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It can be difficult to determine whether or not using weed counts as a relapse. Many people in recovery believe sobriety means complete abstinence from all alcohol and drugs, including weed. Others, however, are more lenient and tend to bend the rules when it comes to marijuana use. Some people still consider themselves sober while continuing to smoke weed simply because they no longer use hard drugs or drink. Although neither form of sobriety is necessarily wrong, beginning to use weed can put your, sobriety at risk.

The Danger of Smoking Weed In Recovery

Smoking weed in recovery poses many risks. Although many people view weed as fairly harmless, as much as 30% of weed users are thought to have some degree of marijuana use disorder, and 8.9% are believed to be dependent on it. While in recovery, especially early on, marijuana may initially be used as a crutch to prevent the use of other drugs and alcohol, but marijuana use can quickly turn into dependency.

In addition to this, many people who smoke weed in early recovery do so to cope with anxiety or stress caused by early sobriety. By doing this, you are not developing the necessary coping mechanisms to deal with this anxiety and to stay sober long term. The long-term and/or excessive use of marijuana can also lead to other substance use. This means that by using marijuana, you are putting your sobriety as a whole at risk. In response to this, some argue that if you stay on a “marijuana maintenance” plan that your overall sobriety will not be threatened. This argument, however, has been rejected by the recovery community as it is believed to be an ineffective and, in some cases, harmful strategy. 

The use of weed, in general, is harmful, especially if used long-term and/or excessively.  For those in recovery in particular, the use of marijuana can result in dependency, inability to cope with daily stressors that result from early sobriety, and the use of more dangerous substances. 

Is Using Weed a Relapse?

It is hard to say definitively whether or not using weed is a relapse. Deciding if your use of weed counts as a relapse depends on what form of sobriety you subscribe to. If you believe in abstinence, using weed would count as a relapse. Some hold the belief that since weed is legal, the use of weed doesn’t count as a relapse, however, if that were the case alcohol use wouldn’t count as a relapse either. Both weed and alcohol alter your mood and how your brain functions, so if you believe in abstinence, using weed is a relapse. If you do not believe that you need to be completely abstinent to be sober, then using weed may not mean you relapsed. In this case, your definition of sobriety will determine if the use of weed is a relapse or not. That being said, studies have shown that those who use weed, even once or twice, stay sober for less time. This means that even if you do not consider using weed a relapse, the odds are that it will eventually result in one.

Generally speaking, the majority of the recovery community views weed use as a relapse. If you have to argue with yourself and others to justify your use of any kind of drug, it probably means your use of said drug counts as a relapse. As a general rule of thumb, if you are unsure of whether or not you can or should use the drug, don’t use it. 

Stay Sober with Design for Recovery

If you are struggling to stay sober without weed, Design for Recovery can help you regain control over your life. Design for Recovery offers a structured, safe environment to become more secure in your sobriety. Residents work hard daily to develop new skills, values, and coping mechanisms for approaching life in early recovery. At Design for Recovery, we believe that addiction recovery involves more than just physically abstaining from substances — it involves building a new way of life. With the help of Design for Recovery’s sober living services, you can begin to develop skills that will help you stay sober long-term without weed.

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Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

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