Is it Dangerous to Mix Alcohol and Weed?

mixing alcohol and weed

Alcohol and marijuana are two of the most commonly abused substances in the world. 

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “85.6 percent of people ages 18 and older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime.”[1] 

Additionally, the CDC reports that “48.2 million people, or about 18% of Americans, used it at least once in 2019”[2]

Because the use of these two substances is so common, many people mix alcohol and weed to create a more potent effect. While mixing marijuana and alcohol has become normalized in some parts of American society, this mixture poses an array of health risks. 

Why Mixing Alcohol and Weed is a Bad Idea

Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, while weed is both a CNS depressant and stimulant.[3] Because both substances have CNS depressant properties, the impairment of the brain’s ability to function is amplified when they are mixed. This causes individuals to be at a higher risk of experiencing the severe effects of both alcohol and weed, sometimes resulting in an alcohol overdose.

If an individual drinks alcohol before smoking weed, the effects of THC will become more potent. Both the active ingredient in alcohol (ethanol) and the active ingredient in weed (THC) interact with the same part of the brain that affects:

  • Self-control
  • Decision making 
  • Judgment 
  • Reflexes and movement 
  • Perception of time 
  • Emotions
  • Inhibitions
  • Senses 
  • Sexual desire and function

In other words, combining alcohol and marijuana can cause impairments in an array of vital human functions. Oftentimes, the perception of time and one’s senses become the most impaired. In severe cases, the mixture of alcohol and weed can cause hallucinations and delusions relating to touch, sight, taste, sound, and smell. 

Short-Term Dangers 

For a first-time user of weed and alcohol, mixing these substances can lead to an extreme effect. The brain’s prefrontal cortex can become significantly impaired, causing individuals to process the information around them incorrectly. This can lead to anxiety, panic, paranoia, delusions, and even hallucinations.

The short term dangers of mixing marijuana and alcohol include:

  • Distorted perception of time and vision 
  • Impaired cognitive ability 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Poor fine motor skills and reflexes
  • Poor judgment and decision-making abilities 
  • Slowed breathing
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Reduced inhibitions 
  • Short-term memory loss and blackouts 
  • Increased likelihood of accident, injury, or being in dangerous situations
  • Increased risk of sexually transmitted disease, unwanted pregnancies, and risky sex
  • Hallucinations and paranoia 
  • Risk of overdose and respiratory depression 

Long-Term Dangers 

Once an individual has been mixing alcohol and weed frequently, the risks they face become more severe. 

For example, mixing these drugs repeatedly could cause an individual to develop a tolerance to both substances. This means that they would have to increase their dosage of alcohol and weed to experience their desired effect, putting them at risk of addiction and overdose.

The long-term dangers of mixing alcohol and THC products include:

  • Tolerance of cannabis and alcohol 
  • Being dependent on marijuana and alcohol 
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when an individual does not consume alcohol and weed 
  • Addiction to both substances 
  • Damage to the brain and organs associated with heavy alcohol consumption 
  • The development of mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and psychosis 
  • Damage to the brain and central nervous system due to excessive THC exposure 
  • The development of neurological disorders associated with alcoholism 
  • Lung damage due to smoking weed 
  • Short-term and long-term memory loss 
  • Suicidal ideation or attempts 
  • Overdose 

How Does Getting “Cross-Faded” Affect Your Mental Health?

When someone combines weed and alcohol to get intoxicated, people refer to it as getting “cross-faded.” This term only further indicates the potency of the high caused by mixing cannabis and alcohol. But how does getting cross-faded affect an individual’s mental health?

Individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions could experience an increase in symptoms when they continually abuse alcohol and weed. For example, alcohol is known to exacerbate depression, while weed is known to exacerbate anxiety and psychosis. 

Additionally, some individuals may develop mental health conditions as a result of their chronic alcohol and weed abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports, “Several studies have linked marijuana use to increased risk for psychiatric disorders, including psychosis (schizophrenia), depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.”[4]

Knowing When to Seek Medical Attention

Because combining alcohol and weed can lead to extreme reactions and cause individuals to experience a life-threatening overdose, known as alcohol poisoning, it is important to know when to seek medical attention. 

The signs of an alcohol poisoning include:

  • Mental confusion
  • Slowed or irregular breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Vomiting 
  • Cold, clammy skin 
  • Slowed heart rate 
  • Loss of gag reflex 
  • Very low body temperature 
  • Bluish or pale skin 
  • Seizures 

If someone is displaying the aforementioned signs of an alcohol overdose, emergency medical services must be contacted immediately. The individual should be placed on their side to prevent them from vomiting and choking. Additionally, placing something in their mouth could prevent them from biting their tongue if they are having a seizure.

Finding Help for Alcohol and Weed Addiction

Alcohol and weed addiction are difficult to overcome, especially when drinking and smoking cannabis has become a part of modern culture. While these actions are normalized, mixing or becoming addicted to these substances is far from trendy. Alcohol and weed are known to cause an array of health complications, including overdose.

Because of this, if you or a loved one are addicted to both THC and alcohol, professional addiction treatment is necessary. Contact Moving Mountains Recovery for more information on our substance abuse treatment programs. 

References:

  1. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/data-statistics.htm
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3009708/
  4. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/there-link-between-marijuana-use-psychiatric-disorders
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