinking Kava in Recovery a relapse


First of all, what is Kava?

Kava, or kava kava, is a root found on South Pacific islands. Islanders have used kava as medicine and in ceremonies for centuries.

Kava has a calming effect, producing brain wave changes similar to changes that occur with calming medicines such as diazepam (Valium). Kava also can prevent convulsions and relax muscles. Although kava is not addictive, its effect may decrease with use.

The Kava plant contains a drug which acts as a narcotic, hypnotic, diuretic and muscle relaxant.

There are side effects both short term and long term that are associated with drinking kava.

Short term effects from drinking kava

Contraindicated with the use of anti-depressants and mood stabilizers; affects reaction time and reflexes; temporary yellowing of skin, hair, and nails; possible skin allergic reaction

Long term side effects from drinking kava

Liver problems, shortness of breath, scaly rash, and puffiness/swelling of face

Now, these are things that should be considered when any “normal” person is curious about drinking kava. For those of us in recovery, there is a much bigger question to first answer: is drinking kava in recovery a relapse?

Kava and Recovery

If you follow a 12 Step recovery program, you know that drinking or using any mood- or mind-altering substance is considered to be a relapse. Because kava is, at the very least a mood-altering substance, then it would be breaking one’s sobriety to drink it. Furthermore, because it is something that you can build a tolerance to, I know for me that it wouldn’t be long before I was seeking out my good ol’ drug of choice. I am not willing to take that risk.

Is drinking kava in recovery a relapse: But, kava is natural; it’s from the earth

Yes, yes it is. You know what else is natural? Only marijuana, alcohol (fermented barley and hops – beer; fermented fruit – wine, potatoes – vodka; juniper berries – gin), cocaine, (pure) heroin which is derived from the poppy flower plant and maybe some others I can’t think of right now. So, there goes that argument.

Is drinking kava in recovery a relapse? But, kava is legal

And so is alcohol and, in some states, so is marijuana. But these are two substances that those of us in recovery must avoid if we are to take our sobriety seriously.  The legality of a substance has nothing to do with sobriety, case in point: alcohol. Why should kava be any different?

So, is drinking kava in recovery a relapse?

According to the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases, kava abuse is drug abuse, which is “a pattern of psychoactive substance use that causes damage to health.”

I asked “does drinking kava kava break sobriety?” The answer is a resolute “yes.” I think the site puts it rather succinctly: “Kava can leave one inebriated. Kava can alter one’s sensation of being. Anything that does these things, if it is ingested on purpose, can be considered a breaking of one’s sobriety.”


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