When someone is not under the influence of alcohol, you call them sober. Is there a similar word for not under the influence of mind-altering drugs?

An example usage would be:

I am one of the few who listens to Radiohead or Dave Matthews while ________.

  • In addition to what Matt said, clean is a bit ambiguous; it could also mean that you are freshly showered while listening to the music. When you say sober, everyone knows you are talking about alcohol. – IQAndreas Jan 21 '14 at 11:37
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    No they don't. There are many instances where sober equates to solemn or level-headed. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 21 '14 at 12:19
  • In this sentence, "clean" could be ambiguous. However, more generally, if a drugs context has been mentioned, "clean" will be clear. Alternatively, if you use a phrase like "I've been clean for 3 months" it would be clear that you weren't talking about being washed. – starsplusplus Jan 21 '14 at 16:11
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    @starsplusplus Unless you are a hippy, in which case either use of the phrase "clean for 3 months" would be a feat. – IQAndreas Jan 22 '14 at 2:17
  • ...(it doesn't answer the question, but) while it was 1994. Can't you youths expand a bit? – Jack Ryan Jan 23 '14 at 13:08

The obvious answer is "not high".

mplungjan suggests clean, but that would imply that you have given up drugs, not just that you aren't high at the moment.

If you used sober that would be fine, because if someone is sober, then they are not high. Dictionary definitions suggest that sober is only used with alcohol, but I think extending it to other drugs makes sense.

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    Not all drugs make you high. – starsplusplus Jan 21 '14 at 16:13
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    @starsplusplus But in this case I did ask specifically about "mind altering drugs". – IQAndreas Mar 27 '14 at 8:22
  • @IQAndreas Right, but not all "mind-altering drugs" make you high. – starsplusplus Mar 27 '14 at 9:37
  • I disagree with your statement that being clean means you have given up on drugs completely; often, people say that they are "clean at the moment" and the like, which shows it can be used for a specific time. – BladorthinTheGrey Dec 19 '16 at 20:07

Straight used to be an answer to this question, but the 70s-90s are gone, and the language has moved on.

  • Straight also refers to never having smoked if I remember right – mplungjan Jan 21 '14 at 14:26
  • @mplungjan: Yes, but not always to the exclusion of those who merely not currently taking drugs. – Wayfaring Stranger Jan 21 '14 at 15:02
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    I still hear it used to mean "not on drugs at the moment" today. It does have other meanings though, so context is important. – T.E.D. Jan 21 '14 at 16:45
  • We used to use the phrase 'straight, sane and sober' in that sort of context . . .but that would be about 1971 . . . – peterG Dec 27 '14 at 1:45
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    This sounds like the best fit to the example sentence in the question. – user184130 Aug 19 '18 at 12:30

I first suggested Clean but I would think the most attractive, all compassing would be

I am one of the few who listens to Radiohead or Dave Matthews while not under the influence.

That would not focus on drugs alone but would definitely include them

  • Honestly I would take that to mean "under the influence of alcohol" unless it was specifically clarified, or some clearer context was given from the sentence before or something. – starsplusplus Jan 21 '14 at 16:13
  • "Not on drugs" is shorter and less euphemistic ;) – starsplusplus Jan 21 '14 at 16:14
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    Post as answer and I will vote it up – mplungjan Jan 21 '14 at 16:35

"Clean" is fairly widely understood, but you need to have a specific context indicating drugs somehow otherwise it would be understood to mean "not dirty". In the sentence you gave, without any other context it would mean "not dirty".

There are a range of other answers given here, but I think that they're all less clear/longer/more ambiguous than simply "not on drugs".

I am one of the few who listens to Radiohead or Dave Matthews while not on drugs.


'Sober' is used in drug detox communities unrelated to alcohol. In common parlance it refers to 'not drunk' but its meaning is definitely applicable to other contexts.

'Clean' in a drug context generally implies that the person who's clean has quit the drug permanently. You could say you've been 'clean for two hours' but only as a joke.

If you've just come down from a drug high, you could say you're 'sober', but not 'clean'.

  • Not under the influence does not mean that you are clean, merely; currently sober. +1 for explaining the difference between clean and sober; the reason there is a saying "clean and sober". – Mazura Dec 3 '14 at 18:57

" . . . while unimpaired by drugs, licit and/or illicit."


Like many others have suggested before, it's probably best and easier, to say you're not XXX. After all if I do not drink or take any drugs, I am like any other normal, lucid, stone-cold sober person.

I am one of the few who listens to Radiohead or Dave Matthews while not...

Just realized I may have hit upon the word which fits the OP's request.

I am one of the few who listens to Radiohead or Dave Matthews while remaining lucid. CDO

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    Lucid also implies you aren't groggy from lack of sleep (or just general mental incapacity). It works in this context, but isn't exactly "the opposite". – T.E.D. Jan 22 '14 at 13:14

To not be under the influence is to be sober. They use it at Alcoholics Anonymous and other drug rehabilitations.

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