Cannabis and Health

28 February 2019

What Happens When you mix Cannabis With Alcohol?

Two of the most commonly used recreational substances in the world are alcohol and cannabis, but what happens when you mix them?

To create an elevated experience, some people like to enjoy mixing alcohol with their favourite cannabis strains to achieve a “higher-than-high” feeling. However, those who regularly smoke cannabis will testify that the effects of alcohol and cannabis when combined can certainly be unpleasant,

So, what are the specific effects of combining alcohol and marijuana and are they safe to mix? Before your experiments begin, it’s vital to understand the pitfalls and potential dangers of mixing alcohol with cannabis.

The art of ‘Crossfading’

The first thing to know is; not everyone responds to alcohol and cannabis in the same way, and it is important to understand the risks of combining the two. Both have impacts on the human body, and they are not necessarily complementary with bad reactions like nausea and vomiting, common side-effects.

Because alcohol affects how your body absorbs cannabinoids, such as THC, being “Crossfaded” (i.e. being stoned and drunk at the same time) feels different than being purely stoned or purely drunk. Scientists have long studied the phenomena of crossfading and found that when people drink alcohol first and then smoke cannabis, the levels of THC are higher than when the same amount of marijuana was consumed without having first consumed alcohol

Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that when mixing alcohol and cannabis, it can lead to “synergistic” effects you wouldn’t get consuming either substance alone. When combined alcohol and marijuana can produce different and unpredictable reactions or, the effects of one may be more potent than the other. And, when people consume the two at one time, they might start to notice they feel much more ‘under the influence’ than they would be otherwise.

Alcohol’s Inverse Effect on THC

THC derives from the cannabis plant and impacts certain parts of the brain, including the ones that are responsible for mood, perception of pain, and memory amongst others. Alcohol is a depressant, and its effects are due to its action on the central nervous system. While the effects of THC in both cannabis and alcohol are psychoactive, cannabis is undoubtedly considered far less addictive.

Drinking alcohol first, and then consuming cannabis opens up the blood vessels in our digestive system. It causes THC levels in the plasma to skyrocket, which increases our body’s ability to absorb THC much faster. So much so, some studies on THC and alcohol claim that our body will absorb THC two times faster, than if no alcohol had been consumed.

As such, this could potentially double the effects of the THC levels in our system if you consumed alcohol before smoking or consuming cannabis. Also, because the metabolism of alcohol is so slow, THC stays in the system longer than usual. This appears to be because the liver prioritizes the metabolism of alcohol in the system first, despite any other substances being consumed at the same time. The liver generally metabolizes one ounce of pure alcohol every hour. This means that until all alcohol consumed has been metabolized properly, other substances, such as THC, will remain relatively unchanged; thus, the effects of THC will continue to accrue.

While all this may seem pretty extraordinary, you should note that not only highs but lows are also amplified when consuming these two substances. Investigative research on mixing cannabis and cannabis products with alcohol is not well developed. However, the frequency of looking at the significant risks of polysubstance abuse will evolve as research continues.

What are the Risks of Mixing Cannabis and Alcohol?

Impaired judgment

The effects of alcohol and cannabis can affect cognitive function, but certainly, too much of the two combined can cause irrational thinking. When you mix marijuana and alcohol, the synergistic effects of these drugs combined may cause one to act impulsively, make poor decisions, or engage in behaviours that can lead to unsafe and dangerous situations. Indeed, the effects of mixing alcohol and cannabis over a more extended period can even lead to mental health disorders like anxiety and depression.

Increased Dehydration

Alcohol has a diuretic effect on the body, which causes water loss in the body. Many factors may influence this, but obviously, people who engage in binge drinking will urinate more frequently. Drinking and smoking together can lead to dry mouth, headaches, and dizziness. Failure to replenish water lost can and will lead to dehydration. (i.e. a more severe hangover or worse)

Intensified Symptoms

The effects of mixing alcohol with any substance has the potential to strengthen the side effects of either substance involved. In the case of alcohol and cannabis, people can suffer from symptoms, including tremors or shaking, breathing problems, anxiety, excessive paranoia, and sleepiness amongst others.

Elimination Issues

Although cannabis has many antiemetic (prevention of vomiting) benefits, it may be the reason one might find difficulty in vomiting. Severe alcohol intoxication typically causes vomiting — the body’s first line of defence. However, the disruption in one’s ability to purge excess alcohol from the body can lead to a dangerously high risk of alcohol poisoning.

Greening Out

If you´ve ever smoked marijuana after a night of binge drinking, you´ll know the potential for a “Green Out” (we call it a “whitie” in Scotland on account of the colour in your face disappearing). The term ‘greening out’ refers to what happens when one goes overboard with consuming an alcohol and cannabis combination.

While drinking and smoking may seem like a budget way to stretch your cannabis high, the physical manifestations of greening out are sickly. During a green out, one may experience dizziness, excessive sweating, the spins, or nausea and vomiting. As such, apply your common sense and go slow!

Cannabis can Help With Substance Abuse

For people suffering from alcohol addiction or substance abuse, achieving total abstinence can prove to be extremely difficult. Alcoholism includes a host of discomforting withdrawal symptoms, including increased blood pressure, hallucinations, and seizures amongst a variety of others. To curb drug and alcohol addiction, it’s commonplace for doctors to prescribe drug addicts or patients undergoing addiction treatment drugs such as benzodiazepines; however, they also pose many dangers and side-effects.

On the other hand, there is some evidence that cannabis could offer potential as an addiction treatment and might be helpful for those struggling with alcohol abuse and or substance use disorders.

While some theories suggest that cannabis is a “trigger” and increases the risk of relapsing, this idea seems to be flawed. Studies have shown that cannabis use has proved immensely useful at providing relief from withdrawal symptoms and emotional ailments caused by alcohol addiction (which is the main reason for relapse) — all without an increased risk of withdrawal and addiction symptoms.

Summing it up, is it safe?

Plenty of cannabis users consume both cannabis and alcohol at the same time, and there are undoubtedly safe ways to do that. Having some common sense and knowing your limitations is vital. While drinking and smoking can be a highly enjoyable experience individually, there are certain risks of combining alcohol with cannabis, particularly if you are drinking spirits or binge drinking and consuming cannabis strains with high levels of THC

It is important to remember that while THC and alcohol are safe to mix in small doses, regularly combining marijuana and drinking alcohol may be linked to a decline in cognitive function and increases the risk of dependence. While it might seem harmless and fun, there are certain dangers and bad reactions when combining the two, particularly if this practice is repeated over a prolonged period.

While a bad reaction to mixing weed and alcohol will usually pass within a few hours, it can be difficult to determine if you’ve suffered a green-out, or something more serious like alcohol poisoning, which can be life-threatening if not treated.

As such, it is important to consider all of these factors before mixing alcohol and cannabis or cannabis products.

Post author
Mell Green
Mell Green is an enthusiast of all things cannabis and writes content that represents some of the best things that we as a people can strive for: good health and happiness.
See more from Mell Green

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