What To Expect When Combining Alcohol And Cannabis

These two drugs are some of the most widely used in the country.

Photos: Adam Wilson via Unsplash; msqrd2 via Pixabay

Cannabis and alcohol are two of the most widely-used drugs in the U.S. and around the world. According to a 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 86.4 percent of Americans age 18 or older have reported drinking alcohol at some point in their life, whereas 56 percent reported drinking in the past month. According to a United Nations report though, 158.8 million people consume cannabis worldwide, which is about 3.8 percent of the world’s population. Some people consume only alcohol and others consume only cannabis. However, there’s a large demographic who consume both substances. What’s the outcome of mixing these two substances though, and what should individuals expect afterwards?

Reasons for Mixing Cannabis & Alcohol

Most of us have probably heard the saying, “Everything in moderation”, which can apply to both alcohol and cannabis. Everyone has their limits, and we all respond differently to substances. Although it’s common to consume either alcohol or cannabis, a large demographic of people prefer both toking and drinking alcohol.

In addition, there are many reasons why alcohol and cannabis are consumed together. Some people prefer to combine these substances to feel less anxiety and/or pressure at social functions, or they may be interested in feeling a euphoric sense of tingly bliss. There are also people who want to hold uplifted and interesting conversations, which may not occur from just alcohol consumption alone. But what impact do cannabis and alcohol have on the body and mind?

Aftermath of Mixing Cannabis & Alcohol

Cannabis and alcohol deliver their own unique effects, but the combination of these substances can have a significant mental and physical impact. For example, alcohol consumption may increase THC concentration in one’s blood. In other words, alcohol might be able to increase the potency effects of cannabis. Then, Scott Lukas, a Harvard professor and researcher found some interesting discoveries in 2001 regarding the combination of alcohol and cannabis. Specifically, when ganja and alcohol are combined, it was discovered that ethanol in alcohol might enhance the human body’s capability to absorb THC.

Furthermore, Scott Lukas stated the following regarding the combination of these drugs, “For many drug combinations, when subjects consumed ethanol, they detected marijuana effects more quickly, reported more episodes of euphoria, and had higher plasma THC levels than when they consumed placebo ethanol.” If you decide to mix wine or beer with ganja, know that you’ll most likely experience stronger effects from smaller quantities of the herb.

Sedative Effects

On a similar note, since alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it often leads to sedative effects while acting as less of an ‘upper’ or stimulator and more like a downer, whereas with cannabis, it’s a completely different ball game. For example, cannabis strains high in THC can incite stimulation, energy, and possible anxiety, while consuming relatively small doses of cannabis that contain little THC and more CBD can result in sedative effects. On its own, cannabidiol (CBD) delivers physically relaxing effects to users (some would even say a “sedative” effect).

In addition, it was discovered that THC inspires the secretion of melatonin, which is the neurotransmitter that’s responsible for helping individuals feel tired and proceed to fall asleep. If cannabis and alcohol are combined, expect the sedative effects of these substances to become stronger. Also, keep in mind that sedation often comes with fatigue, sluggish-behavior, and motor coordination difficulties.

Dizziness, Vertigo, and The Spins

Generally, when cannabis and alcohol are mixed, it can cause dizziness, vertigo, and sometimes nausea. Millennials and adults may be familiar with ‘the spins’, which is one key side effect that occurs after consuming alcohol and cannabis. If too much of this mixture is ingested, it can result in nausea and vomiting. What may surprise some people is that cannabis can make it harder to vomit. This is because THC and CBD contain anti-emetic and anti-nausea properties. Since alcohol is a toxin, vomiting works to clear out excess alcohol from the body thus protecting the liver and preventing alcohol poisoning.

Because cannabis can suppress vomiting and reduce nausea, individuals may be able to tolerate alcohol better. However, cannabis could put individuals at a greater risk of developing alcohol poisoning if they need to vomit but cannot due to cannabis’s anti-emetic properties.

Impacted Absorption Rate

Lastly, cannabis has an impact on how fast the body absorbs alcohol. One 1992 study conducted by Scott Lukas found that alcohol enhances the body’s THC metabolism. Thus, cannabis could slow down the body’s ability to absorb alcohol.

Not only is cannabis complex, but it can also change the way humans digest different foods. Specifically, cannabis can slow down the transportation of food via the body’s intestinal tract. This slowed digestion rate means that the alcohol that’s consumed will get released into the body’s bloodstream gradually and over a lengthy period of time. When cannabis is present, it could result in a slower rise in the body’s blood alcohol level thus preventing individuals from feeling significantly drunk too quickly.

Overall, although cannabis contains numerous medicinal benefits, when it’s mixed with alcohol, it can cause unenjoyable effects, especially when consumed in large quantities. If you still want to combine these substances though, it’s suggested to start off small, go at a gradual pace, and be aware of the potential side effects that could occur.

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