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The Interaction of Cannabis and Alcohol: Effects and Consequences

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For the past several years, alcohol has remained an essential aspect of social events and festivities, and it is enjoyed by countless individuals regularly. In 2019, the “National Survey on Drug Use and Health” revealed that over 85% of adults who are 18 years old or older acknowledged that they had consumed alcohol at some point. 

Yet, with the continued legalization of cannabis in multiple states, merging these two substances is on the rise. One should hold a medical marijuana card in PA to consume cannabis legally. Sadly, there are a lot of users who don’t know the risks that this mixture may pose. 

While its widespread popularity and presence in social gatherings are evident, alcohol consumption has significant consequences. An NIH investigation 2008 discovered, “There were 1.6 million people who were hospitalized, that was the entire adult population, costing $15.5 billion, with half of these cases consisting of alcohol overdoses.” Additionally, consuming alcohol contributes to substantial economic losses for businesses, estimated at around $249 billion yearly, as the “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention” highlighted. 

What is Alcohol?

Among the most often consumed substances globally, alcohol is imbibed by millions of individuals daily. Chemically speaking, alcohol is a broad term that refers to an organic group of compounds containing hydroxy OH functional groups. Ethanol, which is produced by fermenting sugars and starch from various crops such as grapes, potatoes, or grains, has been the most common type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages.

There is plenty of alcohol available to consumers nowadays, e.g., beer, wine, whiskey, and distilled spirits. Fermentation of grains such as barley, wheat, or rye is used to produce beer, while fermentation of grapes produces wine. The fermentation of grain, fruit, or vegetable mixtures increases alcohol concentration when distilled for spirits and liqueurs.

The Consequences of Mixing Cannabis and Alcohol

Combining cannabis and alcohol can lead to unforeseen impacts on the human body. Factors such as the alcoholic beverage type and an individual’s physiology must be considered in determining interactions between these substances. This is due to the distinct nature of alcohol and THC, the active psychoactive element in cannabis. However, in an attempt to increase the effects of both substances, this kind of combination is almost always used by humans.

Alcohol functions as a depressant, draining activity in the central nervous system. Contrarily, cannabis exhibits properties of both a depressant and a stimulant. Therefore, combining marijuana and alcohol can result in synergistic and antagonistic effects.

In the realm of beer, hard liquor, and wine, the combination with cannabis can produce different outcomes. In particular, this is due to the different levels of alcohol in each of them.

The potent alcohol range in hard liquor strengthens its effect when mixed with cannabis. This mix may increase impairment and a higher risk of accidents and injuries. Hence, extra caution is vital when considering the combination of liquor and cannabis.

Rather than the immediate effects, the lasting effects of blending marijuana and alcohol contain a higher potential for dependence on either or both substances. A study in 2017 indicated that “Simultaneous use of marijuana and alcohol leads to compounded performance impairment effects, escalated consumption rates, promoted behavioral and social repercussions like poor driving, and an improved probability of experiencing coexisting substance use and mental health disorders.  

Guidelines for Responsible Enjoyment of Alcohol and Cannabis

Cannabis and alcohol can potentially be relished together responsibly. How do we ensure they are combined as safely as possible? To begin with, it is important to remember that both substances may have unique effects on a person’s body and must be used in moderation and caution. 

Initiating cautiously and slowly increasing is essential to prevent undesirable effects when combining cannabis and alcohol. Both substances must be started with low quantities and progressively increased doses for that purpose. Furthermore, understanding the appropriate consumption limits for each substance and not exceeding them should also be ensured.

Evaluating drunkenness can be challenging when mixing alcohol and cannabis, but several tips and tricks can help. It shall also include monitoring the number of drinks taken, the pace of consumption, and the use of instruments such as breathalyzers or blood tests to detect the presence of alcohol.

Following is a set of guidelines for responsible use of cannabis and alcohol:

Do:

  • Start by introducing small quantities of the two substances and gradually increasing them as needed. 
  • You should be careful about the safety of consumption and do not exceed it. 
  • Keep track of your level of drunkenness and discontinue using either substance if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. 
  • You need to drink a lot of water so you don’t get dehydrated. 
  • If you are impaired, plan and not drive or use heavy machinery.

Don’t: 

  • Mix cannabis and alcohol with other medications or drugs. 
  • Do not exceed the recommended dose or consume too much of the substances. 
  • Use cannabis and alcohol if you have a substance misuse or dependence history. 
  • Use cannabis and alcohol if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Pressure the others to use these substances if they don’t want to.

If you are consuming marijuana to alleviate any of your medical ailments, don’t forget to get recommendation for MMJ card in Pennsylvania, as it is essential to consume medical marijuana legally.

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