Mixing Alcohol and Cannabis: A Dangerous Combo
Understanding the risks of mixing alcohol and cannabis is crucial for promoting responsible consumption and ensuring the safety of users. When these two substances are combined, they can lead to increased impairment in cognitive and motor functions. Studies have shown that the simultaneous use of alcohol and cannabis results in greater impairment than using either substance alone, which can have serious consequences for decision-making and coordination. Research suggests frequent combined use of these substances causes a higher risk of developing substance use disorders or exacerbating existing mental health issues.
By helping you understand the risks associated with mixing alcohol and cannabis, we allow you to make informed decisions about your consumption and prioritise your health and well-being.
Simultaneous vs Concurrent Users
Research shows that while many alcohol abusers tend also to use cannabis, not all are simultaneously using both. However, those who do mix the two addictive substances at the same time, tend to have a higher risk of developing negative side effects.
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The Dangerous Effects of Mixing Alcohol with Cannabis
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that impairs memory and cognitive function, influencing mood by affecting dopamine and serotonin. This leads to feelings of relaxation and pleasure, but excessive consumption can result in intoxication and long-term damage to the brain and other organs. Cannabis, on the other hand, contains cannabinoids such as Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis, including the “high” sensation, and can cause feelings of paranoia or hallucinations.
The “crossfade” effect, which occurs when alcohol and cannabis are mixed, is a critical concern for addiction specialists nationwide. This phenomenon can lead to dizziness, nausea, and an increased likelihood of developing anxiety or paranoia. Furthermore, cannabis can mask the effects of alcohol, leading to increased alcohol consumption. This raises the risk of alcohol poisoning, a dangerous condition characterised by severe vomiting, dehydration, slow or irregular breathing and, often, unconsciousness.
Increased Risk of Cardiovascular and Respiratory Problems
The combination of alcohol and cannabis can lead to increased risks of cardiovascular and respiratory problems. When these substances are consumed simultaneously, they can synergistically affect heart rate and blood pressure. Studies have shown that
Respiratory depression is another concern. Both substances can independently cause respiratory depression, and combined use can exacerbate this effect. This can lead to decreased oxygenation of the blood, which can cause hypoxia and tissue damage. Prolonged exposure to these conditions can contribute to the development of chronic respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.
Furthermore, the use of alcohol and marijuana together can impair the body’s ability to effectively clear mucus from the lungs, increasing the risk of respiratory infections and pneumonia. This particularly concerns individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions or compromised immune systems.
Impact on Cognitive Functioning and Memory
Both substances have been shown to affect the brain’s hippocampus. Alcohol consumption, particularly excessive amounts, can lead to long-term cognitive deficits. Studies have shown that chronic alcohol consumption can reduce hippocampal volume associated with memory impairments.
Alcohol and cannabis together can also influence attention and decision-making processes. Reaction time and coordination are also affected by both substances.
If diagnosed within the autism spectrum, the impact of alcohol and cannabis on cognitive functioning and memory can be exacerbated, including impairments in attention, memory, and executive functioning.
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Increased Risk of Accidents
When these two substances are consumed together, they can aggravate each other’s negative side effects, leading to a heightened level of impairment. Research has shown that the simultaneous use of alcohol and marijuana can lead to impaired judgment and decision-making. A study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that drivers under the influence of both substances were likelier to make risky decisions, such as speeding or running red lights, than those who had consumed only one. In 2020, raised blood alcohol levels were the reason for 6,480 accidents.
Interactions with Medications and Other Substances
The combination of alcohol and cannabis can also alter the effectiveness of certain medications, such as antidepressants and painkillers. For instance, alcohol can interfere with the metabolism of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a common class of antidepressants, potentially reducing their efficacy or causing harmful side effects. Cannabis use can also interact with opioid painkillers, leading to increased sedation and a heightened risk of respiratory depression.
If you drink alcohol and use cannabis with certain medications, such as benzodiazepines or other central nervous system depressants, you can further increase the risk of severe sedation, respiratory depression and even death.
Considerations for Pregnant Women
The dangers of drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis during pregnancy are significant and can have many adverse effects, especially dangerous for the developing foetus. One of the primary concerns is the increased risk of birth defects. Studies have shown that combining alcohol and marijuana can impair fetal brain development in mammals, leading to long-term cognitive and behavioural issues. Children exposed to both substances in utero are more likely to experience developmental delays and learning disabilities.
Higher Risk of Premature & Stillbirth
Another major concern is the higher chance of premature birth and low birth weight. Babies born prematurely or with low birth weight are at an increased risk for various health complications, including respiratory distress, feeding difficulties, and long-term developmental issues. A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that women who used both alcohol and cannabis during pregnancy had a 2.3 times higher risk of stillbirth compared to those who did not use either substance.
Combined Effects on Mental Health
The negative impact of combining alcohol and cannabis on mental health is a significant concern. Drinking alcohol and smoking weed can exacerbate an existing mental health disorder and contribute to developing new ones. Research has shown that the simultaneous use of alcohol and marijuana can increase anxiety and depression. A study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that individuals who used both substances were more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression than those who used either substance alone.
Interference with Mental Health Recovery
Alcohol and cannabis can also harm treatment and recovery for mental health issues. These substances can interfere with the effectiveness of medications and therapies, making it more difficult for individuals to achieve and maintain mental health stability.
The Impact of Combining Alcohol and Cannabis on Addiction and Substance Abuse
The impact of combining alcohol and cannabis on addiction, substance abuse, and related health consequences is significant and concerning. In terms of addiction, mixing alcohol and cannabis can increase the risk of developing a substance use disorder.
Excessive and compulsive use of both cannabis and alcohol can result in both psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms. Although cannabis withdrawal alone is typically mild, alcohol withdrawal can be difficult and unpleasant for those already dependent. Using marijuana to handle these symptoms might hide underlying conditions and obstruct an adequate definition of the severity of the withdrawals. In severe cases, an alcohol detox regime may be required.
Social and Relationship Problems
The social and relationship problems that result from alcohol and cannabis abuse are multifaceted and can have significant consequences. One of the primary concerns is the increased likelihood of engaging in risky behaviours.
People who consume both substances are more likely to engage in dangerous activities, such as unprotected sex, driving under the influence, and participating in criminal activities. This risk-taking behaviour can be attributed to the combined impairments in judgment and decision-making skills caused by the simultaneous consumption of alcohol and cannabis. Furthermore, this can lead to additional problems, including financial difficulties, health issues, and further deterioration of social and personal relationships.
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If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol and cannabis addiction, our trained professionals are here to guide you through the available treatment options. Contact our support team or fill out a contact form to share your concerns. Most of our staff are in recovery themselves, so we can sympathise and understand better what you’re going through.
CATCH Recovery’s approach to treating alcohol and cannabis addiction involves a comprehensive treatment plan focusing on individualised care and evidence-based therapies. Holistic methods are an essential component of CATCH Recovery’s approach. During your counselling sessions, we will identify and address the underlying issues that may aggravate your substance abuse. We are here to help you regain control over your life and reinstate your authority over your relationships.
With the CATCH Recovery programme, you will rediscover the joys of sober, healthy life.