To Sip Or To Smoke: Alcohol And Cannabis
Posted by Jessilyn Dolan (she/her) on 16th Mar 2022
With St Patrick’s Day and March Madness celebrations on the way, I wanted to mention a quick tip or two about alcohol and cannabis consumption – particularly when it comes to the kind of celebratory binge-drinking we see with both of those events.
Frequent binge drinking can damage the liver and other organs and is associated with many harmful outcomes for the drinker and those around them, including lower grades, increased rates of drunk driving, vandalism, arrests for disorderly conduct and sexual assault.
Alcohol blood levels are consistently linked with increased accidents. While, limited research makes it much harder to generate blood level versus impairment curves for cannabis, a Colorado study that found that cannabis use was not associated with increased crash responsibility – unlike the numerous studies confirming that alcohol use increases accident risk.
Several studies link alcohol with violence, highlighting that alcohol is a factor in 40% of all violent crimes, while cannabis users were less likely to be involved in physical altercations or domestic disputes.
People who drink heavily also have a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese. A can of beer has roughly 150 calories, and a glass of wine has about 120. Despite cannabis having a reputation for giving someone the munchie ,smoking cannabis has zero calories
Close to half of all adults report having tried cannabis at least once, making it one of the most widely used illegal drugs — yet very few become addicted to cannabis. On the other hand, according to Caron, “More than 6 percent of adults in the U.S. have an alcohol use disorder, about 1 in 12 men and 1 in 25 women. An additional 623,000 people between the ages of 12 and 17 have alcohol use disorders.” Caron also reports that “About 88,000 people die of alcohol-related causes every year in the United States.”
So, if you have to choose between alcohol and cannabis, go green.
But if you are going to use the combination, here’s a few good things to know….
Beer Before Grass – You’re On Your Ass
A side effect of smoking cannabis (which has nothing to do with St Patrick’s day), is called greening out. This isn’t anything I learned in nursing school, but greening out is where someone feels very ill from smoking cannabis and anecdotally is more likely to occur if a person drinks alcohol before smoking.
On the other hand, smoking marijuana and then drinking alcohol can lead to more than greening out, because it is easier to drink excessively when you add cannabis, risking alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal.
When a person drinks too much alcohol, the body’s natural defense is to vomit. Since marijuana helps prevent vomiting, the body may be unable to rid itself of dangerous toxins, leaving the consumer with a dangerously high alcohol blood level.
For others, the combination can create paranoia, also increasing the potential for flawed or unsafe choices.
Weed Before Beer – You’re In The Clear (Depends on your interpretation here.)
Some studies have shown that alcohol increases blood THC levels. While the reasons for that aren’t entirely clear, it could be due to vasodilation/ relaxation in lung capillaries from alcohol increasing THC absorption. Or it could be that after drinking, people tend to take deeper hits
Studies have shown that after consuming cannabis, blood alcohol levels do not rise as fast. One study showed “that when smoking a joint 30 minutes after taking a drink, the peak blood alcohol levels were 30% lower and took twice as long to reach the maximum blood alcohol level.”
This could be due to cannabis slowing down gastric absorption. But one way or another, being a regular cannabis user can affect how you react to alcohol, and may even reduce some of the unpleasant effects of alcohol.
So whether you take whiskey with weed, or cannabis with chianti, a few thoughts leave you with:
- Start low and go slow
- Take your time with consumption
- Don’t forget to drink water and eat
- Plan a way to safely get home at the end of the night
Keep in mind that walking impaired can be just as dangerous as drunk driving, so if you find yourself impaired and didn’t make a plan, use a taxi or rideshare, public transportation, call a sober friend or family, Or stay put.
Finally, if you see a drunk driver on the road, call local law enforcement. You could save a life. Personally, as a medical marijuana patient who has had over 3 dozen surgeries due to a car accident with a drunk driver, I can’t urge you enough to be safe, for you as well as others on the road.
Photos by Vladimir Konoplev and Pexels maja2missy at Pixaby