Alcohol and Marijuana: How do They Interact With Each Other?

Contributor: Baxter Ekern, MBA, Vice President of Addiction Hope

In the United States, marijuana is now legal for medical use in 23 states, and it is legal for recreational use in Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Colorado. Alcohol is legal virtually everywhere. So, what is so bad about smoking pot and drinking alcohol at the same time which is also called “cross fading”?

After all, as long as you are in Washington, Oregon, Alaska or Colorado, it is all legal, right? Just because it may be legal does not mean that it is safe or wise to mix these two drugs. In fact, it can be a dangerous combination.

Intensifying the Effects of Each Drug

The reason for most polydrug use (using more than one drug at a time) is to intensify the high of one drug or the other. The mixing of alcohol and pot can create a high that is unique to being only drunk or stoned. There is evidence that suggests that alcohol in the blood stream will increase the absorption of THC, which is the active chemical in marijuana [1].

However, this can be risky because the side effects of mixing two drugs, legal or not, can be unpredictable.

The Adverse Effects Are Stronger

When mixing alcohol and marijuana, the likelihood of adverse physical and psychological side effects occurring increase. Physically, a person can experience “greening out” which is when a person begins to feel sick, becomes dizzy, nauseous, or sweaty due to smoking pot.

The psychological adversities can include paranoia, panic attacks, and intense anxiety.

The Direct and Indirect Consequences

note-376397_640These side effects are bad enough, but there can be more serious consequences. Some studies show that the THC in marijuana can affect a person’s short term memory and also distort their perception of time [2]. This does not include the liver damage and brain damage that is caused by abusing alcohol.

In addition to these affects, mixing the two drugs can lead a person to over using both drugs and increasing the risk of alcohol poisoning. The continued abuse of both of these drugs will also lead to needing more and more of each drug to reach the same high thus leading to addiction.

It’s Preventing the Body from Expelling the Substance

A lesser known side effect is the antiemetic effect of marijuana. An antiemetic is a drug that helps prevent vomiting or nausea [3]. While this can be a good thing for those suffering from cancer, it is quite dangerous for those who drink too much and get alcohol poising.

Vomiting is the body’s natural reaction to ridding itself of the alcohol. If a person is experiencing alcohol poisoning, then the body’s natural reaction is to throw up. If the marijuana has subdued the body’s ability to vomit, then the risk of death is increased.

So, just because both pot and alcohol may be legal, mixing the two drugs can be dangerous and even deadly. Just take a moment to think if risking death is really worth it.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Have you experienced the adverse effects of mixing alcohol and marijuana? How can we bring greater awareness of the dangers of combining these two drugs when both are legal in many states?



Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 3st, 2015
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