Weed and Alcohol: What Happens when the two Mix?
Many partake in it, but it doesn't come without consequences.
It’s unsurprising that cannabis and alcohol are two of the most commonly used substances. Both share the outcome of relaxation when used individually, but they're often consumed together. Combining the two substances is a common act called ‘crossfading.’ Although crossfading may not cause any major health concerns (in most cases), there are still potential harmful effects that can occur from person to person.
Drinking before Smoking
Thanks to the psychoactive ingredient in weed, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), drinking alcohol before smoking marijuana can greatly increase the intensity of a person’s high. For those who are used to smoking, it may not bother them. However, for others, it can be very uncomfortable and cause a ‘green out.’ A green out occurs when someone feels sick after smoking too much weed. Symptoms of a green out include (but are not limited to):
Joseph R. Volpicelli, medical director of the Volpicelli Center, (an addiction treatment facility in Pennsylvania) states that no matter the type of alcohol, it will still increase the absorption of THC in cannabis products by priming liver enzymes. Unfortunately, THC affects not only the liver but also other body parts. “Alcohol relaxes smooth muscle, so the arteries relax, which increases blood flow to many parts of the body. When you inhale marijuana, it crosses the barrier between the lung and the blood vessels,” Volpicelli explains. “Because there’s more blood flowing to the lungs, marijuana gets absorbed faster and more efficiently.”
Smoking before Drinking
THC affects how alcohol is metabolized as well. Inhaling cannabis before drinking causes the alcohol to be pulled from our GI tract at a slower rate than normal. Consequently, this causes a delayed effect from alcohol. This then affects the brain because our decision-making is impaired from the combination of the two. Therefore, the best advice for someone in this situation is that if a person does smoke weed first, they should probably drink less than they normally would.
While both are not likely to cause severe long-term damage, cannabis and alcohol still have some short-term consequences that we need to be cautious of.
Diuretic: Drinking alcohol is known to cause dehydration due to frequent urination. Even though smoking isn’t specifically a diuretic, it can still contribute to the problem. This occurs especially in situations when a person experiences symptoms of nausea and vomiting.
Toxicity: Because consuming weed before alcohol can cause a delayed effect, someone may forget the number of drinks they took. This can lead to over-consuming alcohol, which then leads to toxicity. Thus, it’s crucial to monitor how many drinks are being consumed.
Temporary memory impairment: Occasional smoking can cause a temporary impairment in the brain. On the contrary, the chance of impairment is decreased when chronic smokers build tolerance over time. Be cautious when adding alcohol into the mix, though. Consumption of both cannabis and alcohol can cause stronger impairments to return.
Reduced Cognitive Function: Consumption of marijuana and alcohol can result in decreased attention span, poor memory, and lower IQ (especially in those whose brains are still developing).
Alcohol Dependency: While smoking weed is a direct factor of alcoholism, smoking can cause alcoholism indirectly. Someone can become dependent on drinking because of the delayed reaction in impairment. Alcohol then can cause liver damage, kidney damage, heart problems, and cognitive impairments.
Cannabis Dependency: Smoking over a long period can increase the risk of lung damage. According to the American Lung Association, cannabis smokers are at a greater risk of tar exposure because they inhale deeply and tend to hold their breath longer than cigarette smokers.
So is it Safe to Smoke and Drink Simultaneously?
Generally, yes—it is safe to combine cannabis and alcohol. However, alleviating the symptoms of these products requires time. Remember that even the tiniest differences, such as the order in which we consume them, can dramatically change our experience under the influence. Be safe by taking precautions and starting small.