smoking weed and drinking beer

The Dangers Of Mixing Alcohol With Marijuana

Mixing alcohol and marijuana increases a person’s risk of drunk driving, injury, and overdose. Those who are looking for a way to relax can discover safer alternatives in a customized addiction treatment program.

  • Should You Mix Alcohol And Marijuana?
  • Consequences Of Mixing Alcohol With Marijuana
  • Effects Of Mixing Alcohol And Marijuana
  • Help For Alcohol And Marijuana Abuse

Marijuana is the number one drug used by people who drink alcohol. When people want a way to unwind, they may smoke marijuana and drink at the same time. For many people, smoking marijuana while drinking seems like a safe way to increase the effects of both drugs.

While people may consider it harmless to combine the drugs, these two substances can actually lead to severe health consequences. The most life-threatening risk is alcohol overdose: mixing alcohol with marijuana has been shown to greatly increase the amount of alcohol a person ingests. While you can’t necessarily overdose on marijuana, an alcohol overdose can lead to death.

Combining these two drugs also heightens a person’s chance of drunk driving, injury, and legal or social problems. Fortunately, Vertava Health offers rehab programs to help those who need to stop using alcohol and marijuana.

Should You Mix Alcohol And Marijuana?

No — according to research studies. While moderate amounts of alcohol are not usually a health risk, combining alcohol with other drugs can make even small amounts of the drug dangerous.

If alcohol is mixed with marijuana, it can result in side effects that range from uncomfortable to life-threatening.

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Marijuana comes from the cannabis plant. While this drug has been shown to have therapeutic properties, it’s important to remember that everyone reacts to cannabis differently.

Depending on the type and strain, people may experience side effects like paranoia, euphoria, nausea, fatigue, or loss of coordination. The population most likely to mix alcohol and marijuana are teen or college-aged males.

Consequences Of Mixing Alcohol With Marijuana

When used in moderation, alcohol and marijuana are not considered deadly. However, people who use these drugs at the same time have been known to drink or smoke more than they intended to. This can trigger risky consequences, including alcohol overdose.

One study found that people who drink alcohol and smoke marijuana separately had a much lower risk of driving accidents, compared to those who used the substances together. Those who used the two substances simultaneously also reported higher instances of academic problems.

Alcohol and marijuana can both contribute to increased symptoms of depression. Combining these drugs can be especially dangerous for people who already struggle with low mood or depressive thought patterns.

Mixing alcohol with marijuana has also been shown to increase a person’s risk of alcohol dependence. People who smoke marijuana and drink have heavier drinking patterns and higher rates of alcohol addiction, compared to people who only use alcohol.

Effects Of Mixing Alcohol And Marijuana

Both alcohol and marijuana have a lengthy list of side effects. Alcohol interacts with the central nervous system and can cause people to lose physical control of their body. Marijuana affects cannabinoid receptors brain and can lead to fatigue, memory issues, and increased appetite.

Additional side effects of alcohol and marijuana include:

  • speech problems
  • anxiety
  • relaxed muscles
  • tremors
  • altered sense of time
  • trouble forming thoughts
  • problems with body movements
  • memory issues
  • sense of well-being
  • change in mood
  • depression
  • increase in risky behavior

Combining the two drugs can amplify the side effects of each substance. Some people may also experience a quicker onset of the drugs’ side effects.

Mixing alcohol and marijuana can lead to more significant health impacts that include:

Increased Levels Of THC In Blood

THC is the active ingredient in marijuana. If a person smokes marijuana and then ingests alcohol, it can result in higher levels of THC in the bloodstream. This is due to the way that the substances interact with the systems of the body.

This reaction can result in higher levels of impairment, especially when it comes to the ability to drive. Mixing alcohol and marijuana has also been shown to increase a person’s heart rate. This physiological response can also trigger mental symptoms, such as feelings of panic or anxiety.

Unpredictable Reactions

Oftentimes, people are unaware of how they will react to different strains of marijuana. This can lead to accidentally smoking a type that induces extreme paranoia.

People who combine alcohol and marijuana may also find themselves in a more altered state than they intended. This can lead a person to make risky decisions or be put in unsafe situations.

Additionally, some people experience a group of symptoms known as “greening out” when they smoke marijuana. Symptoms include nausea, dizziness, and sweating. This condition is more likely to occur when alcohol and marijuana are mixed together.

Alcohol Overdose

When a person has too much alcohol in their bloodstream, certain areas of the brain may not be able to properly function. This is called an alcohol overdose and can impact a person’s breathing, heart rate, and temperature regulation.

Symptoms of alcohol overdose include confusion, unconsciousness, trouble breathing, seizure, and clammy skin. Alcohol overdose is more likely to happen when alcohol is combined with other drugs, including marijuana.

Using alcohol and marijuana together can lead a person to accidentally drink too much. If you see someone experiencing signs of an alcohol overdose, call 911 immediately.

Getting Help For Alcohol And Marijuana Abuse

Mixing alcohol with marijuana may seem harmless, but for many people, it becomes a problem they don’t know how to control. Fortunately, Vertava Health provide personalized treatment programs for those who need help getting off alcohol and marijuana.

Our treatment facilities center around a comprehensive care model, which includes both traditional and alternative therapies. Patients who attend our treatment centers benefit from services including medical detoxification, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), group counseling, and wilderness therapy sessions.

Each of these tracks is designed to not only help people recover from addiction, but to learn new ways to relax and enjoy life.

People who struggle with anxiety or depression may have been using alcohol and marijuana to mask negative feelings. In Vertava Health’ rehab programs, patients find healing in treatment that is specially designed for co-occurring disorders. These specialized therapies may include mindfulness and stress-management techniques, which are proven to boost mood and energy levels.

To learn more about the dangers of mixing alcohol with marijuana, or to find a treatment center for you or your loved one, reach out to one of our specialists today.

Written by Vertava Health Editorial Team

© 2020 All rights reserved.

This page does not provide medical advice.


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Mixing alcohol and marijuana increases a person’s risk of injury and overdose. Find addiction help in a customized addiction treatment program.

What Mixing Weed and Alcohol Does to Your Mind

I rarely mix weed and alcohol—otherwise, I become more silent than a hermit crab floating in space.

But pursuing the high that results from combining the two drugs—known as a “crossfade”—isn’t uncommon. Researchers, however, are still delving into the science behind this blissed-out state of mind—and why so many people seek it out.

Let’s start with what you probably already know: Alcohol is a depressant, but in low doses it causes emotional release and lowers inhibitions. Marijuana is also known for its relaxing qualities, but can produce very different results depending on how much and what strain of it you smoke. So what happens when you mix them together?

The first thing to know: “Not everyone responds to alcohol and marijuana the same [way],” says Scott Lukas, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Harvard Medical School. Lukas would know: He’s now done two studies in which he got people high and observed their reactions.

One study looked at how smoking weed affects the absorption of alcohol, and the other looked at how drinking alcohol affects the absorption of THC. Smoking cannabis, he found, activates your body’s cannabinoid 2 receptors (CB2), which can affect how quickly your body absorbs alcohol.

“Marijuana does a unique thing to your small intestine that alters the motility [the way things move through your intestines] of your GI tract in such a way that it causes your blood alcohol levels to actually be lower than…if you had just consumed alcohol by itself,” Lukas says.

But in the second study, Lukas found that alcohol actually has the inverse effect on THC: If you drink first and then smoke, it causes the levels of THC in your plasma to skyrocket, intensifying your high. That’s because alcohol opens up blood vessels in your digestive system, which helps THC get absorbed—a finding confirmed in a more recent study done in 2015.

As most recreational marijuana users can attest, however, there are limits to this feel-good effect: Drink too much before you smoke, and you run the risk of “greening out”—a nauseous sensation that kicks in when you feel sick and overwhelmed after getting too high. (Trust me, it’s no fun.)

“Individuals may go pale and sweaty, feel dizzy with ‘the spins,’ nauseous, and may even start vomiting. This is often followed by the need or strong desire to lie down,” wrote Constance Scharff, an addiction specialist in California, in a column for Psychology Today.

More modern methods of ingesting THC—like dabbing, vaping, or eating cannabis—could further exacerbate this risk, but Lukas hasn’t had a chance to study them yet. He notes, however, that the THC levels now commonly found in cannabis and cannabis products greatly exceed the amounts he used in his studies.

Using common sense will go a long way: Lukas says there aren’t many side effects that come from mixing the two drugs that won’t also be true if you do them independently. Just be careful not to overdo it, and always err on the side of caution.

“If you’re sitting alone in your bedroom,” he says, “and you’ve got pillows all around you, and you’re well hydrated, and the bed’s not too far off the ground, the risk is low.”

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Researchers now understand the science behind the crossfade.