What Is ‘California Sober’?

October 17, 2022

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The term “California sober” is a colloquial term that has risen recently in popular culture, used to describe people who use marijuana but no other substances, or sometimes to refer to someone who is using marijuana in place of other substances. 

What Does the Term ‘California Sober’ Mean?

The term California sober, popularized in Demi Lovato’s song of the same name, generally refers to a lifestyle in which a person abstains from all drugs but marijuana. Some use the term to refer to living a life without hard drug use but still indulging in the use of marijuana, alcohol, and other “soft” drugs. 

Is “California Sober” Safe?

The real question is, “safe compared to what?” Most medical professionals would agree that using Marijuana instead of “harder” drugs such as alcohol or opioids is probably preferable. But that does not mean that even marijuana use alone is completely without risk. Marijuana can cause increased risk of accidents, decreased cognitive function, increased sedation and lung damage, particularly if smoked in excess. 

Can Safer Drug Use Replace More Dangerous Use?

While it’s important to acknowledge there isn’t enough research into the California sober lifestyle to in any way promote it, it does bring up a relevant concept worth discussing. At least one study has shown that using marijuana may help people decrease their use of alcohol. Anecdotally, people also report using it as a kind of “exit” drug, with its use reportedly making it easier to avoid harsher drugs.[2]

Marijuana is a drug, and it can do your body harm. It’s also possible to become dependent on marijuana, although this is a relatively rare occurrence and the withdrawal symptoms associated with marijuana are not particularly severe. At the same time, the idea that marijuana may help people avoid more dangerous drugs seems to have at least some medical merit in the right context and is worth researching further.[3,4]

While Marijuana is generally a safe and even legal drug in some states, it is not without risks. Just like any drug or medication, marijuana has potentially harmful side effects. Patients have to weigh the risks and benefits of its use. If you are interested in using marijuana to minimize your risk of using other “more dangerous” drugs, speak to your doctor to get more information and come up with a plan for how best to manage your substance use.

Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where she works as a primary care physician as well as part time in pain management and integrated health. Her clinical interests include underserved health care, chronic pain and integrated/alternative health.

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Citations

  1. Demi Lovato Says Good-bye to ‘California Sober’. The Cut. https://www.thecut.com/2021/12/demi-lovato-says-they-are-no-longer-california-sober.html. December 2021. Accessed September 2022.
  2. Reductions in Alcohol Use Following Medical Cannabis Initiation: Results From a Large Cross-Sectional Survey of Medical Cannabis Patients in Canada. International Journal of Drug Policy. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0955395920303017/ December 2020. Accessed September 2022.
  3. New Potential for Marijuana: Treating Drug Addiction. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2017/05/17/health/addiction-cannabis-harm-reduction. May 2017. Accessed September 2022.
  4. Cannabis as a Substitute for Alcohol and Other Drugs. Harm Reduction Journal. https://harmreductionjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1477-7517-6-35. December 2009. Accessed September 2022.

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