Cannabis and alcohol: How they work and the dangers of mixing

One of the most consumed substances in the world, alcohol can also be the most dangerous, according to research. And how can it affect the body when mixed with cannabis? We will tell you!

Hey bud, how ‘bout a drink?

Habits like drinking a beer, a glass of wine or a drink at the end of the day to de-stress are extremely common, even more so in this pandemic period. But we need to think: how safe is this consumption? What are the limits?

Currently, it is difficult to find an adult person who has never tried alcohol. Brazil is the fifth country in the world that most consumes the substance, and about 16% of users here have harmful use behavior, according to research. This legal drug may still be the cause of 3 million deaths on the planet every year, caused by both accidents and homicides.

In our fifth text in the series “Cannabis and other drugs”, we will talk a little more about the effects and risks of alcohol, safe use, Harm Reduction and its interactions with cannabis. Shall we learn more about it?

Warning: our series is not intended to encourage the use of substances, but to provide information about each one of them, as well as strategies to reduce possible damage from use.

Wine and weed
Wine and weed

What is alcohol?

A substance depressant of the Central Nervous System, alcohol has a very old history. In China, about 9,000 years ago, it was already consumed through Sura – a type of rice distillate. Beer is also quite old, and it and other fermented beverages have been around since the dawn of Egyptian civilization. Grains, fruits and vegetables have always been used to give rise to this type of substance.

When drinking alcohol, it is absorbed by the stomach or small intestine and enters the bloodstream. It is then gradually processed by our liver. In small quantities, a healthy liver has few problems with breaking down and eliminating alcohol.

But when you drink excessively, it’s a different story. The resulting buildup of alcohol in your system is what causes the feeling of intoxication, but it can also cause stress in various vital organs and systems in the body.

As alcohol breaks down, it also generates a number of toxic by-products, including harmful fatty acids and free radicals, in addition to a chemical called acetaldehyde. All of this can influence the onset of diseases in the liver, heart and several other places, in addition to chronic health problems and various types of cancer.

And the problem is not just what is caused in the body: according to studies, alcohol is the most harmful drug for society as a whole – even more than crack. This is because it is the most consumed, and its direct and indirect risks are not so widely spoken. Domestic violence, abuse, car accidents and homicides are growing year by year because of this. So talking about Harm Reduction is extremely important!

Effects of alcohol and harm reduction techniques

Minutes after being ingested, the alcohol is already absorbed and goes into our bloodstream. That’s where we start to feel:

  • euphoric;

  • more uninhibited;

  • communicative.

However, after this “happy” wave passes, it acts as a depressant, leading to:

  • inattention;

  • sleepiness;

  • lapses of consciousness;

  • impairments in motor functions.

Although there are no 100% safe quantities to consume the substance, the British health agency GBD recommends that the use does not exceed 14 doses per week, whether for men or women. The measure is equivalent to six pints of beer or ten small glasses of wine of moderate alcohol content.

Even if drinking a glass of wine once another is not a problem, the danger lies in drunkenness. So, let’s take care? Takes note of the ResPire collective harm reduction measures:

  • Excess alcohol causes water loss in the body. So, drink water throughout use and avoid a hangover!

  • Drinking on an empty stomach and / or too fast leads to a rapid absorption of alcohol, which can cause nausea, vomiting and that awful “wasted” stage. To avoid getting sick, go slowly and eat well beforehand.

  • The person who drinks does not always need glucose. Therefore, prefer light foods.

  • Never, under any circumstances, drive after drinking. Alcohol can decrease our reflexes, as it is a nervous system depressant, and can cause accidents.

  • Be very careful when mixing alcohol with other substances. Coma, cardiac and respiratory arrest and several other damages are associated with alcohol consumption along with substances such as cocaine, GHB, ketamine, MDMA and others.

Wine and joints

And what about mixing alcohol and cannabis?

Drinking before or after using cannabis can intensify the herb’s effects. This is because alcohol increases the absorption of its main psychoactive ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). What doesn’t seem like a bad thing to many people can become more risky if you drink or consume too much of both substances, which can lead to:

  • Sweating;

  • Dizziness;

  • Nausea;

  • Vomiting.

According to research, there are other risks associated with the pair, such as a higher risk of dependence when used together, in addition to decreased cognitive function and loss of motor coordination. It is also interesting to note the effects of cannabis itself on you before using both substances: if it causes any uncomfortable or unwanted effects, it will also be enhanced.

But there is also an interesting study, which shows that cannabis can help protect the liver from the negative effects of alcohol. According to science, alcohol produces inflammation, which is what, over time, leads the liver to develop diseases such as cirrhosis. Cannabis has the anti-inflammatory power that can reduce this danger.

Let’s make it clear: cannabis can reduce your risks, but drinking to excess will still damage your liver over time!

What about alcohol and CBD?

Already used as a treatment for various diseases, cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most common forms of therapeutic cannabis. It can be found in oils, ointments, tinctures and several other products, aimed at various purposes – such as pain relievers, natural tranquilizers and even improving the skin.

There are still few studies that show the interaction between the two substances, but one of them says that taking alcohol and CBD together can amplify the effects, just as it does with THC, which can cause symptoms such as increased drowsiness and sedation. Some also claim that mixing CBD and alcohol can intensify each other’s effects, resulting in changes in mood and behavior.

Drinks with cbd
Drinks with cbd

Replacement therapies

As we already talked about here on the blog, cannabis can be the exit door for countless drugs. Although more extensive research is needed, preliminary studies already exist showing that it can also help patients who want to get rid of problematic alcohol use.

In addition to treating direct symptoms of alcohol misuse, such as decreasing inflammatory processes, acting as an antidepressant, decreasing anxiety (depending on the case and strain used), and treating nausea and pain, cannabis can help decrease the urge to drink and withdrawal symptoms.

Now that you know all of this, you can manage your doses and be more careful when enjoying your good drinks, with or without the joint on the side! Although alcohol consumption is normalized in society, we know that it causes risks, especially when we fail to use it in moderation. After all, the greatest damage that any drug can cause us depends on our relationship with them. Occasional use with awareness is always the best choice!

And you, have any questions or have any comments? Leave it down here and we’ll answer it for you!

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Harrie Goldsby
1 year ago

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