What Is Cali Sober and Should I Try It?
The term "California sober" isn't new, but it recently gained attention when Demi Lovato aligned themselves with it, explaining that their moderate marijuana and alcohol use helped them curb their substance use issues. It is important to note that Lovato only called the term the "best" description of their behavior, not perfectly accurate: Cali sober typically refers to only marijuana use, with the exclusion of alcohol.
No matter what aspects are scrutinized or praised, Cali sober is now purported to be a route some people are taking on their path to sobriety.
The good…and the bad
Aaron Weiner, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and addiction counselor, noted that the marijuana industry has spent a lot of money lobbying for legalization.
"Marijuana use is not harmless," Weiner said. "Particularly in people under the age of 25. It can cause cortical thinning in the brain over time, which can result in altered brain development, especially when using potent strains with high THC content."
Weiner added, "THC is chemically addictive. It's the second-most-common substance treated in rehab. Tolerance is built up over time, and stopping usage can cause withdrawal effects. The bottom line is that marijuana use isn't helping people to stay sober."
With respect to the medical marijuana industry, Weiner said there can be therapeutic effects, such as treating nausea in cancer patients, as well as helping with eating disorders, such as anorexia.
Under the influence
Concerns of legality go hand in hand with medical risks. In Colorado and California, states that moved early to legalize marijuana, incidents of marijuana-related ER visits have climbed—from one person every other day in 2012 to two to three people per day in 2016. Complaints of uncontrollable vomiting and psychosis were among the issues attributed to usage, although it's important to note most marijuana users do not consume so much that they require hospitalization. But there are other issues.
Noah M. Gladstone, Esq., of Starks Law firm based in Pennsylvania, said he's seen his fair share of DUI cases resulting from marijuana use.
"DUIs involving marijuana are second only to alcohol," Gladstone said. "Because marijuana is legalized for medicinal use, people think that it's OK to get behind the wheel while high. If the police test your blood and the metabolites come up, you could be convicted of a DUI in the state of Pennsylvania."
Legality varies greatly from state to state, but in most states, driving while under the influence of anything—including marijuana—can lead to a DUI.
How much is too much?
With legal dispensaries comes the question of how much marijuana is too much. As with alcohol and other substances, a moderate approach is recommended for most people. For those with addiction issues, consuming only marijuana may be a safer path, but it may not be right for everyone.
Joe Schrank, program director at The Heavenly Center in Los Angeles, highlighted just how amorphous the answer really is.
Cali sober typically refers to only marijuana use, with the exclusion of alcohol.
"Recovery is a very personal thing and it's different for everyone," Schrank said. "For decades we have been conditioned to think that recovery is 'total abstinence from any drug use and [you'll] spend your life in AA.' The truth is, we all have to find our individual relationship with recovery. 'Never used anything again' is one option for some people. With opiates claiming 60,000 lives a year and alcohol taking almost 100,000, cannabis users are still holding steady at exactly zero deaths. Cali sober makes total sense. It's a viable option and we should make taking that [option] shame-free."
With so much conflicting information, it can be difficult to make a choice regarding the path of sobriety that's best for you. While marijuana may not be as harmful as other substances, frequent use comes with medical risks and legal drawbacks in some states. So, whether it's total abstinence or a joint on the weekends, sobriety has to make sense to you in order for it to be effective.