- Demi Lovato said she’s going “Cali sober” as part of her recovery after a near-fatal overdose.
- People who are “Cali sober” either minimize or abstain from alcohol and hard drugs and mainly use cannabis.
- Proponents say the swap helps their physical and mental health. Experts say it can still lead to unhealthy habits.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Demi Lovato has been outspoken about her near-fatal drug overdose and recovery in her recent YouTube docuseries, “Dancing with the Devil.”
In the final episode of the four-part series, Lovato revealed that she’s not taking an abstinence-based approach to her recovery this time around. Instead, the singer said she was going “Cali sober.”
“I know I’m done with the stuff that’s going to kill me,” Lovato said in the docuseries.
But when it comes to cannabis and alcohol, Lovato said quitting all substances would be “setting myself up for failure.”
There’s no agreed-upon definition for “Cali sober,” so when people use the term, it could mean anything from consuming very little alcohol, mostly weed, and no other drugs, to only using cannabis and forsaking alcohol and other drugs altogether. Some people consume weed and psychedelics but draw the line at alcohol and hard drugs, The Cut previously reported.
This lifestyle choice isn’t just for people with extremely unhealthy relationships with alcohol and other substances.
In fact, a poll of 2,000 people found that 45% of adults reduced or replaced their alcohol consumption by swapping it for cannabis. After making the switch to mainly or only cannabis, pollees reported fewer hangovers, better overall health, and more genuine social connectedness.
‘I haven’t been hungover in years’
The Cut reporter Katie Heaney previously interviewed self-proclaimed Cali sober folks about their decisions.
Most said they made the switch for health reasons — either physical, mental, or both.
“In my early 30s, I’ve discovered that when I’m looking to unwind after a stressful week, or having a movie night with friends, I’d much rather smoke weed than drink a few beers. As a result, I haven’t been hungover in years,” Heaney wrote of her own experience.
She said going “Cali sober” also improved her sleep and lessened her anxiety, which she already takes medication for.
Freelance psychedelics writer David Wilder told Elemental he only uses cannabis and psychedelics, which has “helped a lot with easing my depression and anxiety, and got me into spirituality a little bit, too.”
Others interviewed by The Cut, Leafly, and Elemental say alcohol-induced hangovers that lead to negative physical and emotional side effects — like nausea, light sensitivity, anxiety, and depression — were harmful enough for them to give up booze for pot.
“Most memories with alcohol lead to an argument or something going wrong,” RoseBudCD founder Alexis Rosenbaum told Leafly of her decision to go Cali sober in 2015.
“When I weighed the pros and cons of alcohol consumption, the pros list was empty.”
Research has shown cannabis can reduce anxiety and pain and increase feel-good hormones like dopamine, Insider previously reported.
Cannabis can also be misused and abused
Despite the purported benefits of going Cali sober, people can still become dependent on cannabis, Dr. Jordan Tishler, an emergency medicine physician and cannabis specialist, told Insider.
If, for example, someone with an unhealthy relationship to alcohol substitutes cannabis and uses it as frequently, it’s only a Band-Aid on the problem.
“In many ways, it’s more about one’s approach to and relationship to substances than it is necessarily about the specific substance,” Tishler told Insider.
“There are plenty of people who drink alcohol and don’t have problems with it because that’s the relationship that they have with it. There are other people who lose control.”
A person who relies on cannabis could develop cannabis use disorder. Signs of cannabis dependency include: having to ramp up cannabis consumption because of increased tolerance, trouble with mood or sleep when taking a break from cannabis, or finding use is impacting work, according to Tishler.
“There’s the idea that [cannabis] is harmless and I think that’s really not accurate,” said Tishler.
“A much more intelligent approach would be to view it more dispassionately and say, ‘You know, this is a substance that can be used for benefits, but it also has risks.'”
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