Forget Dry January—Here’s How To Do A *High* January

Photo by Shutterstock

Sticking to resolutions is never easy, especially when you include giving up alcohol on that list. The idea of refraining from alcohol in the New Year isn’t a new concept, but it’s gaining popularity with recent movements like Dry January. With the growing acceptance and legalization of cannabis, the concept now has a new spin: introducing High January.

Whatever you call it, swapping out alcohol for cannabis can have a lot of benefits, even if your High January is more of a temporary reset. Hitting the pause button on drinking alcohol can save you from side effects like anger, aggression, or blackouts, says Jessie Gill, a cannabis nurse and founder of Marijuana Mommy. Unlike alcohol, which is responsible for over 80,000 overdose deaths each year in the US alone, no one can die from a cannabis overdose, Gill points out.

“A 2015 comparative risk analysis showed alcohol is 114 times deadlier than cannabis,” says Gill, “Alcohol is far more detrimental to brain tissue than cannabis when examining long-term use.”

Not only can cannabis in all its shapes and applications supply long-term relief from a long list of physical and mental health issues, it may keep you from wanting to drink alcohol. Addiction recovery programs are even beginning to use cannabis as a treatment choice, combined with other therapies. Of course, it’s important to be realistic about your cannabis use, because simply adding it to your routine won’t magically replace your need for alcohol.

"Addiction recovery programs are even beginning to use cannabis as a treatment choice, combined with other therapies."

To make the transition into your new California Sober lifestyle, begin with what you’re familiar with. If it’s been awhile, or you’re a new smoker, there are many high-CBD pre-rolls that will ease you into the experience. If you’re a seasoned smoker, now is a good time to experiment with reducing the concentration or frequency of your use.

Using too much cannabis can lead to a higher tolerance, so now may be a time to focus more on CBD products. Another way to challenge your tolerance during High January is to try a different varietal than your usual or change the method of consumption. If you’ve never tried a tincture, or are resistant to the idea of an edible, maybe now is the time to reconsider.

Experimenting and practicing patience are important steps in finding the “sweet spot,” or the perfect dose and varietal that allows for maximum benefit. Depending on your intention, that sweet spot can be at a much lower concentration than you’ve actually been using. Liv Vasquez, cannabis chef and educator, says that it took a lot of notetaking and experimenting before she found what works.

“Finding the right dose, flower, method to consume can be like going on a food tolerance elimination diet, only a little more fun,” says Vasquez, “I don't want to consume too much and feel intoxicated, but I do want symptom relief to get work done.”

When you accentuate terpenes (the fragrant compounds of the plant that contain many beneficial properties) during your cannabis consumption, the experience heightened. Terpenes like limonene and caryophyllene help brighten moods and fight depression, which are common reasons people drink alcohol in the first place.

“Finding the right dose, flower, method to consume can be like going on a food tolerance elimination diet, only a little more fun."

Vasquez says she burns pinene or terpinolene in an oil diffuser to increase motivation during her cannabis use. She says she’ll consume a low THC/high CBD strain and balance it out with a CBD coffee or tea. Use the more energizing varietal and cannabis products to replace your boozy brunch beverages, and you’ll leave your meal ready for the day, instead of ready for a nap and a cry.

“CBD is stimulating for me, so I take it throughout the day when I am in high stress mode prepping for events or finishing a writing deadline,” says Vasquez.

If you aren’t looking for motivation, cannabis can also relieve anxiety and depression, which are also common reasons people turn to alcohol. While you may think you need a higher dose of THC, a Washington State University study found that lower THC and higher CBD strains were the best for combating depression. Additionally, CBD can help those who use alcohol to lessen the anxiety of social situations, as it has been shown in studies to reduce symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder.

Before going out for the night, try starting with a 2.5mg THC gummy or lozenge to loosen your inhibitions a bit. If you’re attached to the ritual of holding and drinking in social situations, “mocktails” can help with the transition. Mocktails can be made using your favorite CBD or THC tincture or oil too—simply add a few drops to your beverage, and you won’t have to worry about a hangover.

To continue staying Cali sober post-January, look for ways to add cannabis to other parts of your life. If part of your night-time routine, for example, is drinking a glass of wine, try using a THC-infused bath bomb and smoke a high-CBD pre-roll instead. Vasquez suggests training your brain with routines like drinking sleepy-time tea when you use CBD or cannabis, which helps get you in the practice of replacing alcohol when you want to wind down.

"Showing your friends and loved ones that cannabis isn’t something to be afraid of, and that you can consume it without intoxication, makes it easier to make the transition into a life without alcohol."

“Research has shown that CBD is stimulating to the brain but some people who deal with extreme anxiety or pain can feel really relaxed with CBD because they are finally experiencing relief and can finally relax,” says Vasquez, noting that doing this will result in a more restful sleep and have energy and motivation the next day.

If you’re someone who drinks wine or beer during dinner, try experimenting with infused cuisine. Books like The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook: Feel-Good Food for Home Cooks offer an accessible way for you to introduce the plant into your entertaining plans, making it easier to alleviate the social awkwardness of attending a dinner party totally sober. Vasquez even partnered with Bushl to offer a “Dinner Party in a Box”, which includes a selection of ethical CBD food products for you and guests to sample.

Showing your friends and loved ones that cannabis isn’t something to be afraid of, and that you can consume without intoxication, makes it easier to make the transition into a life without alcohol. Vasquez makes her dining events educational, and she makes the cuisine personal to the guests’ age and experience. Elevating food in this way makes people more mindful of what they’re consuming, which in turn leads to healthier decisions.

“My whole career is basically educating about microdosing to have a better time with edibles and avoid getting overly intoxicated.”

Naturally, everyone reacts to cannabis in a different way, so it’s important to have contingency plans in place when you have a product of flower varietal that doesn’t work with your body. Certain doses in certain people can lead to paranoia or anxiety, if not done correctly. Start low and go slow and have plenty of CBD on hand to combat any negative effects of too much THC.

And remember, you can have a High January any month of the year, and it can only ever be a good thing. This is especially the case she says, in the instance where one's relationship with alcohol has become abusive, unhealthy, or based on binging, says Joanna Matson, Ayurveda Wellness Counselor and founder and CEO of Canna-Veda Counseling and ZVEDA Botanicals.

“Cannabis can open the mind to new perspectives, and it can assist in the release of darker emotions, often inflated with the consumption of alcohol. Instead of potentially harming one's liver with the excessive use of alcohol, once can beneficially balance and regulate their endocannabinoid system,” says Matson.

Above all, it’s not about what you ingest, but how and why—and that’s gonna determine your experience. Be smart, consume your cannabis consciously, and Godspeed.

Diana-Ashley Krach is a full-time freelance writer, author, and journalist, writing for Cosmopolitan, XOJane, Playboy, and more.