Alcohol and Marijuana
This information was prepared by the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre in Australia, and used with permission. Some information may not be accurate for U.S. readers.
Polydrug use is using more than one drug at one time. The reasons why people use drugs in combination are to either increase their intoxication, or to increase the effect of the first drug taken.
Sometimes people mix two drugs because they are already intoxicated and are no longer making rational decisions about their drug-taking and the wellbeing of themselves and those around them. The more drugs being used at the same time, the more likely it becomes that things will go wrong.
Not counting tobacco, the most common form of polydrug mix is alcohol and marijuana. When people mix marijuana and alcohol together at one time, the results can be unpredictable. The effects of either drug may be more powerful or the combination may produce different and unpredictable reactions.
What Are the Effects of Mixing Marijuana and Alcohol?
When people smoke marijuana and drink alcohol at the same time they can experience nausea and/or vomiting or they can react with panic, anxiety or paranoia. Mixing marijuana with alcohol can increase the risk of vulnerable people experiencing psychotic symptoms.
There is some evidence to support that having alcohol in your blood causes a faster absorption of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana that causes intoxication). This can lead to the marijuana having a much stronger effect than it would normally have and could result in ‘greening out’.
Greening out is a term commonly referred to in a situation where people feel sick after smoking marijuana. They can go pale and sweaty, feel dizzy, nauseous and may even start vomiting. They usually feel they have to lie down straight away.
It appears that this is more likely to happen if a person has been drinking alcohol before smoking marijuana rather than the other way around.
What Are the Risks of Mixing Marijuana and Alcohol?
- Unpredictable effects – if marijuana and alcohol are used at the same time there is a greater likelihood of negative side-effects occurring either physically (greening out) or psychologically (panic, anxiety and paranoia).
- Effects on driving – the negative effect that alcohol has on driving is well documented. marijuana use also affects a person’s ability to concentrate and react in driving situations. Even at low doses the combination of alcohol and marijuana is dangerous and places the drivers, their passengers and others on the road at serious risk.
- Getting too intoxicated – making a person less aware and in-control of their surroundings. This places them at greater risk of not being able to look after their belongings or to negotiate safe sex.
- Substituting one drug for another – people trying to cut back on one drug may end up using more of the other to help manage the symptoms of reducing the first drug. For example, some people giving up marijuana may find it difficult to sleep and start having a few drinks at night to help them sleep and vice-versa. This type of drug use is risky and can result in a person having problems with two drugs instead of one.