It’s an age-old question—what exactly happens when alcohol and cannabis are combined within the body. This combination, which is also referred to as “crossfading” won’t likely end up in major health issues, but it can have some effects which are less than pleasant, depending on when and how each substance is consumed in relation to the other.
It’s also important to remember that all substances—alcohol and cannabis included—affect different people in different ways. That’s why it would be impossible to state exactly what the combination of cannabis and alcohol would do to any given person. But, let’s dive into the possibilities of what could occur when these two forces join.
Drinking alcohol before ingesting cannabis
If you partake in an alcoholic beverage (or several) before you ingest cannabis, the cannabis’ effects will likely be intensified. This takes place because alcohol will increase the body’s absorption of the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC. While some people might appreciate a more intensified high, for others it can cause an unpleasant reaction known as a green out. You’ll know if you are experiencing a green out if you suffer from any of the following symptoms:
Due to the common occurrence of a “green out,” individuals who are sensitive to or newer to cannabis use may want to steer clear of consuming alcohol alongside cannabis.
Using cannabis before consuming alcohol
There are not a ton of studies that explore the effects of consuming cannabis prior to alcohol, but there are some people who suggest that cannabis may slow alcohol’s absorption into the body. This could also mean that it may take longer for individuals to feel drunk when indulging in alcohol. This could be a problem when determining just how much alcohol you’ve had and making judgments based on an incorrect assumption. For those who choose to imbibe in cannabis before drinking alcohol, it may be wise to assume that you’ve had a couple more drinks than you may feel that you’ve had, to stay on the safer side.
Risks involved with combining cannabis and alcohol
Given the lack of a large body of research on the topic, it is hard to say decisively what the risks around combining alcohol and cannabis truly are. However, there is enough to suggest that there are definitely some concerns, including:
- A higher risk of becoming dependent on both substances
- Impaired driving
- Lowered cognitive function
Factors to consider
Before making the decision to combine alcohol and cannabis, there are a few things that you may want to keep in mind. These include your personal tolerance of both cannabis and alcohol, how strong the alcohol that you plan to consume is, which method you plan to consume the cannabis via, and the time you plan to take in between consumption of each substance. In addition, other factors like medications and other substances, like caffeine or tobacco, can also play a role in how your body reacts to the combination of alcohol and cannabis.
To play it safe, it is wise to avoid mixing cannabis and alcohol altogether. But, if you choose to combine the two substances, it is advised to take things slow and make sure to keep careful track of how much of each substance you have consumed. Recall that you may feel either more intoxicated or less intoxicated than you would if you were just using one of the two substances and act accordingly. And, of course, if you decide to consume either alcohol or cannabis (alone or together), and you are also on medication, please consult with a medical professional first to determine what additional side effects you may need to be aware of.
What to do if you have a bad reaction
If you’ve decided to indulge in beer, wine, or liquor, and cannabis simultaneously and you have a bad reaction (also known as a green out), here are a few tips to help you cope:
- Sit down or lie down, particularly if you are feeling dizzy
- Try to remain calm. Even though it may be unpleasant to feel this way, it is temporary and it will pass with time.
- Drink or eat something to aid with the dizziness and increase your blood sugar.
- Remain hydrated, especially since alcohol and cannabis can both lead to dehydration.
Even though a green out can be very unpleasant, it is distinctly different from alcohol poisoning, which can have symptoms like seizures, confusion, uneven or slow breathing, and unconsciousness. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention right away.
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