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Weed and Alcohol

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Key Takeaways

  • Mixing weed and alcohol can take a mental and physical toll on you
  • Some people may experience bad reactions from mixing weed and alcohol
  • There are known risks of mixing weed and alcohol
  • If you are struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD), help is available

What Happens When You Mix Weed and Alcohol?

Marijuana (weed) and alcohol are two commonly used substances. Weed is the most widely used, federally-illicit substance in the United States.4

Overusing either marijuana or alcohol can be dangerous. Mixing the two, also known as cross-fading, can result in unwanted effects.

When you mix weed and alcohol, you may experience side effects that range from unpleasant to serious. Generally, combining alcohol and weed won’t lead to serious health issues unless too much of the two substances is consumed.

Drinking alcohol before smoking weed can amplify the effects of marijuana. Alcohol boosts your body’s absorption of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in weed.

Drinking alcohol before smoking weed can produce a stronger high, which may cause intense symptoms in some people.

Combining marijuana and alcohol can also increase risky behavior. Drunk driving or operating a vehicle after smoking cannabis, for example, can cause injuries or fatalities.

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Why Do People Get ‘Cross-Faded?’

People get cross-faded for a few reasons.

Weed and alcohol are often consumed in social settings. Some people may mix them together at parties or gatherings.

Others may drink alcohol before smoking marijuana to purposefully intensify the effects of weed.

In serious cases, some people misuse both weed and alcohol because they struggle with a substance use disorder or an addiction.

Side Effects of Mixing Weed and Alcohol

If you mix alcohol with weed, you might feel the following side effects:

  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Anxiousness

Side effects vary based on:

  • How much alcohol you drink or THC you ingest
  • How quickly you drink alcohol or ingest THC
  • The strength of the alcohol you consume or THC you ingest
  • Any other substances you combine with weed and alcohol
  • Your food intake, or lack thereof
  • Your water intake, or lack thereof
  • Your height and weight

Alcohol Before Weed

Drinking alcohol before using marijuana can intensify the effects of marijuana. When you drink alcohol and then smoke marijuana, your body will rapidly absorb more of the THC from the weed.14 

You should be careful about drinking alcohol before smoking weed or ingesting THC in another form. Be mindful of your tolerance for both substances and how much alcohol you consume.

Weed Before Alcohol

There isn’t much research to describe what happens when you smoke marijuana and then drink alcohol. Older research indicates that weed appears to slow the rise of your blood alcohol level after drinking too much.11

Other research suggests that, if weed slows your body’s rate of alcohol absorption, then it may delay the feeling of being drunk. This may cause you to make unsafe decisions, especially if you’re unaware of your impairment level. 

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What are the Risks?

Drinking alcohol before smoking weed can make you feel high more intensely and quickly. 

Research shows that people who use alcohol and weed simultaneously tend to use more of both substances.11, 13 This can up your risk of developing dependence.9

Marijuana use is also linked to other types of substance use disorders (SUDs). For example, marijuana use and nicotine addiction are often connected.10

Studies also show that combining weed and alcohol impairs functioning from basic motor skills to more complex cognitive tasks.12 Combining THC and alcohol has been shown to weaken driving performance.6, 14

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Can You Overdose?

Yes, you can overdose from drinking alcohol. Heavy drinking puts you at an increased risk of overdosing. Overdosing can lead to alcohol poisoning, which is life-threatening.

A marijuana overdose is unlikely.

However, you can “green out” and experience a bad reaction from smoking too much marijuana or ingesting too much THC. Greening out makes you feel out of control of your mind and body.

What to Do if You Have a Bad Reaction

The best thing to do if you have a bad reaction from drinking too much alcohol is seek emergency medical attention.

If you’re experiencing alcohol poisoning, you need immediate medical help. An alcohol overdose can lead to serious health consequences or even death.

If you have a bad reaction from weed, the best thing to do is try to relax. The most common adverse reactions to cannabis use are coughing fits, anxiety, and paranoia, which account for more than half of all bad reactions.8

Panic attacks, fainting, and vomiting can be very distressing reactions to cannabis, however, they are likely to improve within several hours. Medical attention is necessary if symptoms are serious or there is a concern of alcohol poisoning. 

When to Seek Help 

 The following statistics provide insight into AUD and SUD in the United States:

  • About a quarter (25.8 percent) of adults ages 18 and older report engaging in binge drinking in the past month.1
  • 6.3 percent report engaging in heavy alcohol use in the past month.1 
  • 14.5 million (or nearly 15 million) people from 12 years old and up suffer from alcohol use disorder (AUD).1
  • There are three million deaths every single year due to harmful use of alcohol.
  • Mixing alcohol and cannabis is one of the most commonly detected drug combinations in motor vehicle accidents.3
  • A total of 55 million people use marijuana and 45 percent of Americans have tried it at least once.5 ​​
  • While marijuana addiction is largely debated, some research shows that about one in 10 users will become addicted.
  • Adults who seek treatment for marijuana abuse or dependence typically use it near-daily for an average of more than 10 years. On average, they have made more than 6 serious attempts at giving up weed.4

Knowing when to seek professional help for AUD/SUD can be difficult. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or marijuana addiction, help is available

Some signs of alcohol addiction and weed misuse include:

  • Drinking or smoking as a coping mechanism or means of escaping reality
  • Drinking or smoking often and/or frequently alone
  • Relying on alcohol or marijuana use to feel better
  • Chronic marijuana or chronic alcohol abuse
  • Allowing alcohol or marijuana abuse to stand in the way of priorities and obligations
  • Finding yourself in life-threatening situations as a result of using alcohol and marijuana
  • Over time, needing more alcohol or weed to feel drunk or high (change in tolerance)
  • Wanting to mix alcohol and weed to intensify the feelings

Addiction treatments span from traditional talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to rehabilitation centers, support groups, medication-assisted treatments, and more. 

Talk to your doctor or reach out to a mental health professional to discuss your options.

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Updated on March 26, 2022
14 sources cited
  1. Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  2. Alcohol.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization.
  3. Any Dose of Alcohol Combined with Cannabis Significantly Increases Levels of THC in Blood.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 27 May 2015.
  4. Budney, Alan J, et al. “Marijuana Dependence and Its Treatment.” Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dec. 2007.
  5. Bustamante, Jaleesa. “Marijuana Addiction Statistics [2021]: Usage & Abuse Rates.” NCDAS, 15 Nov. 2021.
  6. Downey LA, King R, Papafotiou K, Swann P, Ogden E, Boorman M, Stough C. “The Effects of Cannabis and Alcohol on Simulated Driving: Influences of Dose and Experience.” Accident; Analysis and Prevention, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  7. Know the Risks of Marijuana.” SAMHSA, 26 Oct. 2021.
  8. LaFrance, Emily M., et al. “Overbaked: Assessing and Predicting Acute Adverse Reactions to Cannabis - Journal of Cannabis Research.” BioMed Central, BioMed Central, 2 Ja
  9. Metrik, Jane, et al. “Daily Patterns of Marijuana and Alcohol Co-Use among Individuals with Alcohol and Cannabis Use Disorders.” Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jun. 2018.
  10. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?National Institute on Drug Abuse, 24 May 2021.
  11. Ramadan, Majed M., et al. “Frequency of Cannabis Use and Alcohol-Associated Adverse Effects in a Representative Sample of U.S. Adolescents and Youth (2002–2014) a Cross-Sectional Study - Journal of Cannabis Research.” BioMed Central, BioMed Central, 20 Oct. 2020.
  12. Ramaekers, Johannes G, et al. “Tolerance and Cross-Tolerance to Neurocognitive Effects of THC and Alcohol in Heavy Cannabis Users.” Psychopharmacology, Springer-Verlag, Mar. 2011.
  13. Subbaraman, Meenakshi S, and William C Kerr. “Simultaneous versus Concurrent Use of Alcohol and Cannabis in the National Alcohol Survey.” Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2015.
  14. Yurasek, Ali M., et al. “Co-Use of Alcohol and Cannabis: A Review - Current Addiction Reports.” SpringerLink, Springer International Publishing, 27 Apr. 2017.

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