drink smoke in recovery

Sober vs Recovery: Can I Drink or Smoke Pot in Recovery?

Sober vs. Recovery: Can I Drink or Smoke Pot in Recovery?

The road to recovery is different for everyone who struggles with a substance abuse disorder. Whether the battle is with alcohol or drugs, one commonality is that working through recovery and maintaining sobriety isn’t easy. Throughout treatment and recovery, patients often weigh the consequences of being sober vs. recovery. For some, questioning if it’s ok to drink or smoke pot in recovery is a slippery slope.

Statistics show between 40 and 60 percent (1) of people who receive treatment for alcohol addiction relapse within one year. Many people who complete treatment for alcoholism know that for them, “one glass of wine or a casual beer” doesn’t exist. For others along the recovery spectrum, the idea of occasionally sipping a cocktail or using medical marijuana as a tool to treat pain, anxiety, depression, or other illnesses, doesn’t incite a sense of panic (2). The very thought of falling back into the whirlwind of drug or alcohol use and the subsequent bad decisions is what keeps many substance abusers from taking one too many sips.

Another challenge to consider for so many who seek treatment for substance abuse is the complication of dual diagnosis. Many people seeking recovery for drugs or alcohol also battle with mental health conditions, like depression or anxiety. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.2 million U.S. adults experienced both mental illness and a substance use disorder in 2018. (3)

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How Dual Diagnosis Affects Sober vs. Recovery

Nearly one-third of people with major depression also suffer from alcohol use disorder. (4) For those individuals, recovery comes in different forms. There’s a successful separation from alcohol abuse, as well as the phycological treatment needed to lessen the symptoms of depression. For these patients, the risk of smoking pot or having a drink will not only put their sobriety in jeopardy but could also cause a negative mental relapse. People who are depressed and drink too much have more frequent and severe episodes of depression. (5) Dual diagnosis patients deal with a higher risk of destructive behavior if they risk sobriety for just one drink or an occasional marijuana high.

Another circumstance that makes it difficult for those battling a substance use disorder is relationships. Trying to keep relationships with friends made before completing recovery may entail social drinking or recreational use of marijuana. It may be difficult for patients in recovery to let go of those past relationships. However, when battling sober vs. recovery, success may mean cutting ties with those who leave you susceptible to destructive drinking or drug use.

Can I Drink Socially After or During Recovery?

The short answer to this question for many is maybe. For the majority in drug treatment or alcohol recovery, the risk of relapse isn’t worth an attempt at casual use. However, some patients find comfort in using medical marijuana for symptoms associated with pain, a severe illness, anxiety, or other health conditions. For others, having a few sips of wine throughout dinner or a party isn’t necessarily a one-way track to relapse.

People often turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism for an unresolved issue. Whether it’s stress at work, a failed relationship, financial problems, or another major hurdle, substance abuse becomes a crutch to mask the pain caused by life’s challenges. When patients are successful at dealing with these underlying issues and come to understand that drinking and drugs aren’t solutions, they’re more capable of having a drink or, on occasion, smoking pot without a relapse.

It’s important to note the difference between being sober and abstinent when it comes to substance use. Patients who aren’t tempted to drink or use to the point of drunkenness or insobriety may find they can sip alcohol or infrequently smoke marijuana without any complications to their sobriety. For those that know they cannot manage this, they need to maintain 100% abstinence from drugs and alcohol.

Recovery Treatment Center Scottsdale, AZ

The debate of whether it’s ok to sip or smoke during recovery is a controversial one and should involve a thorough discussion with a substance abuse expert. Recovery specialists can help you overcome the physical cravings for drugs and alcohol, but mental support will allow you to discover what makes you depend on these substances as a solution in the first place.

Before taking on the sober vs. recovery debate, decide to ensure your health and mental state are a priority. The opportunities for rehabilitation are plentiful at Desert Cove Recovery in Scottsdale, Arizona. Explore your options for a 12-step program, holistic treatment, extended care, and more. Each recovery program is customized to the patient, so you’re sure to embark on a treatment plan specifically tailored to your needs. Contact the experienced staff at Desert Cove Recovery to learn more about how your path to recovery can begin today.



(1) https://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2017-04-24/why-do-alcoholics-and-addicts-relapse-so-often
(2) https://www.thefix.com/marijuana-sober
(3) https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/cbhsq-reports/NSDUHNationalFindingsReport2018/NSDUHNationalFindingsReport2018.pdf
(4) https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/alcohol-and-depresssion#1
(5) https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/alcohol-and-depresssion#1