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One is not allowed to be drunk during intimacy with one's spouse. See, for example Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 150:13, Mishneh Torah Issurei Biya 21:12.

I saw a comment a long time ago in a halacha sefer that I can no longer find, which was verbatim: "It is absolutely forbidden to engage in intimacy under the influence of narcotics".

Can anyone find the source of this? Either way, I am asking how we actually pasken, l'maaseh. Are narcotics different to alcohol, and how?

e.g.

  • Is it a blanket ban or is it similar to alcohol, in the sense that it depends on how impaired one is?
  • Would there be any exception to narcotics if it enhances libido, or aids with any particular sexual disfunctions?
  • How would a couple engage in intimacy if one/both of them takes medical marijuana, or even a stronger drug? With or without having been instructed to do so by a doctor (and the legality is of course important, but orthogonal to the issue here, and so is the question of "are drugs allowed in halacha", to be fair).
  • What about other regular prescription drugs that give some form of mood enhancement, personality alteration or euphoria such as certain diet pills, codeine phosphate and other opiates, stimulants such as methylphenidate hydrochloride (ritalin/adderall).
  • What about day to day stimulants/depressants like prozac, or even caffeine and nicotine etc?
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    To answer question 1: See Kaf Hachaim- sefaria.org/… on 36, and Mishneh Berurah sefaria.org/… on 18 Mar 26, 2023 at 1:38
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    Sorce is Gemara Nedarim 20b. Leave it up to Avishai Tebeka and he will provide you any relevant sources.:) Mar 26, 2023 at 1:43
  • The Ran on the Gemara ibd. explains the problem, that one who is intoxicated doesn't have proper intent that the intercourse is with his wife. Which would clearly imply that he is enough intoxicated that his mind is completely compromised. The same would apply to narcotics or any other source of intoxicating drugs etc.. Mar 26, 2023 at 1:49
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    @RabbiKaii your scope is a bit too large on this question, perhaps break it up into 3 or even 4 separate questions to get better answers. As an aside, studies have shown that when one partner is using marijuana and the other is not, the results can be disjointed . Mar 26, 2023 at 8:02
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    From the shoresh "joint" ;) Mar 26, 2023 at 11:46

3 Answers 3

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"One is not allowed to be drunk during intimacy with one's spouse. See... Issurei Biya 21:12."

The Rambam does not use the word אסור (forbidden) as he does by the case of thinking of another woman, rather he uses לֹא - i.e. "should not", which indicates that we are not dealing with an outright prohibition.

In the continuation of the halakhah there, the Rambam describes the anticipated outcome for the children of such a union:

ואם עשה כן--הבנים אינן הגונים, אלא מהן עזי פנים, ומהן מורדים ופושעים

If he does so, the children will not be of proper character. There will be those who are brazen and others who are rebellious and sinful.

This parallels the sugya of בני תשע מידות (children born of nine attributes) in Nedarim 20b. This indicates that we are dealing with character development more than outright issur (prohibition) per se. I say this not to undermine the gravity with which the exhortation should be taken, rather to put it in its proper context.

For confirmation of this, the Yam Shel Shelomo (Yebhamoth 22) wrote:

הרמב"ם השמיט בן הנדה מט' מידות שהרי הוא בא מאיסורי כרת ואינו דומה לכל אינך שאין בהן איסור ממש אלא שפוגמי' הולד

The Rambam omitted the one concieved from a niddah from the nine traits for it is generated from the prohibition incurring kareth and is not similar to all the rest which do not involve an actual prohibition (issur mamash) but rather are the cause of defect to offspring

Given that we are talking about Hazalic prescriptions in aid of the cultivation of ethical perfection, it is proper to explore wherein lies the failing in engaging in relations whilst intoxicated.

The Lebhush OH 240:3 states:

שכרות אין בהם כוונת אהבה

Those that are intoxicated do not have the intent of love.

Which is to say, that while one's mind is in a state of stupefaction it is not a genuine union of partners but rather errs more to the simple satisfaction of base desire.

The Raban ha-Yarhi on Kallah wrote:

בני ישינה אין לה כוונת המצוה והיא כשכרות

The reason against those conceived by slumbered relations is due to the lack of intent to perform the commandment, just as by intoxication.

Though he frames it slightly different about what the positive intent should be, it seems clear that it is agreed that a lack of intent is what is problematic about engaging in relations while intoxicated. Leaving just the satisfaction of lust at play rather than anything that transcends it.

R. Teherani, 'Amude Mishpat, vol. 1, no. 8 makes this more explicit and states:

בני שכרות ביאתו לאו ביאה גמורה אלא כביאת זנות היא שאין זה מתכוין ... לשם מה בועל אותה אלא רק כדי למלאות תאות יצרו והוי כזנות

Relations of intoxication are not complete relations, rather they are the relations of licentiousness because the person does not have intent... for what does he engage in relations with her? for none other than to satisfy his desire, and so it is like licentiousness

As regards tipsy vs outright drunk and this intoxicant vs another intoxicant, I think that there is a great degree of subjectivity in all this and one must take great stock of themselves in order to be sure they are capable and ready to engage in relations with the proper intentions in mind. I don't think a measurement for שכרות in this matter is a quantifiable measurement of liquid volume or pharmaceutical dosage, rather it would be a function of taking personal stock. A person must look within and make the determination about the propriety of engaging in relations at that moment. Under the influence of the intoxicant, is the person just seeking to objectify the other partner in order to satisfy their base desire? Or do they want to join together with their partner with the intent of love, marital duty, commandment? Its obviously not a strict binary and operates along a spectrum, which is why it is notable that the Rambam includes this halakhah in H. De'oth 5:4-5 as regards the proper conduct of a talmid hakham (wise student). Its place there demonstrating that this is an area within which one can work and attain lesser or greater degrees of perfection. Again, I think the key to it is taking a genuine look within before proceeding.

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    I think you've made some very profound and wonderous points here, and brought some great sources. Also, a very interesting conclusion, and it hinges everything on a single principle. That's great for a generational posek, who can research and translate the theory into practice, so it leaves me still wanting any kind of dealing with drugs by a posek, to explain which ones impair us in the above way and which ones lend themselves to the "genuine look within" required by your conclusion - drugs are quite different from one another. Thanks for this.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Apr 26, 2023 at 17:50
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    Though you do not find this answer fully satisfactory, I understand where you are coming from and am glad to have at least opened up the area a bit :) Apr 26, 2023 at 18:16
  • @Deuteronomy I like your answer alot. Yet I think what is missing here is an in depth discussion from the poskim on the status of drugs. All the Teshuvas i saw on the subject were very against using drugs. yet the OP suggests where it is mutar. Will we find an answer which would suggest that taking drugs may be mutar? Apr 26, 2023 at 20:31
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    @fulltimekollelguy the question isn't about which substances are permitted; it's about how being under the influence of various substances may affect whether marital relations are permitted, which this answer addresses. The direction this answer takes suggests that whether a substance is permitted or not is largely orthogonal to the question at hand.
    – Isaac Moses
    Apr 27, 2023 at 1:40
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+300

Let us divide the question into two parts, what is the point at which one has drunk too much alcohol where it is recommended to avoid intimacy? Is there a difference between Alcohol and other substances in this area?

The Gemora in Nedarim 20B discusses instances in which it is better to avoid intimacy with one's spouse. For example, when there is fear, when the husband has decided to already divorce his wife, or when he or she is drunk. This is also cited by Rambam and Shulchan Aruch. Rashi and others explain that in these cases there is a disconnection between the spouses. Their heart might not be all in to what’s going on and in tune with their spouse.

There are different levels of drunkenness in Halacha. The lowest level is after a cup of wine, after which a Kohen may not serve in the Beis Hamikdash. The highest level of drunk is like Lot, who had no sense of what was going on, and any damaging actions are considered an Oness.

The Mishna Berura o.c. Siman 240 S.k. 18 says:

שכרות - הוא או היא שכורה. ומסתברא דדוקא נתבלבל דעתו מחמת שכרות ולא בששתה רביעית Drunkenness- If He or She is drunk- it is logical when their mind is no longer able to think clearly because of the Drunkenness and not just when they drank a cup of wine.

In simple English: when the frontal cortex (the logic part of the brain) is no longer in control and is ‘offline’. Decisions are then made by the limbic system, which is in control of the emotional responses. Quick test: when someone who irritates you, irritates you usually you walk away and ignore them, after X amount of alcohol you really respond to them angrily- That X is the amount which I would say is when the frontal cortex is no longer in control and intimacy would be discouraged.

Is there a difference with the way we view drugs and alcohol in Halacha?

According to Reb Shlomo Zalman Aurbach in ערכי רפואה page 223, there is no difference between the alcohol and drugs.

מצד הסברא חושבני שגם מי שכבר נמכר לסמים הרי הוא רק כשיכור הצריך תמיד ליין, ואף גם בסמים בין עישון לעישון שפיר חשיב לדינא כפקח אף שהוא מכור הרבה וחשוד גם לגנוב ולגזול למלא תאותו לקנות בהם סמים אבל מ"מ שוטה מיהא לא הוה ', ומ"מ דבר זה איכא לברורי Someone who is addicted to drugs is the same as if he is addicted to alcohol. When he is sober he is considered like a normal person, unless his addiction causes him to steal in order to obtain more drugs.

משפטי דעת ר' משה פרבשטיין page 98

לא מצאנו במקורות התייחסות מפורשת לשיבוש הדעת הנובע מהשפעת סמים ותרופות, אבל ברור שיש להקיש וללמוד את דין המסומם מדין השיכור, ולא מדין השוטה. שהרי אין כל הבדל מחמת איזה סם נשתבשה דעתו, האם מחמת היין או כל סם אחר. לפיכך דיניו של המסומם לענין תוקף מעשיו, מעמדו וחיוביו, יהיו שוים לדיני השיכור We did not find explicit references in the sources to the impairment of judgment resulting from the influence of drugs and medications, but it is clear that one should equate and apply the law applicable to an intoxicated person, not the law applicable to a mentally ill person. There is no distinction based on which substance affected their judgment, whether it was alcohol or any other drug. Therefore, the legal status of an intoxicated person regarding the validity of their actions, their standing, and liabilities shall be equivalent to those of a drunk person.

Also sefer רפואה אתיקה והלכה in volume 1 page 220 there is a similar language used. From these sources, it is clear that Halacha does not make a distinction between drugs and alcohol in regard to mental clarity.

Therefore dosages of drugs in order to help someone deal with pain or other medical needs we would view it like alcohol. If the logical part of the brain is still in charge of their actions there would be no problem of intimacy.

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    Goes very well with Deuteronomy's answer, thanks for this and very interesting source and personal explanation on the inner workings, which does seem to give us some form of practical translation of these principles.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Apr 26, 2023 at 17:54
  • I never saw your edits. Thank you, big shkoyach. I'll give you the bounty in 24 hours when it lets me. Glad Deuteronomy also got the 75 points from the previous one. If you tidy everything up, translate everything etc, I might even accept this as answer.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    May 9, 2023 at 19:27
  • Thank you for your kind words. I edited the answer to make it clearer hopefully. I do not believe I deserve the bounty IMHO, I am putting sources together, I did not find a source which answers the question directly. I loved the question though and spent hours on it. I am still looking Into your question about loving a wife over Hashem (i have half an answer) May 10, 2023 at 8:51
  • I look forward to it! One thing about drugs that I am particularly surprised doesn't come up in these discussions is that they can greatly enhance the pleasure of intimacy, and that seems like a "forbidden fruit" sort of argument and makes me feel like I am definitely not mis-remembering what I saw a decade ago... If you see anything like that, please edit it in, or if I find it after accepting your answer, I hope you don't mind but I will (btw only someone descendant of Yaacov Avinu A'H who said kantoni would feel they don't deserve a reward for hours of work! I am so humbled thank you)
    – Rabbi Kaii
    May 10, 2023 at 10:41
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I read this question basically as what is the halachic definition of intoxication The degree of impairment required to be considered "intoxicated" is a matter of debate among halachic authorities, and there is no clear consensus on the issue. However, many authorities agree that even a small amount of alcohol or other intoxicating substance can impair a person's judgment and ability to reason, and can therefore render them "intoxicated" for the purposes of halacha.

Some halachic authorities also take into account the person's intent and level of control over their drinking. For example, a person who drinks to the point of intoxication deliberately may be held more accountable for their actions than someone who became intoxicated unintentionally.

See specifically Iggrot Moshe, Even HaEzer 1:69 who states that even a small amount of alcohol can impair a person's judgment and ability to reason, and can therefore render them "intoxicated" for the purposes of halacha.

see Minchat Shlomo, Volume 2, Siman 60:2 who discusses the level of intent required for intoxication

more broadly the prohibition against using drugs for non-medical purposes is found in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 155:3.

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  • So is it your understanding that there's no distinction between alcohol and other drugs regarding this topic, the only relevant criterion is "level of impairment"?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 27, 2023 at 16:40
  • @RabbiKaii correct. Same is true for other mitzvot (eg Kohen pronouncing the priestly blessings) Mar 27, 2023 at 17:03
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    Wouldn't you start with the opposite assumption? Meaning, until you have a reason to assume that alcohol has a different reason for being prohibited you can assume that the reason is impairment and then generalize to all forms of impairment? Mental illness or even anger are seen as halachic forms of impairment and thus prohibit marital relations as well Mar 27, 2023 at 17:25
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    This answer seems to assume there is only one level of intoxicated relevant to Halacha. I find that assumption unlikely, and rather assume that different laws may have different or even multiple relevant standards
    – Double AA
    Mar 27, 2023 at 18:57
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    Very nice sources @riki, appreciate it
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Apr 26, 2023 at 17:55

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