In defense of being 'Cali sober' (2023)

first opinion

By Pedro GrinspoonMay 30, 2023


In defense of being 'Cali sober' (1)

TThe phenomenon of being “sober in Cali” is taking the recovery world by storm. It is defined as dedicating yourself to a life free of drugs and alcohol, with the exception of marijuana and other psychedelics. (While many consumers do not think of cannabis as a psychedelic, policy experts generally consider it its effects.)

Staunch advocates of abstinence-based recovery, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, dismiss Cali's sober approach as dangerous and "not really recovery." Those who treat addiction the traditional way for a living, such as addiction experts and representatives of our country's burgeoning rehab industry, are also dismissive of the idea. For example, heclinica clevelandmaintains a general ban on physicians who certify patients for medical cannabis foranycondition (although medical cannabis is legal in Ohio). One of his addicted psychiatrists told the clinic's website, "After all, you're not sober if you're still using mind-altering substances. You're substituting one addictive substance for another. It's a slippery slope."


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But the slippery slope does not retain water. I have been recovering from an addictive addiction to prescription opioids for 15 years. I am also a physician and have had the privilege of treating thousands of patients over the years.substance use disorders, ranging from doctors secretly snorting oxycodone to people living on the streets. Through these experiences, I thought a lot about the questions of what predisposes someone to addiction, what constitutes addiction, how we become addicted, and how we recover. The best definition of addiction I've heard so far is simple, "Continued use despite negative consequences."

However, this definition raises some crucial questions: continued use of what? All drugs or just the ones that messed up your life? For how long? For life?

For nearly a century, therecovery communitylargely followed a line from Alcoholics Anonymous: that recovery meansabstinence from all drugs and alcohol, completely and forever (except, of course, tobacco and caffeine, which are considered “good drugs” and are freely allowed in 12-step meetings).


Unfortunately, this binary and ideological approach has aextremely low success rate- byan estimate, 5%-10% for AA. Its rigidity alienates many and is based primarily on historical knowledge rather than science. It has very little to do with our modern understanding of addiction, the new treatments we are developing, or the reality that our understanding and treatment of addiction has come a long way since the "Big Book" of Alcoholics Anonymous was written in 1939.

It's time to update that thinking. It is not cheating to use drugs or other substances to maintain recovery. In fact, anyone who wants to enter and stay in recovery must find a way to avoid continued use of the specific drug that has derailed their life in a way that is causing ongoing suffering.

My definition is most consistent with current scientific thinking about recovery, which includes the use of modern life-saving medications that help people overcome the biological components of their addictions. My definition is also more inclusive and humane. Offering a larger recovery tent allows more people to feel welcome and safe. It can save lives.

TThere is no solid scientific basis for “abstinence-only” models of recovery, which have spawned generations of catchphrases and platitudes that people like me have had to repeat over and over again when forced into rehab, as I was, for 90 days. We sat as a group and sang “one is too many and a thousand is never enough” as a totem against future use of drugs and alcohol. This experience, for me, was so boring and pointless; it was enough to make you want to do drugs again.

Furthermore, this approach is about as far from science as you can get on planet Earth. The most convincing study I have come across,Published in JAMA in 2014showed the opposite:

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“Compared to those who do not recover from an SUD [substance use disorder], people who do recover have less than half the risk of developing a new SUD. Contrary to clinical tradition, achieving remission usually does not lead to drug replacement, but is associated with a decreased risk of DUB onset."

In other words, the tools, knowledge, and experience you gain from the addiction recovery process can beprotectoragainst other addictions, so one may be at less risk with a different drug than someone with no addiction experience. None of this is definitively resolved, but it is intriguing and certainly consistent with the use of alternative treatments such as cannabis and psychedelics to maintain and support recovery.

It is important to note that 12-step programs are quite effective for a self-selected group of people who enjoy these encounters, are culturally related to them, and find them invaluable in sustaining their recoveries. If someone chooses abstinence and it works for them, it is something to be supported and celebrated. However, there is no justification or evidence to impose this modelallpeople in search of recovery.

TThe first public challenge to abstinence-only paradigms of recovery came with the widespread adoption ofmethadonee Suboxone (buprenorphine) to treat opioid use disorder. Before long, stories began leaking out about people being harassed at 12-step meetings for using Suboxone or Methadone. People heard in recovery meetings, “If you're on methadone/Suboxone, you're not really in recovery; you are simply trading one drug for another.” I haveto viewpeople say things like that at Narcotics Anonymous meetings. However, the clinical use of Suboxone and methadone results in50% reductionboth in overdose and death by overdose. Recovery should be about theresultsand about saving and improving lives.

What happens when you go one step further, beyond Suboxone and Methadone, and not only challenge the abstinence model alone, but challenge it with medications/drugs that have been deliberately stigmatized by the war on drugs, such as marijuana and other psychedelics ? For many 12-step psychiatrists and addicts, the inclusion of cannabis, a "bad" drug, in any conversation about "recovery" from addiction is heresy. He takes issue with decades of inaccurate messages we've received that marijuana is highly addictive and extremely dangerous. It may be difficult for them to grasp the idea of ​​a sober Cali because many have not lived through or had clinical experience in treating people with cannabis and do not have a realistic and nuanced view of the relative benefits and harms of cannabis use. They were only exposed to magnified versions of the harm and were shielded from benefit discussions.

We are in the process of a major societal reassessment of the relative benefits and harms of cannabis, with public acceptance of both medicinal and recreational use growing each year. Using medical cannabis to get away from more dangerous drugs like alcohol or heroin is an increasingly popular and accepted form of harm reduction. I have had tremendous success in my clinical practice transitioning people from medical opioids and alcohol to cannabis. I find cannabis particularly effective because it can help treat or alleviate many of the symptoms that may have helped fuel addiction to these other drugs in the first place, such as anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, and trauma.

Related: Biden's drug czar: 'All options are on the table' to expand access to methadone

It's important to note that marijuana is certainly not harmless. Cannabis use is best avoided in teenagers (due to concerns about the health of their developing brains), in pregnant or nursing women (due to concerns about effects on the foetus/newborn), before driving, or in patients with personal problems. or family history of psychosis (since marijuana can destabilize these patients). But the best way to prevent use by people at risk is careful regulation and education, rather than criminalization, which drives drug use underground and makes it much more dangerous overall.

EUIn no particular order, the critical components of a healthy and stable recovery from addiction are insight, humility, connection, mindfulness, and gratitude. As we focus on the present, connect with others, and approach the world with kindness and humility, we become happier and stronger, leaving much less room for drugs to take over again.

These are exactly the traits within us that cannabis helps to foster, which is why it so powerfully aligns with the personal recovery plans of so many people in recovery. FORotherastronomer Carl Sagan, the smartest person I've ever met (and an old friend ofmy father, an academic who challenged popular myths about cannabis early on):

"The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to the full use of a drug that helps to produce the serenity and awareness, sensitivity and camaraderie that are so desperately needed in this increasingly crazy and dangerous world."


Related: Psilocybin shows promise in treating alcohol addiction, new study finds

It is remarkable that this language overlaps so completely with the language of 12-step programs, which are fundamentally based on "coolness and insight, sensitivity and camaraderie."

If people have overcome their addictions and are back at work, healthy and living full and meaningful lives, what does it matter if they are abstaining, using cannabis, using Suboxone or microdosing with psychedelics? One might wish for a perfect world where we all do yoga, eat tofu, and meditate, where no one feels the need to depend on a drug or substance to get through the day. However, there are very few, if any, societies that have existed without the use of one psychoactive drug or another.

Addiction is a deadly consequence of an ugly confluence of heartbreak and drug use that must be approached with empathy, compassion and evidence, non-judgment, stigma and adherence to old beliefs that are not borne out by research. Each path out of the soma and toward safe and stable recovery is unique to the person who walks it. But all of us in recovery from addiction nurture and support each other so we don't divide into rigid approaches and inflexible ideologies.

Peter Grinspoon, M.D., is a primary care physician and cannabis specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is the author of the new book “Seeing Through the Smoke: A Marijuana Expert Reveals the Truth About Marijuana.”

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Pedro Grinspoon

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What does the saying California sober mean? ›

California Sober is a term typically used to describe people who decide to quit consuming drugs and alcohol—with a few exceptions. While everyone interprets this lifestyle choice differently, marijuana is the most commonly cited "acceptable" substance for someone who considers themself California Sober.

Does California sober really work? ›

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 are the benefits of Cali sober? ›

Cali sober does have some benefits for the right individual in the right headspace with adequate coping skills and a support system in their life who can help. Harm reduction approaches to addiction can help prevent overdose and drug-related deaths by helping people discover healthy steps forward from their addiction.

What is the meaning of Cali clean? ›

Cali sober promotes cutting out certain addictive substances and replacing them with alternatives that, in theory, are less harmful. Some people call themselves California sober because they use marijuana in place of alcohol and other addictive substances.

Who coined California sober? ›

When Demi Lovato brought the term California sober into the public realm, this prompted a backlash from some people within the recovery community. Ultimately, everyone has a unique experience of addiction.

What is the new sober trend? ›

In conclusion, being sober curious is a growing trend that is driven by a desire to improve overall health and wellbeing, form new habits and routines, save more and improve relationships. It's about making conscious decisions about alcohol consumption and understanding the role that alcohol plays in your life.

What happens when your 30 days sober? ›

After 30 days of sobriety, the fog starts to clear from your brain and you finally feel like yourself again. This means you'll feel more energetic, sleep better, and you won't be fighting hangovers and other physical symptoms of drinking and drugs.

How many people can live in a sober living home in California? ›

Other than occupancy restrictions applicable to all residential uses, there is no limit under federal law or California law on the number of persons who may live in a large sober living home. unlicensed “alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment facility” is illegal under California law.

Is alcoholism a protected class in California? ›

For example, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) treats alcoholism as a disability. FEHA defines disability to include impairments that limit the ability to work. The ADA has a higher standard, requiring that a disability substantially limit an individual's ability to work.

What kind of drug is Cali? ›

For some, cali has just become a synonym for any good cannabis flower. But actual cali, that's genuinely imported, can often go for anything from £70 to £100 for 3.5g. It's a premium, almost designer product – the Dom Pérignon of weed, let's say.

How healthy is being sober? ›

Mental Focus and Clarity

Better mental health, in general, is one of the most obvious benefits of being sober. The less you fill your body with chemicals and toxins that aren't supposed to be there–especially in excess, as it would be with addiction–the more you'll notice your mental focus and mental clarity.

Is Cali alcoholic or not? ›

Cali is a sparkling, fruit-flavored, non-alcoholic malt beverage that is available in Pineapple and Apple flavors. It also comes in a low-calorie variant. Prices, availability, and product packaging are subject to change without prior notice.

What is Cali used for? ›

“Cali” is an abbreviation of “California” that only non-Californians use. Nearly every other U.S. state calls California “Cali,” but Californians hate this. Avoid using “Cali” if you want to seem like a native Californian. “Rad” was used more frequently by Californians a few years ago, but you may still hear it today.

What is Cali in slang? ›

“Cali” is the abbreviation used for California that only non-natives use. Not only do local Californians never use this slang, it actually rubs them the wrong way.

What does cali green mean? ›

The California Green Building Standards Code—Part 11, Title 24, California Code of Regulations—known as CALGreen, is the first-in-the-nation mandatory green building standards code.

What was the most sober generation? ›

In fact, we can say that Generation Z (those born between the late 90s and 2000s) is the soberest in history. But why? According to an international study conducted by HBSC, under the umbrella of the World Health Organization (WHO), young people today drink less alcohol than they've ever done.

What is semi sober? ›

Semi-sobriety encourages people to be more intentional with their sips, drinking how much and when they want to for the sake of their health, goals and lifestyle — in essence, to exert a little control over something that often makes people out of control.

What is a sober lifestyle? ›

Define Sobriety in Terms That Are Meaningful to You

For some people, being sober may mean not experiencing any measurable effects of drugs or alcohol. To others, it could mean more than just avoiding using recreational or prescription drugs or drinking alcohol, but achieving good mental health.

What are the hardest days of sobriety? ›

The first week of sobriety is often the most difficult. You may experience withdrawal symptoms that last for a few days or weeks. These symptoms are uncomfortable, and the risk of relapse can be high.

What is the first rule of sobriety? ›

Rule 1: Change Your Life

Recovery involves creating a new life in which it is easier to not use. When individuals do not change their lives, then all the factors that contributed to their addiction will eventually catch up with them.

Is there a color for sobriety? ›

Various colors are assigned to various lengths of sobriety. Typically, A.A. chips include: white to start or renew a commitment to sobriety; yellow for 30 days; red for 90 days; blue for six months; green for nine months; and a bronze chip for one or more years.

What does 3 weeks without alcohol do to your body? ›

At 3 weeks of not drinking, most drinkers have successfully reduced their risk of heart disease, including stroke, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Their kidney health and even their vision may improve. For dependent drinkers, blood pressure may reduce to normal levels by the 3rd or 4th week.

What happens after 4 weeks of no alcohol? ›

Research has found that just four weeks without a drink can be enough to start lowering both blood pressure and heart rate. * Your risk of type 2 diabetes has already started to reduce (in one study insulin resistance came down by an average of 28 per cent) and your cholesterol levels should be starting to lower.

How long is a good break from alcohol? ›

Research has also shown that taking a month-long break from alcohol can be good for the liver. For a successful break from alcohol, as with dieting, it's important to have a plan in place for when the allotted break time ends. Otherwise, it is easy to slip back into old habits.

Where do the most Sober people live? ›

Top 7 Best Cities To Live In If You're Sober
  • Delray Beach, FL. If you're looking for a beachside community, Delray Beach might be just the place for you! ...
  • Minneapolis, MN. Have you ever heard of people referring to Minnesota as Minnesober? ...
  • New York City, NY. ...
  • San Diego, CA. ...
  • Houston, TX. ...
  • Los Angeles, CA. ...
  • Boston, MA.
Jan 5, 2022

What is another name for sober living homes? ›

Sober living houses (SLHs), also called sober homes and sober living environments, are facilities that provide safe housing and supportive, structured living conditions for people exiting drug rehabilitation programs.

What is an advantage of a sober living home? ›

Sober living homes provide a supportive place for residents to heal away from the pressures of everyday reality. One of the most important benefits of these homes is that they help mitigate one's risk of relapse by eliminating the presence of any alcohol and other drugs. Society normalizes substance use.

Is being an alcoholic considered a disability? ›

Alcohol use disorder is an impairment, and if it substantially limits a major life activity (e.g., learning, concentrating, interacting with others, caring for oneself) it will constitute a disability.

Can you get SSI for alcoholism? ›

Years ago, you could qualify for Social Security disability benefits if you were an alcoholic. In 1996, Congress changed the rules. Since then, alcohol addiction has actually become a hurdle to obtaining disability benefits. In a nutshell, you can't get Social Security disability benefits based on alcoholism.

Is being on Suboxone a disability? ›

A person who has a legally prescribed medication to treat their substance use disorder (such as Suboxone, Methadone, or Vivitrol etc.), and is no longer engaging in the illegal use of drugs is a person with a disability and is protected by the ADA.

What is sunshine in drug slang? ›

black star - LSD. black stuff - Heroin; opium. black sunshine - LSD.

Who are the godfathers of Cali? ›

The Cali Cartel leadership comprised members Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, Miguel Rodríguez Orejuela, José Santacruz Londoño and Hélmer Herrera. Some top associates were Victor Patiño Fomeque, Henry Loaiza Ceballos, ex-guerrilla member José Fedor Rey, and Phanor Arizabaleta-Arzayus.

What does P mean in drug slang? ›

In drugs-related chat, P means "Methamphetamine." P. Definition: Methamphetamine.

What happens after 1 year of no alcohol? ›

Without alcohol in your life, you'll get better sleep, and wake up without a hangover. This can lead to more energy and productivity. You'll also experience long-term improvements in your health and reduced risk of alcohol-related conditions, like heart and liver complications.

What happens 6 months sober? ›

In the first 6 months of your sobriety, your body will start getting rid of toxins in order to become healthier. By the 6 month mark, your skin appears healthier. People around you notice your eyes are clearer. You've been taking care of yourself and bathing regularly, so your hygiene has improved.

What does a month off alcohol do? ›

Summary. Across the month, your body is likely to have benefitted greatly from giving up alcohol. Better hydration and improved sleep will have increased your productivity and daily wellbeing. Your liver, stomach and skin will also have benefitted from not dealing with alcohol.

Can kids drink Cali? ›

Except as provided in Section 25667, any person under the age of 21 years who purchases any alcoholic beverage, or any person under the age of 21 years who consumes any alcoholic beverage in any on-sale premises, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

What are the benefits of drinking Cali? ›

Caliwater contains 5 naturally occurring electrolytes to boost hydration and is packed with skin fortifying antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and 200mg of Prickly Pear Extract which is a proven hangover relief.

What is Cali made of? ›

Water, sugar, malt, citric acid, cereals, artificial pineapple flavor, caramel, acesulfame-K, hops, antioxidant.

Why is Cali popular? ›

With sun, sand, surf, and mountains, the West Coast state of California is known for its many attractions that lure travelers year-round. From famous landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hollywood sign, to the Golden State's rich outdoor opportunities, this eclectic state makes for a well-rounded vacation.

What is a bro in California slang? ›

Bro. This word is associated with southern California surf culture and is used as a term of endearment for guys to refer to one another. For example, “Bro, there were some killer waves this morning.”

What does Cali mean in the military? ›

U.S. Army Regulation 530-1 has redefined Critical Information into four broad categories, using the acronym CALI – Capabilities, Activities, Limitations (including vulnerabilities), and Intentions.

What does cali sober mean urban dictionary? ›

The definition of "Cali sober" is abstaining from alcohol and most drugs, Lhooq wrote in a 2019 essay in Vice. According to the Urban Dictionary, its meaning is "a form of Harm Reduction that excludes the use of all drugs including alcohol and only utilizing Marijuana in Moderation."

How do you say hello in Cali? ›

Hola (OH-la)

Everyone knows hola, meaning “hi” or “hello” in Spanish. It's such a popular greeting that it has made its way into the spoken conversation in English speaking countries. It's casual, friendly, and goes great with a little wave.

What does cali girl mean? ›

Meaning:cup; fairest; beautiful; lovely.

What does green mean in drug terms? ›

Marijuana or Cannabis. Brands: various. Weed, Pot, Hashish, Hash, Green, Bud, Grass, Trees, Reefer, Herb, Mary Jane, Ganja, Hemp, Dope, Chronic, Kush, Sinsemilla, Purple.

What does green mean in Florida slang? ›

Green as a slang means to not have a lot of knowledge for a given subject.

What is a sober state? ›

Sobriety is the state of being sober, which can mean either not intoxicated or being solemn. If he takes a drink, an alcoholic ends a stretch of sobriety. You might note sobriety in the stands when your team is losing.

What is the meaning of California rehab? ›

It is defined as a form of harm reduction that excludes the use of some substances, including alcohol, and only uses marijuana in moderation. Also sometimes known as being “Cali Sober,” “California Sober” typically describes a person who abstains from most drugs and alcohol with a few exceptions.

What does the term sober refer to? ›

: abstaining from drinking alcohol or taking intoxicating drugs : refraining from the use of addictive substances (see substance sense 3c)

What is the most sober city in the US? ›

Delray Beach, FL

Touted as ''the recovery capital of the world'', Delray Beach is one of the most sober-friendly cities in the USA. Located between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, it was even referred to as ''the epicenter of the country's largest and most vibrant recovery community'' by the New York Times.

Does having one drink break sobriety? ›

If you're wondering, “does one drink break sobriety?” Yes, it does! If you've been diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder (alcoholism) and have abstained from alcohol, even one drink can break your sobriety. With relapse, the risk of returning to active alcohol abuse is a real threat.

Is sobriety more than not drinking? ›

It's about a reorientation of life. Living Sober is more than just not drinking – it's about finding a new sense of hope and purpose in life, new practises, and new sources of enjoyment in a community that shares your outlook on life.

Can you get paid to go to rehab in California? ›

It works like this: People earn small incentives or payments for every negative drug test over a period of time. Most people who complete the treatment without any positive tests can earn a few hundred dollars. They usually get the money on a gift card. It's called "contingency management" and Gov.

What's the difference between rehabilitation and rehab? ›

Since rehabilitation is a process of healing, learning new skills, and improving physical health it involves a team of medical professionals working together to help you recover from an injury or illness. Typically, rehab is used when there's been some kind of surgery or intervention that can't be reversed.

What does rehab mean in jail? ›

Rehabilitation programs are designed to reduce recidivism among adults who have been convicted of an offense by improving their behaviors, skills, mental health, social functioning, and access to education and employment.

Does California have halfway houses? ›

A Halfway house California can help find new employment for an individual, the re-enrolment of an individual in a class or even assist in sitting an affiliate career goal. Most halfway houses are usually set up with a program that benefits the resident directly in terms of reintegrating into society.

What is it called when you drink again after being sober? ›

Relapse is the return to alcohol or drug use after an individual acknowledges the presence of addictive disease, recognizes the need for total abstinence, and makes a decision to maintain sobriety with the assistance of a recovery program.

What does sober colors mean? ›

sober adjective (NOT BRIGHT)

Clothes or colours that are sober are plain and not bright. SMART Vocabulary: related words and phrases. Colourless or causing colour to fade.


1. George Carlin -- It's Bad for You -- 1080p Remaster
(Christopher Hazard)
2. Kane Brown - Used to Love You Sober
(Kane Brown)
3. Rascal Flatts - What Hurts The Most (Album Version)
(Rascal Flatts)
4. Evanescence - Call Me When You're Sober
5. Don't Trash Talk New York | Hardly Working
6. Justifiable homicide - 3 times deadly force is legal in California
(Shouse Law Group Channel)


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