What Are The Effects Of Mixing Cannabis And Alcohol?

What happens to your body and brain when you're drunk and stoned at the same time?
12 May 2021
5 min read
What Are The Effects Of Mixing Cannabis And Alcohol?

Contents:
  • 1. How does alcohol affect the brain?
  • 1. a. Long-term effects of alcohol on the brain
  • 2. The effects of cannabis on the brain
  • 3. What happens when you mix alcohol and cannabis?
  • 4. In conclusion

For years now, alcohol has been one of the most popular “drugs” amongst people of all ages, nowadays, a big part of alcohol users have migrated to cannabis use but there are still those who still like to consume both and, on occasion, mix alcohol and cannabis. This has led researchers to try to find out what happens to our body when mixing both substances, so read along if you want to know more about what happens to your body and brain when you’re drunk and high at the same time!

1. How Does Alcohol Affect The Brain?

Alcohol has a big effect on the brain, it blocks chemical signals between the neurons which leads to the common symptoms you may have experienced when getting drunk, such as:

  • Impulsive behavior;
  • Slurred Speech;
  • Poor memory;
  • And slowed reflexes.

If you continue to drink heavily over a long period of time, the brain will adapt to the blocked signals by responding more dramatically to certain brain chemicals and, after alcohol leaves your system, the brain will continue to over-activate the neurotransmitters causing painful and dangerous withdrawal symptoms that can end up damaging brain cells.

This damage may be even worse if you drink a lot and suddenly stop, and can take different forms such as neurotoxicity which happens when the neurons overreact to neurotransmitters for an extended period of time, causing them to eventually burn out. Due to neurons making up the pathways between different parts of the brain, once they are burning out, you may experience a noticeable slowing down of the reactions in these pathways.

In addition to that, the brain matter may also be damaged by alcohol use; people with alcohol dependence can experience brain shrinkage which happens where the volume of both gray and white matter is reduced.

Long-Term Effects Of Alcohol On The Brain

The effects of alcohol on the brain can result in many different kinds of cognitive impairment, including verbal fluency and learning, processing speed, working memory, attention, and problem solving among others; This is because certain parts of the brain related to these functions can be more susceptible to damage than other parts, so the problems in these areas are often worse than in others.

 

The effects of mixing alcohol and cannabis: the effects of alcohol on the brain

The effects of alcohol on the brain.
 

If left untreated, the problems may become worse and eventually result in a long-lasting syndrome known as alcohol-related dementia and, in some cases, can cause amnesia or a coma. Now that you know a little bit more about the effects of alcohol on the brain and how it can be harmful, let’s learn about what happens to the brain when mixing alcohol and cannabis.

3. The Effects Of Cannabis On The Brain

Cannabis has become one of the most popular substances amongst alcohol consumers; As mentioned above, alcohol affects your central nervous system by changing how your neurons communicate by suppressing neurotransmitters which causes information to travel slow, making you feel, perceive and remember less. 

 

The effects of mixing alcohol and cannabis: the effects of cannabis on the brain

The effects of cannabis on the brain.
 

On the other hand, cannabis contains cannabinoids such as THC which act on the brain’s cannabinoid receptors and causes neurons to trigger more often than normally, magnifying your imagination and thoughts. Due to both alcohol and cannabis inhibiting glutamate transmission (a neurotransmitter responsible for sending signals in the central nervous system), mixing both substances can result in poor memory. 

4. What Happens When You Mix Alcohol and Cannabis?

Alcohol and cannabis have different effects on your brain, so when mixing both substances you will not only experience the effects mentioned in the table below, but they will be much stronger in most cases; Recent research found that people mixing alcohol and cannabis had a hard time recognizing objects among other issues, this happens not only because you’re drunk and high at the same time, but because even as littles two shots of an alcoholic beverage can double the THC levels in your blood, meaning that you will not only feel the effect quicker, but it will be much stronger and you’ll feel a more euphoric type of high.

 

Most Common Effects of Cannabis and Alcohol
AlcoholCoordination and reflex issuesShorter attention spanImpaired judgment
CannabisAltered perception of timeImpaired cognitive skillsAnxiety

 

It hasn’t been confirmed yet but researchers suspect that this happens due to vasodilation because alcohol causes the muscle cells in your arteries to relax, widening the blood vessels and increasing blood flow which allows more cannabinoids to go through the part of the lung where gas exchanges occur with the blood, increasing cannabinoid absorption. 

 

The effects of mixing alcohol and cannabis: the effects of mixing cannabis and alcohol on the brain

the effects of mixing cannabis and alcohol.
 

Other research has found out that consuming cannabis may reduce the damage alcohol does on your liver when you drink, but after excessive drinking, this process may actually be harmful, making liver cells become fatty. CBD, another cannabinoid found in cannabis, was found to inhibit the process that causes liver cells to become fatty, protecting them from stress and may also prevent vomiting.

This is why medical cannabis is prescribed to chemotherapy patients suffering from nausea, for example, but may not be ideal when consuming alcohol due to vomiting being the way the body has to remove the excess alcohol in your body so it may actually pose a serious health risk.

Despite both alcohol and cannabis being relatively harmless when compared to other substances, both of them can be harmful if consumed in excess or if mixed, so it’s vital that you respect your limits and when possible, consume either one of them individually to avoid long-term damage. This way you can still consume them both but in a safer way, while still being able to enjoy the good side of both of them.

5. In Conclusion

Having a smoke and a drink every now and then is okay but in excess, it may result in long-term damage, despite being legal in many places and seeming harmless, alcohol and cannabis may have harmful effects in the long-term and even worse if mixed. This is why you should never mix them and, if you do, never consume in excess; As you may know by now, both of these substances act in the brain and may have severe consequences if you don’t respect your limits so make sure that if you do mix them, pay attention to the symptoms and if you’re not feeling well, ask your doctor about it. Most effects and symptoms may not seem harmful at first but with prolonged use, it may even cause death or grave brain injury so always be safe!

If you have any good or bad experiences that may help fellow cannabis consumers be safer, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section below!

External References

  1. Memory impairment following combined exposure to delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol and ethanol in rats. - Roberto Ciccocioppo, Lorena Antonelli, Michela Biondini, Marina Perfumi, Pierluigi Pompei and Maurizio Massi.
  2. Risks and Benefits of Marijuana Use: A National Survey of U.S. Adults. - Salomeh Keyhani, Stacey Steigerwald, Julie Ishida, Marzieh Vali, Magdalena Cerdá, Deborah Hasin, Camille Dollinger, Sodahm R Yoo and Beth E Cohen.
  3. Effect of cannabis on glutamate signaling in the brain: A systematic review of human and animal evidence. - Marco Colizzi, Philip McGuire, Roger G Pertwee and Sagnik Bhattacharyya.
 
12 May 2021
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