How Does Being Stoned and Drunk at the Same Time Affect Your Body?

Are alcohol and marijuana a good mix?
Nicole Richter Nicole Richter / Updated on June 9, 2019

Drunk and Stoned

If you have ever been to a party worthy of the name, you know there is likely to be marijuana and alcohol in abundance. For the most part, people tend to steer clear of using both together for fear of what might happen next. It is usually a case of having a beer or two and getting stoned or having a few tokes and getting drunk.

Relatively few people try and feel the ‘crossfade,’ the term commonly given to being drunk and stoned at the same time. Speaking from personal experience, it isn’t a great feeling, but then again, I massively overdid it on BOTH counts.

It happened about 17 years ago when a friend challenged me to ‘save the world’ and take as many water bong hits as I could. I was already drunk at this point and after several bong hits, neither my body or brain knew what the hell was going on. Eventually, I threw up and passed out on a sofa while my friends made prank phone calls.

I’m going to assume that not everyone will be as dumb as I was and will try to get “reasonably” drunk and high at the same time. But what happens if you go a little overboard and overdo it? Let’s find out…

Alcohol & THC = NOT the Same

Comparing alcohol and THC is less like comparing apples and oranges, and more like comparing a classical musical symphony with Adam Sandler’s acting; both make you well up with tears but for very different reasons. Alcohol and THC both intoxicate you but in very different ways.

Alcohol is actually a depressant, but it lowers inhibitions and allows for an emotional release when used in small doses. Marijuana is widely used for relaxation and is often used to treat depression. In basic terms, alcohol impacts your motor skills, so you find it hard to speak clearly or walk in a straight line. THC has cognitive effects such as a messed-up sense of time.

Alcohol affects the central nervous system by changing how your neurons communicate. It suppresses the excitatory transmitter glutamate and increases the inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA. This results in the slowing down of information flow which means you feel, see and perceive less.

Weed contains THC as its most abundant psychoactive compound. THC acts on the brain’s cannabinoid receptors and causes certain neurons in the brain to fire continually. THC removes the normal refractory period which in turn magnifies your thoughts and imagination.

The problem with consuming both substances together is that both inhibit glutamate transmission which is a key part of your learning process. As a result, combining both will lead to a reduction in your ability to remember things.

Combining Alcohol and Weed – The Studies

A study by Swartzwelder et al., published in the Neuroscience Letters journal in October 2013, looked at the effects of ethanol and THC, and a combination of the two, on the memory and object preference in adolescent and adult male rats.

The Duke University team discovered that the rodents’ ability to recognize objects was severely impaired when they were given weed and alcohol. It also found that the rats were ‘less likely to explore’ when under the influence of both when compared to their desire to explore when either drunk or stoned.

Scott Lukas, a Harvard Medical School professor, conducted two studies into how consuming alcohol and THC affects humans. The first study, which was published in Neuropsychopharmacology in August 1992, looked at whether plasma ethanol levels were changed after using cannabis.

The study looked at 15 adult males who used weed and alcohol on a casual basis. Lukas found that using marijuana activated the body’s CB2 receptors which impact the speed at which your body absorbs alcohol. According to Lukas, weed alters the motility (the way things move through your intestines) of your gastrointestinal tract in a manner which results in the reduction of blood alcohol levels when compared to if you had alcohol and no THC.

The second study, published in Drug Alcohol Dependency in October 2001, found that alcohol increases THC levels and its effects after the use of marijuana. The volunteers consumed the equivalent of two shots of an alcoholic spirit and used marijuana. According to the results of the study, participants who had weed and alcohol had double the THC content of volunteers who had THC and a placebo drink.

Another interesting discovery was that those who used both alcohol and marijuana detected the effects of the weed sooner than those who had weed and no alcohol. The conclusion was that alcohol increases your level of ‘high.’Those who had THC and alcohol also reported a ‘better’ and ‘longer’ high with a greater sense of euphoria. Researchers believe the reason is ‘vasodilation.’ Alcohol causes smooth muscle cells in your arteries to relax, along with the widening of the blood cells and increased blood flow.

As a consequence, more THC is able to cross the alveolar sacs; a part of the lung where gas exchange occurs with the blood. The alcohol increases THC absorption. There is also a suggestion that smoking weed can reduce the damage alcohol causes to your liver.

When you drink booze, ethanol is metabolized by the enzyme cytochrome P450 2E1. If you consume an excessive amount of alcohol, the process causes oxidative stress and makes the cells in the liver become fatty. CBD has been found to inhibit the cycle that causes oxidative stress on the liver, thus protecting it from damage.

The 2001 study found that you need to drink alcohol first before using marijuana if you want the level of THC in your plasma to increase and provide you with a better high. Lukas’ conclusion was backed up by a 2015 study by the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC).

Does This Mean I Can Get Drunk and High at the Same Time?

As you may know, marijuana can prevent vomiting. This is one of the reasons why it is often prescribed for chemotherapy patients. Anyone who has ever suffered from alcohol poisoning knows that vomiting is inevitable; it is the body’s way of removing excessive alcohol from your system. Therefore, an inability to vomit at this point could lead to some serious health risks.

It is also a fact that when you consume both, the normal effects of weed such as increased heart rate and impaired judgment will also increase. As a result, there is an enhanced risk of accidents such as car crashes and drownings occurring. Lukas was also keen to point out that the level of drugs approved for his studies was well below the amount the average person will consume when partying.

The AACC study carried various warnings about the impact of combining alcohol with THC. One of the major issues with using both is the likelihood of traffic accidents. According to the AACC, the United States Department of Transportation studied almost 2,000 motor vehicle deaths. It discovered that cannabis use alone increased accident risk by 0.7, compared to 7.4 for alcohol use and 8.4 for cannabis and alcohol combined.

In essence, it is unwise and often unpleasant to mix the two. Marijuana-induced sickness is normally called ‘greening out’ and can involve symptoms including shaking, chills, dilated pupils, vomiting, shortness of breath, disorientation, anxiety, loss of coordination, and much more.

When you consume too much alcohol, side effects such as dizziness and vomiting can also occur. If you ‘crossfade’ you could end up getting the worst of both worlds.

Getting Drunk and Stoned at the Same Time: Final Thoughts

To conclude, here is a recap of what happens when you get drunk and stoned at the same time:

  • When you consume alcohol and then get stoned, the THC in the weed is absorbed faster. As a result, your high is more intense and lasts longer.
  • Although crossfading isn’t fatal in itself, it could result in riskier behavior which increases your chances of being involved in a fatal accident.
  • You are far more likely to cause an automobile accident if you are drunk and high than if you are ‘just’ high.
  • To date, the studies on the effects of crossfading involved significantly lower amounts of THC than what an average partygoer would consume.
  • Crossfading could result in a slew of nasty side effects including psychological illness, cognitive impairment, loss of control, loss of inhibitions, poor judgment, and vomiting.
  • Cases of alcohol poisoning are more likely to be fatal if you are stoned because weed could prevent you from vomiting; a necessary evil which purges excess alcohol from your system.

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