Sobriety is the condition of not having any measurable levels or effects from mood-altering drugs. According to the World Health Organization lexicon of alcohol and drug terms, sobriety is continued abstinence from psychoactive drug use. Sobriety is also considered to be the natural state of a human being given at a birth. A person in a state of sobriety is considered sober. In a treatment setting, sobriety is the achieved goal of independence from consuming or craving mind-altering substances. As such, sustained abstinence is a prerequisite for sobriety. Early in abstinence, residual effects of mind-altering substances can preclude sobriety. These effects are labeled "PAWS," or "post acute withdrawal syndrome." Someone who abstains, but has a latent desire to resume use, is not considered truly sober. An abstainer may be subconsciously motivated to resume drug use, but for a variety of reasons, abstains (e.g. a medical or legal concern precluding use). Sobriety has more specific meanings within specific contexts, such as the culture of many substance use recovery programs, law enforcement, and some schools of psychology. In some cases, sobriety implies achieving "life balance."
Recovery Support Programs
Sobriety may refer to being clear of immediate or residual effects of any mind-altering substances. Colloquially, it may refer to a specific substance that is the concern of a particular recovery support program (e.g. alcohol, marijuana, opiates, or tobacco). "Clean and sober" is a commonly used phrase, which refers to someone having an extended period without drugs or alcohol in their body.
Field sobriety tests and breathalyzer testing are two ways law enforcement officers often test for sobriety in a suspected drunk driver. These "standardized field sobriety tests" are at the officer's discretion. Standardized tests that can be performed include:
- One-leg stand test
- Walk and turn test
- HGN (eye) test (horizontal gaze nystagmus test)
Non-standardized tests include:
- Romberg's test
- Finger-to-nose test
- Finger-count test
- Hand pat test
- Alphabet recitation test
- Counting numbers backwards
Since these tests rely on cooperation of the subject, the final result often depends on the presiding officer's interpretation. There are many factors that can lead to inaccuracies in sobriety testing including orthopedic or neurologic conditions, and fatigue.
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