The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Marijuana
Author: Thomas Roth
Last Updated: 6/21/2023
Mixing alcohol and Marijuana is dangerous and can cause negative health effects and side effects. Marijuana and alcohol are the two substances that are abused the most. They’re abused more than other substances because they’re easily accessible. Furthermore, Marijuana and alcohol are commonly abused at the same time. It’s not uncommon for people to have a few alcoholic drinks during Marijuana use or followed by Marijuana use.
While alcohol and Marijuana have a low chance of harming someone in small quantities, mixing a lot of Marijuana and alcohol can lead to serious side effects and even death. Therefore, it’s important to understand the risks of mixing alcohol and Marijuana.
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana is a psychoactive substance that’s harvested from the Cannabis plant. It produces intoxicating effects, increases heart rate, and causes users to feel high. Marijuana is also known as weed, bud, ganja, and other slang terms. When people get high on Marijuana it’s done by consuming edibles that contain Cannabis oil or butter, smoking the bud of Cannabis plants, or vaporizing hash oils made from Cannabis plants.
The method someone uses to get high on Marijuana determines how long its intoxicating effects last and how potent it is. Edibles can make someone high for several hours, whereas smoking things like joints lasts for about an hour. The most potent type of Marijuana is hash oil, which has a sticky texture and needs to be vaporized or heated at high temperatures.
Marijuana is also a flexible substance to use. It can be consumed in most foods, smoked alongside tobacco (blunts), and vaporized. In the United States, there has been a recent push for the legalization of Marijuana. States like Colorado have already legalized the substance and it’s federally decriminalized. With Marijuana becoming more accessible and popular, it’s important to understand the risks and how it interacts with alcohol and other substances.
How does Marijuana Work?
Marijuana works by getting people who ingest or smoke Cannabis “high,” which is the term used to describe the plant’s intoxicating effects. The chemical that’s responsible for the intoxicating effects of Marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC causes intoxicating effects by attaching to neurotransmitters in the brain that are similar in structure to THC.
THC has a similar structure as anandamide, which allows THC to bind to cannabinoids in the brain. When THC interacts with these neurotransmitters it disrupts these endogenous cannabinoids that are responsible for general cognition, reflexes, pleasure, perception, and more. If THC binds to these receptors in the brain it produces feelings of pleasure at the cost of reduced reaction times and perception. Marijuana can also interact with entire regions of the brain. Some studies indicate that THC can alter the hippocampus and disrupt memories.
Cannabis can also disrupt other areas of the brain. Some examples include the basal ganglia and cerebellum. When these parts of the brain are impacted by THC individuals experience a loss of balance, decline in coordination, and confusion. Marijuana can also impact thinking and learning.
Long-term Marijuana use can also lead to addiction. While it’s not physically addictive, people can become mentally addicted to THC’s intoxicating effects because of the dopamine release that causes pleasure when using THC.
What Are the Side Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Marijuana?
The combination of alcohol and marijuana can lead to many side effects. Both substances have side effects when consumed alone, so mixing them can amplify these effects.
Some of the common side effects of mixing alcohol and Marijuana are listed below.
- Dizziness and confusion
- Trouble keeping your eyes open
- Increased heart rate
- Stomach discomfort
- Trouble walking
- Lack of balance
- Loss of consciousness
- Memory impairment
Alcohol and Marijuana tolerance can impact the side effects of mixing alcohol and Marijuana. People with lower tolerances to both substances can experience severe side effects. However, people with high alcohol and Marijuana tolerances have a reduced risk of experiencing negative side effects.
What are the Risks of Mixing Alcohol and Marijuana?
Several risks come with mixing alcohol and Marijuana. While some of the risks depend on a person’s tolerance to both substances, consuming large quantities of alcohol always comes with risks. In fact, consuming too much alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning can lead to death, coma, and loss of consciousness.
The risks of mixing alcohol and Marijuana are listed below.
- Sudden loss of consciousness
- Blacking out
- Increased risk of causing an accident when driving a vehicle
- Overconsumption of alcohol or Marijuana
- Increased vulnerability
Depending on the individual, mixing alcohol and Marijuana can be fatal. Always consult with a professional before drinking alcohol with Marijuana if Marijuana is prescribed as medication for an ailment.
What are the Reasons why Alcohol and Marijuana Should not be Combined?
Alcohol and Marijuana should not be combined because the effects of both substances become amplified. Marijuana and alcohol both interact with neurotransmitters in the brain, so the brain can become overwhelmed. Mixing Marijuana and alcohol can also lead to poor decision-making and harm the body in the short-term and long-term.
Below are the most important reasons to avoid mixing alcohol and Marijuana.
- Alcohol can reduce Marijuana’s healing capabilities if it’s prescribed as medication
- The side effects of both substances are amplified
- The risk of alcohol overdose increases
- Increased risk of greening out (loss of consciousness, impaired memory, severe confusion)
While mixing small amounts of alcohol and Marijuana is not dangerous, once dosages get larger the combination can be fatal and increase the chance of physical injury from driving or falling.
How Long After Taking Marijuana Can I Drink Alcohol?
You should always consult with a professional before taking Marijuana with alcohol. The method of using Marijuana can also impact how long you have to wait before drinking alcohol. On average, the peak high of Marijuana begins 30 minutes after smoking it. From there, the peak lasts for about an hour. Then, users feel groggy and sleepy as the body clears the rest of the THC from the brain and body. For these reasons, we recommend waiting for at least 5 hours between your last dose of Marijuana and your first alcoholic beverage.
However, eating edibles that contain THC is different from smoking or vaping Marijuana. When THC is ingested the stomach breaks down the THC, which is how it reaches the bloodstream and brain. The intoxicating effects of edible Marijuana can last for several hours (between 4-12). How much THC was ingested can also influence this number. So, if you’re eating a THC edible you should not consume alcohol for at least 24 hours.
Vaping THC can also influence the intoxicating effects and how long they last. Still, it’s closer to smoking Marijuana than eating it. If you’re vaping THC, we recommend waiting at least 6 hours before you consume alcohol.
What Should You Not Mix with Marijuana?
Marijuana is a psychoactive substance, so mixing it with some medications and other substances can cause adverse effects. Mixing Marijuana with some medications can also make them less effective and increase their side effects. Furthermore, Marijuana should never be mixed with stimulants because of how both substances interact with the central nervous system and heart rate.
Here’s a list of what you should not mix with Marijuana.
- Hallucinogens (LSD, DMT, Mushrooms)
- Stimulants like amphetamines
These are only a handful of substances and medications that shouldn’t be mixed with Marijuana. If you have a Medical Marijuana prescription, always consult with your doctor before mixing Marijuana with any substances.
How is Alcohol And Marijuana Addiction Treated?
Alcohol and Marijuana addiction are treated in similar ways. However, the major difference is that alcohol can be physically addicting and Marijuana is not. That said, Marijuana can cause a mental addiction that’s similar to alcohol. There are a few ways to treat addiction that’s caused by alcohol or Marijuana.
When it comes to alcoholism, the most common treatments are inpatient rehabilitation, alcohol detoxes, medications like Naltrexone, and behavioral therapy. There are also alternative treatment methods for alcoholism like Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) and faith-based programs.
For treatment of Marijuana addiction, usually, counseling and support groups are all that are needed. Unfortunately, many people don’t believe that Marijuana is addictive or that Marijuana use is safer than alcohol.
While research is limited, some studies suggest that Marijuana addiction can cause long-term health problems and impair brain development in adolescents.
Additionally, if an individual is addicted to both substances treatment is more specific. It can be a combination of counseling and detox but sometimes severe addictions require inpatient programs. If you or a loved one is addicted to Marijuana, alcohol, or both substances, it’s important to get help today.