According to the CDC, 48.2 million people in the US used marijuana at least once in 2019. And in 2018, 66.3 percent of adults over the age of 18 reported that they consumed alcohol in the past year. Considering the number of people who have used both substances it’s likely that a considerable number of people use them at the same time.
This page looks at the interaction between alcohol and marijuana, their combined effect on the body, and long term risks of using them together.
Effects of Marijuana
When you ingest or smoke marijuana, chemicals like THC pass through the bloodstream and into the brain. The effects are instant when you smoke it, but take longer to appear when ingested. The most common effects include relaxation and euphoria, but some users report paranoia, changed perception of time, and an increased appetite.
THC mainly affects parts of the bran that play a role in time perception, concentration, pleasure, movement, coordination, and memory. Due to its impact on the orbitofrontal cortex and hippocampus, marijuana consumption can affect memory and impair thinking.
Why You Shouldn’t Mix Alcohol and Marijuana
Marijuana and alcohol both have effects on our senses and how we experience things. Naturally, the more of a substance we consume, the more it distorts our senses. Alcohol and marijuana can have a major effect on the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which processes information it receives through the senses. Consequently, your brain may produce thoughts based on distorted stimuli from the surroundings, which can impair your reactions and judgment.
Regardless of the substance, mixing them together can have dangerous effects. Besides unpleasant side effects, it can increase your risk of abusing either substance, which can lead to an addiction. In addition, mixing alcohol and marijuana repeatedly over a long period of time can cause long-term damage to the brain that can’t be reversed by stopping the use of one substance or the other.
The Effect of Using Alcohol with Marijuana
Having marijuana and alcohol together can cause a variety of reactions. Getting intoxicated from alcohol consumption and being under the influence of marijuana at the same time is called being cross-faded. Among young adults, this phenomenon is becoming increasingly desirable. However, it can lead to the following effects in particular.
Increased THC Absorption
When you consume marijuana after alcohol, THC absorption increases. This may cause you to experience stronger effects of the marijuana, along with unpleasant symptoms like nausea, sweating, and dizziness. Studies suggest that drinking alcohol before consuming marijuana allows a greater dose of THC than without alcohol.
Minimized Effects of Alcohol
In some cases, marijuana can reduce how impaired someone feels as a result of consuming alcohol. When a person experiences reduced effects of alcohol, they may be under the impression that they didn’t drink as much. Consequently, they believe that they’re capable of driving when their BAC level is actually above the 0.08 limit.
Increased Consumption of Marijuana and Alcohol
Moreover, people who use both substances together tend to use more of each than if they were just using one. This could lead to a dependence on either marijuana or alcohol.
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Major Risks of Using Alcohol and Marijuana
In the short-term, mixing alcohol and marijuana can lead to slowed reflexes, increased heart rate, and an inability to make important decisions, distorted vision, short –term memory loss, and a higher chance of being involved in accidents.
Decreased Cognitive Function
Consuming marijuana can lead to reduced IQ, memory, attention, and cognitive decline, particularly in developing brains. In the long-term, marijuana use can contribute to structural changes in various parts of the brain, and combining it with alcohol can intensify its impact. Studies show that people who regularly consume marijuana with alcohol have poorer cognitive functioning that people who only drink alcohol.
Driving Under the Influence
In one study, people who consumed only alcohol, only marijuana, and both substances were required to perform a test in a driving simulator. According to the results, the group that took both alcohol and marijuana together faced a higher degree of impairment than other groups.
Because using marijuana can minimize the effects of alcohol, users don’t feel as drunk as they would have expected. This can cause them to think that they haven’t had as much to drink, encouraging them to drink more as a result. This can increase the risk of binge drinking, which raises the likelihood of liver damage.
Mental Health Concerns
According to one study, there’s an association between poor mental health and frequently consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. These include effects like low life satisfaction and psychological distress. Moreover, in one resource document, it explains that cannabis use can enhance the risk of or accelerate the development of psychiatric conditions.
Moreover, the American Psychological Association explains that because adolescents’ brains are still developing, they’re especially vulnerable to long-term damage from marijuana consumption.
Because of its diuretic properties, alcohol causes the body to produce more urine. Consequently, you may become dehydrated over the course of several hours, since you end up eliminating more fluids than you consume. Using alcohol with marijuana could enhance this diuretic effect.
In some cases, excessive marijuana use can lead to cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, which is characterized by dehydration, vomiting, and nausea.
According to a 2017 review, people who use marijuana and alcohol together tend to consume greater amounts of both substances. Just like with other substances, there is a potential to overdose when too much of a substance is consumed, and the same goes for marijuana and alcohol.
Both marijuana and alcohol are notorious for affecting the user’s judgment, and using both of them together can intensify their effects. When combined, they risk causing memory loss, blackouts, and a higher chance of engaging in sensation seeking behavior.
Studies show that when people mix alcohol and marijuana together, they have a higher chance of engaging in sensation seeking behavior as opposed to people who only drink alcohol. Using both substances in conjunction also means a higher risk of having unprotected sex, along with other outcomes that negatively affect relationships and careers.
Avoiding Marijuana and Alcohol Use
Although there’s no safe amount of marijuana or alcohol consumption, it’s best to consume such substances in safe amounts, and never together. For alcohol, that’s 2 drinks or less for men and 1 drink or less for women per day. One drink is the equivalent of 12 ounces of beer with a 5% ABV, or 5 ounces of wine with 12% ABV. And for marijuana, 10-20 mg of THC is enough potency to experience its effects without consuming too much. If you’re having trouble curbing your marijuana and alcohol consumption habits, seek professional help at a rehab centre.
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