Using drugs as a mortal sin vs alcohol, tobacco, caffeine


As I was reviewing the list of mortal sins, I saw that using drugs unless for strictly therapeutic grounds was listed

I am debating about whether one’s use of alcohol, tobacco and even caffeine can constitute a sin or not, even venial.

One could say “Oh, it is only one glass of wine” but the effects of alcohol on your judgment will be there, including the loss of inhibitions, which could lead to mortal sins. Alcohol is addictive, harmful when it becomes a habit and/or consumed in quantity - I fought this addiction and won, thank God!

Tobacco is more than just nicotine. Cigarette manufacturers add components which will enhance the pleasure of smoking and make you even more addicted. Just like alcohol, it is addictive and harmful - I fought this addiction and won, thank God!

Caffeine is everywhere. People will go out of their way to get their fix. Often creamers and other fattening products are added to the coffee, which then turns into a 1,000 calories coffee-flavored milk shake. Again: addictive - I am still fighting this addiction and winning, thank God!

Using the case of masturbation as a sin for comparison, I would say that consuming large quantities of the three above-mentioned constitutes drug use, but addiction in this case would make it less of a sin, am I right to think so?

Now, the case of cannabis. Supposedly not addictive - I beg to differ, I know potheads who are addicted to at least the life style - the life style being sitting on a pile of dirt and not caring, thanks to their THC-induced nirvana.

I would agree that cannabis can be consumed for therapeutic grounds. I would agree just because I don’t want to go there -do if you will.

My question is: why would it be a mortal sin to consume a drug that is legal in some states but is still somewhat addictive and alters your mood and mind, just like alcohol, tobacco and caffeine do?

Isn’t this a double-standard case? I see people getting caffeinated drinks all the time, sipping wine or beer (ministers and laymen alike) or smoking tobacco (many Christians smoke) and all are consuming an addictive but legal drug which will be harmful if they consume too much and too often of it.

Is legality defining sin at all? Then driving from Colorado to Utah would make cannabis consumption a sin.


Use in moderation is not sinful - temperance is a virtue. Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine are all drugs. Drunkenness is a sin… excessive consumption is a sin.

Jesus made wine from water…is consuming this wine a sin? If so, then Jesus himself would have caused many others to sin… which according to Mark 9:42-50 is a pretty serious sin in an of itself.


Marijuana is a drug as well, legal in some states. Why would it be a mortal sin (not even a venial one at that) to consume it if alcohol, tobacco and caffeine are drugs that, when consumed moderately, are not a sin?

I am not a cannabis user, but I see a double-standard, unless using drugs such as marijuana in a small quantity (using the virtue of temperance, as you say) does not constitute a sin.


Catechism says:

2291 The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense. Clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous practices. They constitute direct co-operation in evil, since they encourage people to practices gravely contrary to the moral law.

Given what the verse says what it says ‘therapeutic grounds,’ I doubt it is referring to alcohol or cigarettes, I think it would be more in reference to drugs such as marijuana. I could be wrong.

Check out this response from a Priest to question regarding marijuana and what another Priest said about marijuana, here is an excerpt:

Is it a sin? It might be. If it destroys the user’s reason for a time, yes it is a mortal sin. But I don’t think it does at least all the time. Frankly, it is danger, playing around with fire. Don’t use it. Fr. Bob Levis

That may be a difference between alcohol and tobacco in moderation. If you drink one glass of wine for example, or smoke one cigarette, as bad as smoking may be for your health, will that glass of wine or cigarette lose your ability to reason? For most, if not all adults, I don’t think it will. Who knows with marijuana or any other illicit drugs. The Bible warns against drunkenness, and this may because you lose your ability to reason.

Here is a response from a question about marijuana from another Priest:


I am sure that one glass of wine or one cup of coffee will be enough to change someone’s behavior and make them lose some of their ability to reason.

We could say the same of marijuana.

Also, where it is legal to consume, it is also legal to grow and sell, therefore CCC 2291 does not apply.

I do not believe that the illegality defines the sin. Pornography is legal but viewing it is a sin.


It is God who allows you to discern this.

Abuse of any thing (any food, anything you watch, read, do) can be sinful. If grave, it can be mortal sin.

But the question here, for someone called to become a saint, is this: should you ask yourself how much is too much, or should you ask yourself how much are you willing to sacrifice for the kingdom, for God’s greater glory, and for the salvation of souls?

If you can give up something for the kingdom, do it.

Just beware of pride, lest you were to consider yourself more pious or holy for your sacrifice, when in the end even the greatest saints and the Apostles were directed to say, after working graces and signs: “I am a worthless servant, I have merely done what I was told to do” (Luke 17:10).

By sacrificing these things so widely accepted - whether it be smoke, drinking, listening to [certain kinds of/all] music, etc - you also become a sign of consecration to Christ, a signum contradictionis of someone in the world but not of the world.

Just a few days ago, the Archbishop Patrick Cardinal O’Malley OFM Cap stated:

The days of acceptable Christianity are over. The days of comfortable Catholicism are past. It’s no longer easy to be a faithful Christian, a good Catholic, a faithful witness to the truths of the Gospel.

The question each of us today must face is this: Am I ashamed of the Gospel?

Powerful forces and currents in our society press us to be ashamed of the Gospel – ashamed of the good, ashamed of our faith’s teachings. These forces insist that the church’s teachings are out of date, retrograde, insensitive, uncompassionate, illiberal, bigoted – even hateful.

These currents bring pressure on all of us – most especially on young Catholics – to yield to this insistence. They command us to conform our thinking to their orthodoxy, or else say nothing at all.

To be a witness to the Gospel today is to be a marked. It is to expose oneself to scorn and reproach. There are heavy costs of discipleship, including discrimination, exclusion of honors and recognition, and may even cost one treasure friendships and produce familial discord.

Don’t focus on others. Focus on yourself. I don’t know if you already received the Sacrament of Confirmation or not, but one great thing about that Sacrament was that, in completing our Christian Initiation in the Church on earth - the Ecclesia Militans - it renders us soldatus Christi, soldiers of Christ. So go ahead and fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12) :thumbsup:


R_C, I understand and approve your message, but my question is: why is there a list defining mortal sins at all if wisdom would be a better counsel as to what you should and should not do to achieve sainthood?

Infinite wisdom, something that no man is gifted with, would be a necessity to make this determination.

Therefore listing mortal and venial sins, or categorizing them according to their nature and letting common sense dictate how to extend them appropriately to what is not clearly defined, is a necessity.

My goal here is not to make pot acceptable, actually I do not think anyone should even try, but to try to show that the definition of what is a drug can be extend by logical thinking.

Thus to show that this unreliable definition could mean that many are committing mortal sin when they are drinking their 3rd cup of Joe in the morning, or ordering a second round at the bar.


Comparing to illicit drugs, how would ingesting one cup or wine compare in terms of intoxication?


First, I must correct myself for I attributed to cardinal O’Malley some words which in fact belonged to another speaker in the same event (link). The message is still clear and good, though.

There is no list defining mortal sin. It is a mortal sin that which is on grave matter, done with full knowledge and deliberate consent. Anything can be a mortal sin if it involves grave matter. And grave matter fundamentally involves God and neighbor. It also involves self - hurting yourself, on the short or long run, is grave matter, even if others are not affected.

Clearly wisdom is needed. But not human wisdom. Divine Wisdom, which indeed is infinite, is our Counselor on these matters. And this Wisdom is given to us in the Holy Spirit, but also through the discernment of our confessors and spiritual directors (if we are blessed with one). They can better direct us as to whether it is proper and recommendable to offer a certain sacrifice to Christ when it goes beyond the minimum.

Yes, the definition can be extended indeed. I argue that many things are drugs and we are unaware of it. Certain hormones triggered by certain musics and visual stimuli are, in my understanding, drugs, and can cause addiction.

People commit mortal sins only with full knowledge and deliberate consent. So if I know I can’t drink but I take a second round knowing I’ll be drunk or intoxicated so as not to be on my best behavior or to endanger others (ex. if I have to drive), I could be committing a sin in grave matter though perhaps I lack the conditions for it to constitute the kind of sin that brings spiritual death.

But the question to me remains: what do I need to do in order to be a saint? Giving up drinks is not found in the get-to-heaven list of Sainthood for Dummies, because there is no such list. But will I be able to better reflect Christ by having one, two, and heck maybe three rounds at the bar, or by not having any round at all, or by not even being there to begin with?

Am I reflecting Christ better when I reflect a healthy and joyful and satisfied lifestyle without coffee, smoke, and drinks, or am I reflecting Him better when I not only go for those three but I also consider whether it would be ok to also introduce pot just because some scientists today say that it’s good and all that, and some states have legalized it?

Ask not how much is too much, but how much are you willing to give up for Christ.


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