Drug Addiction Treatment
By BrightView
Published: February 9, 2024
Updated: May 30, 2024


  • As states continue to legalize marijuana (also known as cannabis), it becomes more acceptable in culture and society.
  • Some people may wonder if it is also acceptable to use marijuana while in recovery for a substance or alcohol use disorder.
  • Recovery requires us to stop behavior, like marijuana use, that is likely to trigger a return to the use of addictive substances.
  • It also has many health risks, including cognitive impairment, respiratory and cardiovascular issues, mental health issues, and a risk of contaminants from harder drugs like fentanyl.

Marijuana is legal in 38 states for medical use and 24 states for recreational use. It’s one of the most obvious examples of how marijuana has become more acceptable in culture and society. This increased acceptance and widespread legalization are also why some people entering recovery programs may wonder if marijuana use counts against their sobriety and is considered a return to use.


It’s Progress, Not Perfection That Matters

To truly recover, you must learn the tools and skills to say no to the urges and cravings for any addictive substances, including depressants, stimulants, opioids, and hallucinogens. These skills include avoiding triggers that make a return to use more likely.

While not ideal, experiencing a return to use during your recovery is natural. The key is to move forward and avoid the things in your life making a return to use more likely to happen. Marijuana is one of those things.


What is California Sober?

People in recovery who still smoke marijuana are sometimes referred to as being “California Sober.” Regardless of what you call it, if you’re using marijuana while in a recovery program, you are putting yourself in a dangerous spot. Recovery requires you to rewire your brain and unlearn the negative behaviors leading to your substance use. If you are still activating your brain to indulge in an addictive substance, you risk being unable to resist indulging in other, harder drugs.


The Pink Cloud of Recovery

Another challenge for someone in the early stages of recovery is the pink cloud. This refers to the confidence gained from early success in your recovery journey. It can lead you to assume you can handle milder drugs because you stopped using harder drugs.


During the pink cloud phase, people often have yet to face all the challenges of daily life…many of which contribute to their addiction. When these challenges return, it is easier to return to substance use. It’s even easier if they’re already using marijuana.


Know the Health Risks

Marijuana isn’t considered a deadly or hard drug. But in addition to the risk of addiction and withdrawal symptoms, its use comes with several potential health risks. The level of risk varies based on factors like the amount and potency of marijuana used, the method of consumption, and your health.

  • Cognitive Impairment: Short-term use of marijuana can impair short-term memory, judgment, and coordination, affecting the ability to drive or operate machinery safely. Long-term or heavy use may lead to more persistent cognitive impairments, including difficulties with attention, memory, and learning.


  • Respiratory Issues: Smoking marijuana can irritate the lungs and lead to issues like those caused by smoking tobacco, including chronic cough, phlegm production, and an increased risk of lung infections. There is also a higher risk of bronchitis and lung infections.


  • Cardiovascular Risks: Marijuana use can increase heart rate and affect blood pressure, which may increase the risk of a heart attack, especially in individuals with pre-existing heart conditions.


  • Impaired Child Development During and After Pregnancy: Marijuana use during pregnancy is associated with risks to the baby, including low birth weight and developmental problems. There are also concerns about potential effects on a child’s cognitive development and behavior when exposed to marijuana in utero.


  • Mental Health Effects: Frequent use of high-potency marijuana use has been linked to an increased risk of psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety. It can also exacerbate symptoms in someone with pre-existing mental health conditions.


  • Risk of Contaminants or Harder Drugs: Marijuana products, especially those obtained from unregulated sources, may be contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals, or other harmful substances. They may also be laced with harder drugs like fentanyl.


  • Increased Risk of Psychotic Symptoms: High-potency marijuana use is particularly associated with an increased risk of psychotic symptoms and disorders.


Call Us Today, Feel Better Tomorrow

Working towards a sustained recovery isn’t easy. That’s why BrightView is here to support you every step of the way. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please call us at 833-510-4357 or schedule an appointment online to learn more. Our compassionate and experienced team understands the challenges of addiction and is committed to helping every patient achieve lasting recovery.