The Effects of Mixing Marijuana and Alcohol

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Many people use alcohol and marijuana simultaneously, but the combined effects can elevate THC levels, intensify impairment, and lead to alcohol poisoning. While people often mix these substances to enhance effects or counter side effects, it poses risks and can be unsafe.

Alcohol and Marijuana Co-Use

Alcohol and marijuana are the two most abused addictive substances in the United States. The most current data from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) indicate that:

  • 221 million U.S. adults consumed alcohol in 2022. Among these, over 29 million developed alcohol use disorder (alcohol addiction) in the same year.
  • 62 million U.S. adults consumed marijuana in 2022. Among these, 19 million developed marijuana use disorder (marijuana addiction) in the same year.

Co-using alcohol and marijuana is a common practice, but it comes with its own set of effects and risks. Understanding how these substances interact is beneficial for those who engage in this behavior. The combined impact of marijuana and alcohol on the CNS (central nervous system) and cognitive functions can lead to notable alterations in perception and behavior.

A woman lost in deep thought about the serious effects of Marijuana and alcohol withdrawal

Effects of Mixing Marijuana and Alcohol

Mixing alcohol and marijuana can accelerate and intensify their effects. Both substances impact the CNS. Marijuana affects memory, thinking, pleasure, and sensory perception, while alcohol, as a depressant, heavily impairs motor skills, judgment, cognition, and memory.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a key compound of marijuana, and alcohol are psychoactive, acting on cannabinoid receptors in the brain and triggering cognitive effects and impairments. When consumed together, alcohol enhances THC absorption, leading to a more pronounced high, but it also amplifies the associated lows, making impaired judgment more conspicuous, for instance.

The risks and side effects of mixing weed and alcohol include:

  • Enhanced effects of THC: Combining alcohol with any substance extends its presence in the system, as the liver prioritizes alcohol metabolism. This can intensify the effects of THC.
  • Overdose potential: Combining drugs with alcohol increases the risk of overdosing on either substance. While THC overdose effects can be harmful, the dangers associated with alcohol overdose are more severe, including the potential for alcohol poisoning and fatal outcomes.
  • Decreased judgment: Both alcohol and marijuana products impair rational thinking. Their synergistic effects when combined can amplify impulsivity, poor judgment, and behaviors leading to accidents. This combination may also increase the likelihood of drug-related blackouts, memory issues, and long-term cognitive problems.
  • Increased dehydration: Alcohol’s diuretic properties, coupled with potential exacerbation by marijuana, may lead to increased dehydration.
  • Potential issues with elimination: Marijuana’s antiemetic effects hinder vomiting, which, when combined with alcohol, may disrupt the body’s ability to expel excess alcohol, potentially increasing the risk of overdose or alcohol poisoning.
  • Intensified side effects: Combining alcohol with marijuana products amplifies the side effects associated with the drug, including anxiety, allergic reactions, or hallucinations.
  • Long-term effects: Chronic co-use of these substances increases the risk of developing cardiovascular issues, liver disease, kidney disease, gastrointestinal problems, cancer, and compromised immune system function.
  • Complicated physical dependence: Chronic abuse of both substances can exacerbate physical dependence on either alcohol or cannabis, leading to complex withdrawal issues.
  • Psychological effects: Chronic use of either substance is associated with various mental illnesses. Combining both drugs may heighten the risk of being diagnosed with co-occurring mental health conditions like depression or anxiety disorders.

Is Mixing Alcohol and Marijuana Bad for You?

Research exploring the chronic use of alcohol and marijuana is still in its early stages. As marijuana legalization progresses in various states, studies examining the frequency and potential long-term effects of this dual consumption are anticipated to advance.

The combination of alcohol and marijuana presents potential risks and adverse effects that should be carefully considered by anyone intending to mix these substances. While some people may engage in this practice without apparent immediate harm, there are significant dangers associated with co-using these substances. The interaction between alcohol and marijuana can lead to heightened intoxication, impaired cognitive functions, and an increased risk of overdose or poisoning. Beyond this, the long-term effects of chronic co-use may contribute to various health issues, both physical and psychological.

People should develop an awareness of potential complications, including intensified side effects, impaired judgment, and the risk of developing physical and psychological dependence on either substance. Understanding the potential negative impact on hydration, elimination processes, and the increased potential for allergic reactions is essential for making informed decisions about co-use.

As research in this area continues to evolve, individuals are encouraged to stay informed about the latest findings regarding the co-use of alcohol and marijuana. Seeking guidance from healthcare professionals and staying attuned to personal health and well-being is crucial for making informed choices about substance use.

Marijuana and Alcohol Withdrawal

When considering the potential consequences of mixing marijuana and alcohol, it may be necessary to address withdrawal effects. Both substances are known to induce physical dependence, and individuals who chronically combine alcohol and marijuana may experience compounded withdrawal challenges.

Alcohol withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal is a well-documented phenomenon associated with chronic use. Abrupt cessation of alcohol can lead to symptoms ranging from mild anxiety and tremors to severe complications such as seizures and DTs (delirium tremens). Combining alcohol with marijuana can complicate the withdrawal process, potentially exacerbating the severity of symptoms and prolonging the recovery period.

Marijuana withdrawal

While marijuana withdrawal is often considered less severe than alcohol withdrawal, it is still recognized by APA (American Psychiatric Association). Symptoms may include irritability, insomnia, loss of appetite, and mood disturbances. Chronic co-use of marijuana and alcohol can intensify withdrawal symptoms related to either substance, making the cessation process more challenging.

Seeking professional guidance and support during this process is advisable, as healthcare professionals can provide personalized strategies to manage withdrawal symptoms and facilitate a safer and more comfortable recovery.

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Table of Contents

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn