Drug and alcohol interactions are extremely common—many prescription drugs come with warnings to avoid alcohol when taking certain drugs as the combination can result in serious, and sometimes fatal, side effects. Cannabis has far fewer interactions with alcohol than do many other drugs on the market. However, those interactions can vary greatly based on the strain of cannabis and its cannabinoid concentrations.
Currently, studies are still limited looking at the interactions between cannabis and alcohol. That said, there are some interesting findings on the connection between the two.
Increasing THC Levels When Combining Cannabis With Alcohol Consumption
A study from the University of Iowa published in 2015 found that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels in the blood increase when alcohol is consumed alongside cannabis. The study, which was published in Clinical Chemistry, looked at cannabis consumers who ingested marijuana a maximum of a few times a week. The study concluded that alcohol increased the distribution of THC as well as changed the way the body metabolized and absorbed the cannabinoid. Researchers, however, weren’t surprised by these findings in light of alcohol’s known interactions with other medications.
It’s important to consider the increased THC levels that come with drinking alcohol when consuming cannabis, particularly when it comes to driving under the influence. Driving under the influence is extremely dangerous and has serious implications for individuals and the community alike. These findings could also add increased complications for law enforcement in the process of determining how to test for sobriety when driving in relation to cannabis and alcohol.
More Cannabis, Less Alcohol
Another study from the U.S. National Institute of Drug Abuse found that people who consumed cannabis had differential consumption patterns with alcohol. The study from 1985 found that when cannabis was available, people consumed less alcohol.
When both cannabis and alcohol were available in a social setting, 14 out of 16 people drank significantly less alcohol, compared to when only alcohol was available. Twelve of 16 people, however, did consume slightly more cannabis when both products were made available. The study concluded that in social situations people are more likely to drink less alcohol when they have access to cannabis, but also consume more cannabis when alcohol is also available.
A Warning When It Comes to Combining Alcohol & Cannabis
Outside of increased THC levels in the blood, there have been no direct drug interactions found between cannabis and alcohol. Still, there are some important aspects to pay heed to. If an individual drinks too much alcohol while consuming cannabis, the cannabinoids can reduce nausea and inhibit vomiting. Though in a medical application lessening feelings of nausea with cannabis use can be very beneficial, this doesn’t apply in a situation where someone has had too much to drink.
Your body’s ability to detect when it needs to expel toxins becomes muted with cannabis use. In such a scenario, the inability to vomit after consuming too much alcohol can lead to an increased potential for alcohol poisoning. Something to avoid at all costs.