Cannabis and Alcohol

Stephen Andrews
13 May 2022

Both cannabis and alcohol are praised for their relaxing, soothing qualities. They have several things in common, but legality is not one of them. The lingering questions that often pop up in discussions online and in real life are how each substance affects the body and which is less harmful? To be objective, any substance can have unwanted health effects when misused. Use them mindfully, there's little harm. Scroll down and see how cannabis and alcohol differ and what their impact is when consumed together.

A poll from the American Addiction Centers has asked people to rank the level of danger associated with both cannabis and alcohol. According to the poll results, marijuana was rated to be somewhere between "not very dangerous" and "somewhat dangerous." In contrast, alcohol was ranked "close to moderately dangerous." An interesting insight from the same poll is that people who didn't smoke or ingest marijuana believed that alcohol was 25 percent more dangerous than cannabis. 

While people can't really ingest a lethal dose of marijuana, the main argument of many cannabis opponents is that it can be a gateway drug to other substances. Still, marijuana appears to be safer than other substances, but its legalization battle is ongoing. The plant and its derivatives remain illegal at the federal level, unlike alcohol, which is legal everywhere in the U.S. One grim statistic is that alcohol is responsible for approximately 88,000 deaths every year, or to put this more poetically, that is close to 2.5 million years of potential life lost. 

Below, let's dissect how cannabis and alcohol differ and what binds them together.

Cannabis vs. Alcohol

  • A lot of people love alcohol and/or cannabis. These are the two most commonly used substances out there. The ingredient of every party. Except, one is legal, and the other is trying to reclaim its legality.
  • Both can be misused. And there is no need to tell you that abuse of any substance can result in specific health problems. While excessive alcohol or cannabis may impact the heart and the autonomic nervous system, alcohol appears to affect more organs, including the liver and the intestines. 
  • Misuse of alcohol has been linked to various types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and rectum. On the other hand, smoking cannabis can harm the lungs. Fortunately, there are now various lung-friendly ways to consume cannabis and preserve the lungs. 
  • Both cannabis and alcohol impair the motor system, therefore it is recommended to avoid driving a car while under the influence. 
  • Prolonged use of cannabis and/or alcohol affects short-term memory. However, memory function bounces back quickly when the person pauses or opts for more moderate and mindful consumption.
  • In rare cases, excessive use of cannabis will result in a condition known as cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). For the few unfortunate who will develop this condition it means the person must stop any use of cannabis.
  • Excessive use of alcohol almost always weakens the immune system. Cannabis may strengthen it as, depending on the strain, it can carry powerful anti-inflammatory properties. 
  • Both cannabis and alcohol are not advised for adolescents. Excessive use of cannabis may result in altered brain development among those who've smoked too young. Therefore, it is best to wait to be of age before you start toke every day, just like you wait for alcohol. 
cannabis and alcohol.

What Happens When You Mix Weed and Alcohol?

Teaming up the two substances is quite common, and it's known as crossfading. Doing it occasionally won't lead to any health issues. And to be honest, it's something everyone wants to do from time to time. 

When combining alcohol and cannabis, however, there're several things to be aware of. If you drink alcohol first and smoke later, it's good to note that cannabis affects the gastrointestinal tract by causing a drop in the alcohol levels in the blood. But this doesn't mean anything if you continue emptying the flask. 

When it's the other way round, when you've smoked and then drank, it's good to know that alcohol increases the level of THC in the blood. This practically means that if you keep drinking as you smoke, it will intensify the high. Alcohol activates the blood vessels and enables them to process THC faster. Even a small dose of alcohol will augment the presence of THC. 

There are a few tips to follow when combining cannabis and alcohol. 

  • Don't mix the two too often. It will really slow you down the following day, more so than using just alcohol or just cannabis. 
  • Opt for light alcohol choices, such as beer. It's the less harmful way and you will thank yourself in the morning. Heavy drinks with a more significant percentage of alcohol, such as vodka or gin, combined with pot, may cause terrible headaches.
  • If you overdo it, you may go green out. It's a nasty sensation where you feel like you will faint out or vomit, the whole body sweats. In this situation, it's best to sit down, try to calm down, splash your face with water, and hydrate. 
  • Definitely don't do edibles. If you are going to mix the two, stick with the basics. A joint is okay but not edible, as it's always more tricky with edibles. It may turn too strong, and you may already drink too many before the THC activates in the stomach. You may end up feeling really sick. 
  • Don't forget to drink water. You might not feel thirsty at the moment, but try to take a sip or two. The more water you drink, the better. It may save you the trouble.

It's always up to the person to decide whether alcohol or cannabis is better for them. Whatever you do, always remember that while going wild from time to time is fine, moderate and mindful use is always for the best!

Stephen Andrews