Understanding the Dangers: Why Alcohol and Cannabis Edibles Don’t Mix

by | May 30, 2024 | Cannabis Safety

mixing cannabis and alcohol

Alcohol and cannabis are two of the most commonly consumed substances in social settings across America. Have you ever been in a situation where you were mixing marijuana consumption with alcohol? When you are with friends or family, it’s easy to partake in both. However, many people are unaware that combining alcohol and marijuana can lead to dangerous, potentially life-threatening interactions.

While some individuals choose to consume either alcohol or cannabis, social situations often present opportunities for using both, especially when impairments can cloud judgment. It is easy to lose track of how much alcohol or cannabis you may have consumed. People who suffer from alcohol abuse or substance abuse experience significant challenges.

A recent national survey revealed that daily marijuana use now surpasses daily alcohol consumption in the United States. However, many people are unaware that mixing alcohol and marijuana can lead to dangerous and potentially life-threatening interactions.

Risks of Combining Alcohol and Cannabis Edibles

Understanding the risks of mixing alcohol and cannabis edibles is crucial due to their unpredictable physical and psychoactive effects. Both substances are potent individually, but their combination can produce intensified and unexpected reactions.

If you consume alcohol before or after you have ingested THC, the effects are amplified. Clinical and experimental research indicates that alcohol accelerates the absorption of THC, the active component in cannabis, leading to heightened and rapid impact. This can cause “cross-fading,” where intense sensations from both substances are experienced simultaneously, which can be overwhelming.

A primary risk of mixing alcohol and cannabis edibles is the increased probability of severe drowsiness, dizziness, and impaired judgment. These effects can make routine tasks, such as walking or driving, extremely dangerous. Moreover, the combination can amplify feelings of anxiety, paranoia, and nausea, transforming a potentially enjoyable experience into a distressing one. Becoming overly impaired is uncomfortable and probably not the social experience most people want to enjoy.

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Interaction of Alcohol and Cannabis in the Body

Understanding how alcohol and cannabis interact in your body can guide safer consumption choices. Together, these substances can create a powerful combination, exceeding the effects they have individually. Particularly for people who have a low tolerance to alcohol or THC.

Alcohol, a depressant, slows the central nervous system, promoting relaxation and lowering inhibitions. Cannabis can act as a depressant or stimulant, affecting mood, perception, and cognition depending on the strain and dosage. Mixing alcohol and cannabis can alter tolerance levels, making you feel the effects of cannabis more rapidly and intensely than expected. This interaction can lead to “greening out,” characterized by nausea, dizziness, and anxiety.

Furthermore, alcohol impairs your ability to judge the potency and onset of cannabis edibles, which take longer to affect you compared to smoking. This delay might tempt you to consume more (because you may feel like it is “not working), resulting in an unexpectedly intense high. To mitigate these interactions, start with low doses and wait to see how each substance affects you before consuming more. The risks of consuming too much alcohol are real; in the U.S., six deaths occur daily from alcohol poisoning. Listen to your body, and be aware that you can experience a delayed onset of impairment. Keep consumption low and go slow to avoid problems.

Identifying Symptoms of Cross-Intoxication

Recognizing the symptoms of cross-intoxication from alcohol and cannabis is key to staying safe. Cross-intoxication happens when both substances are consumed together, leading to intense and unpredictable effects. Knowing the signs can help keep you safe. One early symptom is dizziness. Alcohol and cannabis can lower blood pressure and disrupt balance, causing lightheadedness or unsteadiness. Nausea or vomiting is another common sign, often due to the body’s difficulty processing both substances simultaneously.

Mental confusion is also significant. Cross-intoxication can severely impair cognitive functions, leading to disorientation, concentration difficulties, and poor decision-making. You might also experience heightened anxiety or paranoia, especially with high doses of THC, resulting in excessive worry or fear without a clear reason. Individuals with mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, should abstain from mixing cannabis and alcohol. For some, mixing weed and alcohol can cause psychedelic effects, including hallucinations, which can exacerbate symptoms.

Physical symptoms include sweating, tremors, and an increased heart rate, which can be alarming, but they are a common warning sign that your body is struggling. If you notice these symptoms, stop consuming, hydrate, and seek a calm environment or medical care if needed.

Setting Boundaries: Knowing Your Limits

Establishing personal limits and understanding your tolerance levels are crucial when mixing cannabis and alcohol. The reaction to these substances varies greatly, so knowing your limits can prevent unpleasant or dangerous experiences.

Start with small amounts of each substance. For alcohol, this might mean one drink. Cannabis, particularly edibles, begins with a low THC dose, as edibles take longer to take effect and last longer. Do not take more edibles if you are not feeling any effects. Always wait to feel the full impact before consuming more to avoid an overdose.

Understanding the Dangers Why Alcohol and Cannabis Edibles Don't Mix

Considering Cannabis-Infused Drinks

For those who enjoy cannabis but prefer drinking alcohol socially, cannabis-infused beverages could be an alternative. Many states, like California and Massachusetts, offer various cannabis beverage brands. However, these cannabis beverages do not contain both alcohol and weed; they are alcohol-free, relying on cannabinoids for the psychoactive effects.

As people have become more aware of the health risks associated with drinking alcohol and the potential for alcohol dependence, there is a growing demand for cannabis beverages. Cannabis beverages are only available in a few states, such as California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Florida (medicinal only), Maine, and Michigan.

If smoking marijuana does not appeal to you, and you are not a fan of cannabis edibles, cannabis-infused drinks may be a great option for you. Cannabis drinks, thus far, have not been shown to produce the same “hangover” effects that alcohol withdrawal can cause. And they eliminate the very real risk of alcohol poisoning if you consume drinks socially on a regular basis.

Timing and Dosage: Key Considerations

Smart consumption of alcohol and cannabis involves careful attention to timing and dosage to avoid unsafe interactions. Each substance has potent effects, which can intensify when combined, leading to unpredictable and potentially harmful outcomes. Avoid consuming both substances simultaneously. If you choose to use both, start with one and wait a few hours before consuming the other. This gives your body time to process the initial substance, allowing you to gauge its full effects before adding another. Start with low doses: one standard drink of alcohol and a small amount of cannabis. Edibles can take up to two hours to kick in, and their effects last longer than smoking. Patience is essential to avoid overconsumption.

Additionally, be aware that both alcohol and cannabis can interact negatively with certain prescription medications. The combination can increase side effects or reduce medication efficacy if you take anticoagulants or heart medications. Always consult your doctor before mixing these substances with your daily prescription medications.

The Importance of Reading Labels

Paying attention to labels helps you understand what you are consuming, allowing you to make informed decisions about dosages. Misjudging the strength of either substance can lead to overconsumption, increasing the risk of severe intoxication, nausea, anxiety, and impaired judgment. Some cannabis products also contain additives that interact with medications, exacerbating side effects.

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Staying Hydrated: The Role of Water

Staying hydrated is crucial when using alcohol or cannabis, as both substances can cause dehydration. Cannabis can lead to dry mouth and increased heart rate, contributing to dehydration. Alcohol, a diuretic, increases urine production, rapidly depleting bodily fluids. When consuming both, the risk of dehydration intensifies, causing headaches, dizziness, and dry mouth. Drinking plenty of water counteracts these effects, maintaining hydration and supporting bodily functions. Avoid caffeinated beverages, as they can make dehydration worse.

Drink water regularly throughout your session, and alternate between alcoholic drinks and water. Staying hydrated helps manage intoxication levels and enhances overall well-being, ensuring a safer and more comfortable experience.

Managing Adverse Effects

Recognizing the adverse effects of alcohol and cannabis is essential. Symptoms can include severe dizziness, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, paranoia, rapid heartbeat, confusion, or fainting. If you or someone else experiences these symptoms, immediate action is necessary.

Stay Calm and Find Safety

Panic can worsen symptoms. Find a calm, quiet space to sit or lie down. If you’re feeling anxious or paranoid, practice deep breathing to calm your mind. Remember, these effects are temporary and will pass. Some people share that taking a hot shower can help reduce some of the symptoms of intoxication and impairment. But be aware that the heat and humidity from a hot bath or shower can also make you feel more lightheaded and nauseous.

Seek Support and Avoid Further Consumption

Having someone by your side provides comfort and assistance. Call a trusted friend or family member to stay with you or check in periodically. If you are having symptoms that make you feel unsafe or alarmed, try to find someone to sit with you until the most severe symptoms pass. You can also contact the poison control hotline for guidance.

Monitor Symptoms and Seek Medical Help

If severe symptoms like vomiting, chest pain, or difficulty breathing occur, seek medical attention immediately. If you are taking prescription medications, the combination of alcohol and cannabis can cause adverse effects. Do not try to “wait it out” alone if you’re uncomfortable.

If symptoms are severe or persistent, contact a healthcare professional. Some effects can be life-threatening, as cannabis can reduce the efficacy of medications like blood thinners and anxiety medications. When you seek medical care, be honest about what and how much you have consumed; this information is crucial for medical personnel to provide appropriate support and treatment.


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