Anecdotal evidence has long suggested that combining alcohol with marijuana compounds the high, leaving drinkers raising a glass to cannabis. Now, science backs this up as fact.
According to High Times, a study published at the University of Iowa found significantly higher THC levels in the blood of people who mixed cannabis and cocktails. This isn’t really all that surprising, since alcohol notoriously interacts with a variety of drugs from the dangerous (i.e., mixing Percocet and alcohol) to the more benign (alcohol and amoxicillin doesn’t exactly make for a wild and crazy night).
The researchers didn’t thoroughly explain the reasons behind this interaction, but there were a few theories. One is that alcohol affects THC metabolism and absorption. In short, alcohol speeds up the heart rate which speeds up a variety of the body’s functions.
Alcohol can lead to quicker THC absorption during each inhale
The above study was funded, at least in part, by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, giving some people pause as to its accuracy. However other studies have found that alcohol does indeed increase THC concentration in a person’s blood. And, of course, many people have found this to be true for themselves: toking and tequila make for a more acute experience than either alone.
But, is this a good thing?
Cannabis/Alcohol Related Accidents
If you’re staying at home doing nothing, combining alcohol and marijuana might not be all that dangerous, but it certainly harbors peril in regards to car accidents. Whether or not weed increases dangerous driving is up for debate – some studies say yes, some say no. But combining weed with wine definitely ups the risks.
A study conducted by the US Department of Transportation found an increased accident risk of .7 percent for those using cannabis, an increased accident risk of 7.4 percent for those using alcohol, and an increased accident risk of 8.4 percent for those using both cannabis and alcohol. This means that using cannabis with alcohol increases the odds of crashing by more than ten times when compared to using cannabis alone.
Even if you’re staying in for the night or the car you drive is the one from Pole Position at some retro arcade, combining alcohol and weed can be dangerous, but not only because of cannabis: because of chianti too.
According to Psychology Today, combining the two increases the chance of “greening out,” a side effect described as: “a situation where a person may feel sick after smoking marijuana. The individual may go pale and sweaty, feel dizzy with ‘the spins,’ get nauseous, and may start vomiting. This is often followed by a need to lie down or a strong desire to lie down.”
One thing that makes this combo more dangerous is that marijuana has an antiemetic effect, meaning that it helps prevent people from throwing up. This is great for people who are dealing with the effects of chemotherapy or any illness where vomiting is common. Yet, in regards to alcohol, this is harmful: if you drink too much, your body needs to vomit to get rid of the excess alcohol. If that excess stays in your system, the odds of alcohol poisoning multiply.
Alcohol alone is already risky, especially in people who binge drink or have little experience with how it will impact their body. The Center for Disease Control reports that there are 2,200 alcohol poisoning deaths per year, a number that amounts to around six deaths a day. Most of these occur in people between the ages of 35-64, though college-aged students are also a risky demographic. Alcohol poisoning is more common in men than women.
State of Mind
Not everyone who mixes alcohol with cannabis ends up hospitalized with alcohol poisoning – it’s still rare. But, even if poisoning isn’t the outcome, other things may take hold. First things first, marijuana alters your state of mind, which may set you up for ingesting more alcohol than you normally would – one more shot of vodka turns into a pitcher. This not only increases the odds of the aforementioned poisoning, but it makes you more likely to feel less serious effects of over-drinking, which makes things unpleasant. From hang overs to the dehydration so bad it feels as though you’ve drank a bucket of sand, alcohol is fun until it isn’t.
The fast absorption of THC may magnify the side effects of pot
This can lead to anxiety, dizziness, and the dry mouth that makes marijuana famous. It can also lead to an increase in paranoia: combine alcohol with weed and convince yourself that the Captain Morgan pirate is trying to kill you.
The Laws of Cannabis and Alcohol
As of right now, no states where recreational weed is legal allow marijuana to be sold in the same place as alcohol. In Colorado – a state preparing for cannabis clubs – politicians continue to maintain this idea: if cannabis clubs take off, they’ll only exist in places where weed doesn’t. Restaurants, bars, and clubs that sell liquor will all be off-limits.
Massachusetts is trying to change that: liquor stores in this East Coast state are actively lobbying to sell marijuana inside their businesses. Their regulations aren’t set yet, so there’s uncertainty as to whether these stores will get their way. But, if Massachusetts models their regulations after pioneering states, pot will probably remain far from Pabst.
Still, some companies are combining alcohol with cannabis – there’s dinners that teach people how to match marijuana with wine and there’s specially designed cannabis cocktails that strive to give you the best of both worlds.
Combining these two elements is a personal choice: some people may handle it well, others may get handled. But, if you decide to imbibe, refrain from getting behind the wheel. It’s not worth your life or the life of someone else.