Alcohol and cannabis are two of the most consumed psychoactive substances in the world, excluding some less intoxicating substances such as caffeine and theine. Because the initial effects of these two drugs are associated with physical and psychological relaxation, it is common for many people to take them simultaneously to facilitate synergy.
In this article we will see how the combination of alcohol and marijuana affects the brain, As well as the potential risks of this practice. This is why we must first stop and analyze the effects of each of these substances separately.
How does alcohol affect the brain?
Alcohol has depressant effects on the central nervous system; roughly speaking, it means that it inhibits its activity. However, if the dose consumed is low, alcohol results in reduced behavioral inhibition (which many people associate with increased sociability) and feelings of relaxation and emotional release.
When the dose is high, there are signs such as deficits in working memory and other executive functions, problems with motor coordination – including expressive language – blurred vision and emotional disturbances, such as decreased anger control. Severe poisoning can lead to alcohol coma and even death.
5 phases of alcohol intoxication have been described according to the blood concentration of this compound: the euphoria phase (characterized by impulsivity), the intoxication phase (which causes incoordination), the confusion phase (in which appear somnolence and dysarthria), that of stupor and coma, and finally the bulbar or fatal phase by cardiopulmonary arrest.
Effects of cannabis use
In general marijuana produces relaxing effects on the body. However, reactions to consuming this medication can vary depending on a number of variables, including the dose used, the characteristics of the person’s body, and the variety used. Indica tends to be more annoying than sativa.
The main active component in cannabis is cannabinoids, compounds found in certain plants that activate specific receptors in the human body: cannabinoid receptors. The most important is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which explains the relaxation effects, perceptual distortion, fatigue and increased appetite.
By binding to cannabinoid receptors, THC changes the body’s dopamine and norepinephrine levels; it causes a feeling of well-being, promotes introspection and increases sensory awareness, but also it negatively affects cognitive performance and can cause acute anxiety, Same anxiety attack.
The combination of alcohol and marijuana
Since marijuana and alcohol poisoning decrease cognitive and behavioral performance (including markedly altered working memory), it is not surprising that taking both substances these effects are greater. only if only one was used.
In particular, research such as that of Hartman’s team (2015) suggests that, by combining these two drugs, alcohol potentiates the effects of marijuana because it increases the concentration of THC in the blood, and it is the main psychoactive component of cannabis.
On the other hand, according to a study by the Lukas group (2015), the consumption of marijuana alters gastrointestinal motility; this results in greater absorption of alcohol by the body, resulting in a decrease in the effects of alcohol.
It is important to note that people in a situation of physical and / or psychological dependence on one of these substances a high risk of developing multiple drug addiction if they start to combine it with the other, Since they exert synergistic effects and can act as mutual substitutes.
Physiological and psychological effects of this mixture
Consuming alcohol first, then marijuana increases the concentration of THC because alcohol facilitates its absorption in the digestive tract. Although some people practice this combination recreationally, it can cause unpleasant physical and cognitive reactions, especially if the amount of alcohol is excessive.
Specifically, many people refer to signs like pallor, dizziness and weakness, nausea and vomiting. In addition, mixing these two substances increases the likelihood of psychological symptoms, mainly anxiety (which sometimes even leads to anxiety attacks) and paranoid thoughts.
The combined use of alcohol and cannabis it is one of the most frequent causes of road accidents in the whole world. This is because mixing two substances considerably worsens the ability to concentrate and react quickly, two skills that are very relevant in driving vehicles.
- Hartman, RL, Brown, TL, Milavetz, G., Spurgin, A., Gorelick, DA, Gaffney, G., and Huestis, MA (2015). Controlled administration of cannabis vaporizer: blood and plasma cannabinoids with and without alcohol. Clinical Chemistry, 61 (6): 850-69.
- Luke, SE, Benedict, R., Mendelson, JH, Kouri, E., Sholar, M. and Amass, L. (1992). Marijuana attenuates the increase in plasma ethanol levels in human subjects. Neuropsychopharmacology, 7 (1): 77-81.
- Lukas, SE and Orozco, S. (2001). Ethanol increases plasma delta (9) -tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels and subjective effects after smoking marijuana in human volunteers. Substance Abuse and Alcoholism, 64 (2): 143-9.