The Damaging Effects of "California Sober"

"California sober" is an up-and-coming trend in the sobriety world. It has even been endorsed by celebrities as their chosen route to recovery. While there are many different approaches to recovery, “California sober” is not one that professionals recommend. In most cases, it is incorrect to assume that one way to get sober is better than another, but most recovery specialists agree that “California sober” does not lead to lasting recovery from addiction the way other treatment paths do.

What Is “California Sober”?

“California sober” refers to a sobriety plan where you switch one substance for a less harmful one. For example, you might trade opioid use for marijuana use. Marijuana and CBD products are the primary replacement substance used for treating addictions to these harsher substances. While studies have examined the role of CBD in treating substance use disorder (SUD), the results were insufficient to conclude whether it had a viable place in addiction recovery plans.

Dangers of Modern Cannabis

While there have been many breakthroughs in ways to use marijuana medically, treating SUD is not one of them. A study in Dialogue in Clinical Neuroscience found that, due to the higher potency of modern marijuana, the negative side effects have increased as well. When working through a recovery program, the use of any addictive substance can be problematic, even those that are seemingly harmless.

Why “California Sober” Is Problematic

There are several reasons why this approach to sobriety is problematic. While surely those who presented “California sobriety” as an option had the best of intentions in mind, the evidence does not support its effectiveness. As a treatment for SUD, many issues may arise when using this approach. 

Dangers of Self-Medication

Sometimes, medical professionals will use medications to aid in the withdrawal process for those in recovery. This is called medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and is closely monitored and has scientific backing for its effectiveness and safety. 

When you are “California sober,” you are not being administered the replacement substance by a health professional. You are in control of how the substance is given. As someone with SUD, this can be a slippery slope.

In general, if you struggle with substances you probably have a hard time with moderation. If moderation is a challenge, switching substances of choice from one to another will likely only create a dependency on the new substance. That is why most recovery plans involve abstinence to be successful.

There is a misconception that marijuana is a non-habit-forming substance. Your brain can form a dependency on practically anything. Addiction forms in your brain when dopamine is released in reaction to a pleasurable act or sensation, such as drug use. There are plenty of signs to tell you if marijuana use has become an addiction.

Falling Back Into Old Habits

If you simply replace one substance with another, the odds of relapsing on your original substance are greatly increased. This is especially true if you live in a state where marijuana has not been legalized. To get your new substance, you still have to go to places where there is a high possibility to access the substance you were originally struggling with.

Further adding fuel to the fire, while you are under the effects of marijuana, your judgment is impaired. This can lead to poor decision-making. If you add in the likely possibility of mental health issues due to SUD, this is a recipe for relapse.

Not Treating the Real Problem  

Perhaps the most notable problem with “California sober” is that you are not treating the real problem. Substances generally are not the issue; they are the coping mechanism used to deal with deeper issues that are not being addressed properly.

Anything that alters your state of mind can be used as an escape from the source problem. These problems could be things like anxiety, past trauma, stress, or a myriad of other things. SUD is just the manifestation of the problem.

New Does Not Mean Better

It can be easy to think that "California sober" is an effective treatment when it is marketed as a new path to recovery. It appeals to the part of your mind that leads to relapses. The voice in the back of your head might say it is okay to use a substance because it is part of your recovery plan.

“California sober” is tempting to anyone in recovery because it appears to give you what you have always wanted—to be able to use substances and not go overboard. The problem is that moderation is not achievable when you struggle with addiction. It is not how your brain is wired. The consequences of attempting to be “California sober” can be dire.

"California sober" is a trendy new "treatment" that allows for moderate marijuana use. For most people who suffer from SUD, moderation is an almost unreachable goal. If you are struggling with marijuana use disorder because you tried "California sober" or something else that has kept you in the cycle of addiction, there are people who are willing to help you work through it. NorthStar Transitions, located in Boulder, CO, has experienced staff that can help you navigate through this difficult period in life. They offer support for those who are having issues with substance abuse whether it is your first time in treatment or if you're recovering from a relapse. If you or someone you know needs treatment, you want to do all that you can to help. You can take the first steps by calling us today at (303) 558-6400.

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