What Mixing Weed and Alcohol Does to Your Mind
I rarely mix weed and alcohol—otherwise, I become more silent than a hermit crab floating in space.
But pursuing the high that results from combining the two drugs—known as a “crossfade”—isn’t uncommon. Researchers, however, are still delving into the science behind this blissed-out state of mind—and why so many people seek it out.
Let’s start with what you probably already know: Alcohol is a depressant, but in low doses it causes emotional release and lowers inhibitions. Marijuana is also known for its relaxing qualities, but can produce very different results depending on how much and what strain of it you smoke. So what happens when you mix them together?
The first thing to know: “Not everyone responds to alcohol and marijuana the same [way],” says Scott Lukas, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Harvard Medical School. Lukas would know: He’s now done two studies in which he got people high and observed their reactions.
One study looked at how smoking weed affects the absorption of alcohol, and the other looked at how drinking alcohol affects the absorption of THC. Smoking cannabis, he found, activates your body’s cannabinoid 2 receptors (CB2), which can affect how quickly your body absorbs alcohol.
“Marijuana does a unique thing to your small intestine that alters the motility [the way things move through your intestines] of your GI tract in such a way that it causes your blood alcohol levels to actually be lower than…if you had just consumed alcohol by itself,” Lukas says.
But in the second study, Lukas found that alcohol actually has the inverse effect on THC: If you drink first and then smoke, it causes the levels of THC in your plasma to skyrocket, intensifying your high. That’s because alcohol opens up blood vessels in your digestive system, which helps THC get absorbed—a finding confirmed in a more recent study done in 2015.
As most recreational marijuana users can attest, however, there are limits to this feel-good effect: Drink too much before you smoke, and you run the risk of “greening out”—a nauseous sensation that kicks in when you feel sick and overwhelmed after getting too high. (Trust me, it’s no fun.)
“Individuals may go pale and sweaty, feel dizzy with ‘the spins,’ nauseous, and may even start vomiting. This is often followed by the need or strong desire to lie down,” wrote Constance Scharff, an addiction specialist in California, in a column for Psychology Today.
More modern methods of ingesting THC—like dabbing, vaping, or eating cannabis—could further exacerbate this risk, but Lukas hasn’t had a chance to study them yet. He notes, however, that the THC levels now commonly found in cannabis and cannabis products greatly exceed the amounts he used in his studies.
Using common sense will go a long way: Lukas says there aren’t many side effects that come from mixing the two drugs that won’t also be true if you do them independently. Just be careful not to overdo it, and always err on the side of caution.
“If you’re sitting alone in your bedroom,” he says, “and you’ve got pillows all around you, and you’re well hydrated, and the bed’s not too far off the ground, the risk is low.”
Get a personalized roundup of VICE’s best stories in your inbox.
By signing up to the VICE newsletter you agree to receive electronic communications from VICE that may sometimes include advertisements or sponsored content.Researchers now understand the science behind the crossfade.
Weed before liquor
Alcohol and cannabis are like the Olsen twins—sometimes they work well together, and sometimes…they do not. Look, I love Full House but I admit that Two of a Kind was problematic. I also love booze ‘n’ bud, but I’ll admit that sometimes they don’t work so well together.
It’s been found that alcohol significantly increases THC levels in the bloodstream—meaning that one glass of wine can make the fat blunt you smoked feel like five fatter blunts.
Doctors, scientists, and other folks trying to be like your parents will tell you that mixing alcohol and cannabis is a bad idea and that you shouldn’t do it. Wah-wah-wah. I’ve been through enough Catholic school to know that telling people not to do something only makes them want to do it more….
So, do it! Smoke that weed, sip that cup. You’re a grown-ass person. Just be smart about it. Here are a few ways you can safely and smartly consume your bud and your booze together.
Know your types.
Does rum make you gag but whiskey make you dance? Do high levels of THC make you paranoid? It’s important to know which alcohol types and cannabis strains suit your body chemistry. Everyone responds to booze and weed in their own ways—just like little impaired snowflakes. Do some experimenting and figure out which strains and drinks work best for your bod. Try to aim for anything above bottom-shelf—it will decrease your odds of a hangover. (Pizza in the evening AND morning also helps.)
Know your limits.
Now that you know what kind of booze ‘n’ bud work for you, experiment with the quantities. Remember that any kind of alcohol will increase your high, so go easy. A few puffs of the vape and a couple drinks go a long way when you mix them together. If you get the spins, you’ve gone TOO FAR. Get a car home, sleep on your side so you don’t choke on your puke and die like a rock star, and try not to recreate that dizzy-making mix in the future.
Use the buddy system.
Going to parties with a wing-person is key. Not only will this pal help you make conversation if everyone is lame, but you can also help each other get home safely at the end of the night. (You can also help one another determine if the room is actually spinning or not.)
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
Booze and pot are notorious dehydrators, so be sure to guzzle plenty of water while you’re out drinking and partaking. The more water you consume, the better you’ll feel the next day and the less likely you will be to get the spins and pukes.
So, this holiday season, whether you are at the office holiday party or home binging on holiday movies, enjoy your hot toddies, eggnogs, and Jell-O shots while you consume the weed you bought with your gift monies from gramma—just be sure to use your brain and some moderation so you don’t end up getting the spins and puking into your coat. Winter coats are REALLY hard to clean.They don’t have to be a recipe for puke. ]]>