The Complete History of Presidential Drug Use and Alcoholism
Published: 05/08/20
Presidential Indulgences

The job of the president is one of the most stressful in the world and the constant pressure can considerable accelerate the aging process, so it should come as no surprise that some of these extraordinary men resorted to drinking and even recreational drug use to cope. Although the topic of past presidents' indulgence in the excess is mostly shrouded in a veil of secrecy, some facts have been unearthed. From Washington's cultivation of hemp to Obama's early experimentation with cocaine, the following is a comprehensice compilation of all the dirt that we have on the presidents.

George Washington George Washington

Washington, an avid drinker, was once said to have handed out roughly 150 gallons of alcohol during a campaign for the Virginia House of Burgesses. Along with that, in 1798 Washington began operating a distillery on his Virginian estate Mount Vernon. By the next year it had already become one of the countries largest distilleries in the country. The distillery produced whiskey among other alcoholic drinks, which Washington sold and often served to guests during parties. Finally, Washington did dabble in what was then glorified medicine. It is known that he cultivated hemp on Mount Vernon and sources claim he used laudanum to combat his poor dental hygeine. Laudanum was an opiate medication that also included small doses of both morphine and codeine.

John Adams John Adams

The second president of the US was a very heavy drinker. He reportedly started every day by drinking a draft of hard cider before breakfast, and finished the day by drinking Mareida every night before bed. Though his drinking habits may seem excessive by today's standards it is interesting to note that in the decades immediately following the American Revolution, Americans drank more alcohol per capita than any other era before or after. In fact, in 1790, Americans drank an average of thirty-four gallons of beer and cider, five gallons of distilled spirits, and one gallon of wine, compared to Americans drinking only 2.3 gallons of alcohol per capita today.

Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson

The third president was a French wine connoisseur, apparently drinking three glasses a day separate from his meals, instead pairing them with hard cider. It was revealed that during his presidency, Jefferson bought $42,000 worth of Madeira, incurring a sizeable debt along the way. If that was not enough, Jefferson also alledgedly grew poppy on his Monticello estate in Virginia which can be used to derive opium, which he could have used to combat personal ailments.

Martin Van Buren Martin Van Buren

The eighth president of the US drank so heavily that he gained the nickname "Blue Whiskey Van." Van Buren's unbeatable tolerance apparently allowed him to drink for days on end without becoming intoxicated.

Franklin Pierce Franklin Pierce

Although the 14th president of the US limited his drinking while in office, after he lost reelection in 1856 to James Buchanan, he was quoted as saying the following:

“There is nothing left... but to get drunk.”

Andrew Johnson Andrew Johnson

Commonly considered a drunk, Lincoln's successor

Harry S. Truman

Truman, for his part, was said to be a fan of that all-American spirit, bourbon. Rumor has it that when vacationing in Key West, he would wake up with a shot of Wild Turkey each day.

Presidents and Teetotalism
  • Teetotaler: A person who never drinks alcoholic beverages.
Andrew Johnson

Conversely, while some presidents may have enjoyed their clandestine substances, many also practiced temperance, the most zealous of which are discussed below.

List of Presidential Teetotalers
William H. Harrison He became the 9th president in 1841 and the first to die in office, Harrison abstained from alcohol his entire life. Even so, he is remembered for distributing large barrels of free booze to the crowds during his campaign rallies, which may have played a role in his election.
Millard Fillmore President from 1850-1853, he became a teetotaler later in his life.
Abraham Lincoln Although "Honest Abe" carried the reputation of being a teetotaler throughout his life there is at least one known instance where he is said to have drank. The story goes that during his adolescence Lincoln made a bet, in order to absolve his friend from a debt to another man, that he could lift a full barrel of whiskey and drink from it. Lincoln was successful in lifting the barrel, which could have weighed upwards of 350 pounds, and drank from it victoriously.
Rutherford B. Hayes From 1877-1881 the 19th president of the US banned drinking and smoking from the White House. This no-nonsense attitude that his family adopted earned his wife the nickname "Lemonade Lucy."
William H. Taft The 27th president of the US stopped his use of alcohol in 1906.
Jimmy Carter From 1977-1981 the deeply Christian 39th president of the US outlawed hard liquors in the White House.
George W. Bush The 43rd president of the US struggled with alcohol related issues early in his life, from his arrest in 1966 for disorderly conduct, to his DWI in 1976, he eventually swore off drinking in 1986 after his 40th birthday party.
Presidents during Prohibition Prohibition

In 1919 the 18th Amendment was ratified which implement Prohibition the nex year. Woodrow Wilson attempted to veto the act but it passed nevertheless. This new law of the land should have deterred the ensuing presidents from drinking, however, not even the new amendment could prevent the next president in office, Warren G. Harding, from binge-drinking the nights away in the White House. He is said to have had sidebar in the White House that was fully stocked with various liquors and spirits at all times. In fact, alcohol was freely served during Harding's biweekly poker games with his acquaintances. Aside from this, the next three presidents, including Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, handled Prohibition unproblematically, with Roosevelt's administration eventually ratifying the 21st Amendment to end Prohibition in 1933.



Work Cited
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