Alcohol And Marijuana

As 2 of the most commonly used substances, the majority of Americans have used alcohol and marijuana at some point in their lives. Despite their legality in certain states, using these drugs together can produce uncomfortable side effects and even an increased risk for dangerous situations.

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Mixing Alcohol And Marijuana

Alcohol and marijuana are 2 of the most commonly used substances in the United States, with 12% of American adults stating that they smoke marijuana, and over 50% of American adults saying that they currently drink alcohol. Even if someone is not a current user of alcohol or marijuana, is it likely that they have tried it at some point, with 52% of Americans reporting that they have tried marijuana, and 86% reporting that they have tried alcohol at some point in their lives. Used alone and in moderation, these substances can be consumed safely and legally in certain states. However, when mixed together, alcohol and marijuana can create unpleasant side effects.

Marijuana contains the mind-altering chemical Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that gives users a high feeling. Marijuana can be consumed in many ways, such as being smoked in plant form, oil, or wax, or added to food to create an edible that people eat to achieve their high. Depending on the method in which marijuana is consumed, the user will start feeling effects within minutes or up to an hour. Depending on the individual and the amount consumed, users may experience altered senses, such as seeing brighter colors and have an altered sense of time, as well as having issues with thinking, memory, and problem solving. There have been reports of delusions and hallucinations when taken in high doses. Although it is possible to experience negative side effects from marijuana, such as anxiety and paranoia, the drug is considered generally safe and non-life threatening.

Despite the fact that alcohol is legal for people over the age of 21, it can be dangerous and deadly in both short and long-term. Typically, 1 or 2 drinks will produce feelings of relaxation and reduced inhibitions, but more drinks can lead to negative side effects. The effects of alcohol are influenced by the height, weight, gender, and tolerance of the person drinking, as well as factors like if they have eaten or not before drinking. Someone drinking alcohol may experience slurred speech, distorted vision and hearing, drowsiness, and nausea and vomiting. Alcohol poisoning can also occur, which can be deadly if not treated. Long-term alcohol use can result in heart-related diseases, liver disease, and unintentional injuries. The risk of injuries can be increased when someone chooses to mix alcohol and marijuana.

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Getting “Cross Faded”

Getting drunk from alcohol and high from marijuana at the same time is often referred to as being cross faded. Other slang terms used to describe the mixture are crunk, faded, blizted, and blasted. In one survey of young adults aged 18 to 23, being cross faded, “was seen as moderately risky and not desirable by most.” However, over 18% of respondents stated that being cross faded was desirable. Drinking alcohol before smoking marijuana increases the absorption of THC and can intensify the drug’s effects. Studies have demonstrated that if someone drinks alcohol and then smokes marijuana, it produces, “significantly higher blood concentrations of cannabis’s main psychoactive constituent, THC, as well as THC’s primary active metabolite than cannabis use alone.” Marijuana impacts each individual differently, so for some, getting cross faded may not be uncomfortable. However, others may experience negative effects.

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Often referred to as “greening out,” alcohol and marijuana users can have an undesirable reaction when combining the 2 substances. Physical symptoms like nausea and vomiting are common, as well as sweating and dizziness. Psychological symptoms may occur such as anxiety and distress. These symptoms can be even more intense if the marijuana is consumed as an edible. When marijuana is baked into or added to food and then eaten, it takes time for the food to digest and for the user to start experiencing effects. This delayed onset may cause the user to consume more than intended, creating a longer, more intense high. In extreme cases of consuming edibles, people have experienced hallucinations, delusions, and other psychotic reactions. Using marijuana before drinking alcohol may make it difficult to gauge how intoxicated the user is from alcohol, potentially leading to dangerous situations like driving under the influence.

Dangers Of Mixing Alcohol And Marijuana

A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that people who use both marijuana and drink alcohol tend to do so at the same time. The use of both substances was also associated with drinking a larger amount of alcohol more frequently. Compared to solely drinking alcohol, using the 2 substances at the same time doubled the odds of drunk driving, social consequences, and harms to self. Those who used alcohol and marijuana were more likely to drive unsafely, than those who used alcohol and marijuana separately. They were also more likely to use the substances in a bar or party context, making it more likely that they would have to drive somewhere afterwards. The study authors found that people who felt, “stressed, angry, tired, and/or out of control,” were more likely to use both substances at the same time.

Using substances to cope with negative feelings may be a sign of a substance use disorder or an alcohol use disorder. Drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time can lead to alcohol poisoning, where critical parts of the brain that control breathing, heart rate, and temperature can shut down, leading to death. Because more alcohol is usually consumed when using alcohol and marijuana at the same time, users are at risk for alcohol poisoning and should pay close attention to how much they are consuming.

Do I Need Help?

An addiction to alcohol is something that should be taken seriously, and it is important to know the signs to determine if you or your loved one is struggling. A craving for alcohol, wanting to cut back but being unable to, having your professional or personal life affected by alcohol, and developing a tolerance to alcohol are all signs of an alcohol use disorder. It is commonly known that alcohol is addictive, but there is debate over whether marijuana can be considered addictive. It is possible to develop a dependence on marijuana, where a person experiences cravings, restlessness, mood and sleep disturbances, and irritably when they don’t use the drug. If alcohol or marijuana is negatively impacting your life and you seem unable to quit on your own, a treatment provider can speak to you about your options for free, available 24/7.

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