Alcohol and marijuana may both be popular substances to abuse because they can be easy to access and many people assume they are safe. However, abusing either substance or abusing them together can lead to unpleasant side effects, risks, and long-term dangers.
While it can be dangerous to drink alcohol by itself, smoking marijuana at the same time can cause several potentially severe consequences.
For example, mixing alcohol and marijuana can lead to:
- loss of coordination
- memory loss
- difficulty speaking
- difficulty breathing
- inability to think straight
- extreme drowsiness
- impaired judgment
- unconsciousness or blacking out
These side effects and risks can be made worse when either substance is taken in high doses or consistently over time. Additionally, the risk of addiction and the risk of overdose is always possible when alcohol is involved.
As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol can be extremely dangerous when consumed in large amounts or alongside other drugs.
Unfortunately, alcohol is the most commonly used psychotropic drug in the United States, and marijuana is second. That means there’s a high probability that if a person is abusing one of these substances, they may be abusing the other as well.
Side Effects Of Marijuana Use
Marijuana, also known as cannabis or weed, may be smoked, vaped, or mixed into food and eaten. It typically contains one or both of the active drugs tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD).
THC and CBD both affect cannabinoid receptors in the brain, creating the desired effects. However, some methods of marijuana use make it nearly impossible to control the exact levels of THC or CBD being consumed.
Some of the potentially serious short-term side effects of cannabis use may include:
- mood changes
- impairment/difficulty moving
- problems with thinking straight
- difficulty problem-solving
- altered sense of time
- altered senses, including vision
- memory loss
In high doses, additional side effects can occur, including hallucinations, delusions, and psychosis. These risk factors are even greater when mixing weed with other drugs or substances including alcohol.
Side Effects Of Alcohol Use
The use of alcohol is extremely common, but drinking alcohol isn’t entirely safe. In fact, alcohol abuse can lead to potentially severe consequences.
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When alcohol is consumed, it’s broken down and cleared out by the liver in a certain amount of time. If a person is binge drinking or drinking faster than the liver can process, they’ll become intoxicated.
While the short-term side effects of alcohol are often the reason that people may drink, there are some side effects that can be extremely unpleasant.
Some undesirable side effects of alcohol use may include:
- difficulty speaking
- difficulty breathing
- changes in heart rate
- nausea or vomiting
- upset stomach or diarrhea
- impaired vision or hearing
- impaired judgment
- unconsciousness or blackouts
- problems with perception and coordination
Of course, there are several additional long-term side effects of alcohol abuse, including the increased risk of addiction, alcohol poisoning, high blood pressure, and liver damage.
The risk of potentially dangerous or adverse reactions is also increased if a person chooses to mix alcohol with other substances, including marijuana.
Risks Of Mixing Cannabis And Alcohol
In addition to worsening the side effects listed above, mixing cannabis and alcohol can lead to additional dangers, including an increased risk of addiction and an increased risk of overdose.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in 10 marijuana users will become addicted. Additionally, 14.1 million adults in the United States have an alcohol use disorder.
Because both substances have the potential for abuse and addiction, mixing the two of them can be especially risky.
If a person has abused both alcohol and cannabis, they may have problems with:
- increased impairment/intoxication
- slurred speech
- difficulty thinking straight
- an increased likelihood of making reckless decisions
- a heightened chance of blacking out/memory loss
Should you notice these symptoms in yourself or someone else, seek medical advice immediately.
Long-Term Effects Of Substance Abuse
Even after the effects of alcohol and marijuana wear off, there are long-term dangers of substance abuse that you should be aware of. Abusing alcohol, whether it’s drinking too much at once or consistently over time, can lead to potentially permanent damage to your brain and body.
Alcohol changes how the brain works, and after extended exposure, this can have a lasting impact on a person’s mood and behavior. Additionally, heavy alcohol use can lead to heart problems including cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, stroke, and high blood pressure. Finally, alcohol has been linked to liver damage, pancreatitis, a weakened immune system, and certain cancers.
Marijuana can also affect the brain, especially if used by teenagers or young adults. No matter the age, a person’s heart can still be affected by marijuana use. It may increase a person’s heart rate, increase the risk of stroke, or lead to heart disease.
Additional damage to the lungs, respiratory system, and cardiovascular system may also occur as a result of smoking marijuana. Finally, if used frequently or in high doses, marijuana can lead to anxiety, hallucinations, paranoia, and other forms of psychosis.
Marijuana Abuse And Alcohol Addiction Treatment Options
If you or someone you know has been mixing alcohol and marijuana, consider reaching out to an addiction treatment specialist to find the best available treatment options.
Many treatment centers offer inpatient and outpatient programs. In an inpatient program, a person will stay full-time and receive treatment over the course of several weeks or months. Alternatively, outpatient programs are available where individuals can visit a treatment center a few times each week and return home afterward.
No matter which type of program works best for you, you’ll likely see some of the same methods being used.
When it comes to substance use, many methods of treatment have proven to be effective, including:
- behavioral counseling
- medication-based treatment
- psychiatry, including the evaluation and treatment for other mental health issues including depression and/or anxiety
- long-term follow-up appointments in order to maintain a successful recovery
Currently, there are three medications that have been approved in the United States to treat alcohol addiction. These medications include naltrexone, acamprosate (Campral), and disulfiram (Antabuse).
While not everyone’s personalized treatment plan includes medication, most will include behavioral therapies. These practices aim to help people change their attitudes about drug use and develop healthy life skills.
Find Help For Addiction To Alcohol Or Marijuana Today
If you or a loved one may be struggling with alcohol abuse, marijuana abuse, or a polysubstance use disorder, contact an addiction treatment specialist or healthcare provider today. Find treatment by reaching out to AddictionResource.net.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Marijuana and Public Health
- National Center for Biotechnology Information — Alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana consumption is associated with increased odds of same-day substance co- and tri-use
- National Center for Biotechnology Information — Simultaneous vs. concurrent use of alcohol and cannabis in the National Alcohol Survey
- National Center for Biotechnology Information — The Risk Associated With Alcohol Use and Alcoholism
- National Institutes of Health: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism — Alcohol's Effects on the Body
- National Institutes of Health: National Institute on Drug Abuse — Marijuana
- National Institutes of Health: National Institute on Drug Abuse — Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction