What happens to the body when you smoke marijuana and drink alcohol at the same time?
Marijuana is one of the most popular additions for those who drink alcohol. Each cause different effects on the body and the brain on their own but, can the combination of both have additional benefits or risks?
To understand what are the effects of both substances in the body, it’s necessary to analyze their individual effects and how they alters our organism. Alcohol is a depressant, and it’s known to affect the central nervous system by changing how the neurons communicate; it suppresses the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate and increases the inhibitory neurotransmitter gaba which causes information flow to become slow, making you feel, perceive and remember less. Marijuana, on the other hand, is known for its relaxing qualities, but it can produce very different results depending on how much and what strain of it is consumed. It contains THC, which acts on the brain’s cannabinoid receptors and causes some neurons in the brain to continually fire, removing their normal refractory period, making imagination and thoughts magnified.
But, because both alcohol and weed inhibit glutamate transmission which is a key part of the learning process, their combined use is linked to poor memory and their individual effects are enhanced when combined. A study by Scott Lukas of Harvard University shows that people who drank two or more glasses of alcohol and smoked marijuana reported almost double levels of THC in blood plasma rather than people who only smoked marijuana. People who drank also noticed the effect of marijuana faster and reported a better high with a better mood and other euphoric effects, striking the possibility that alcohol modifies the arteries in such a way that the absorption of inhaled THC is increased.
Researchers believe that this is due to vasodilation. Alcohol causes smooth muscle cells in your arteries to relax, widening of the blood vessels and an increased blood flow, all of which allow more THC to cross your alveolar sac, a part of the lung where gas exchange occurs with the blood, ultimately the alcohol is increasing THC absorption.
Other research has found that smoking cannabis may even reduce the damage alcohol does on your liver. When you drink, ethanol is metabolized by the enzime cytochrome P450 2e1, but after excessive drinking this process causes oxidative stress, causing steatosis that makes cells in the liver become fatty. Cannabidiol, a chemical component of marijuana, was found to inhibit the cycle that causes this oxidative stress on your liver, protecting it from damage.
However, before this becomes your go-to party duo, consider that marijuana prevents vomiting, (it’s one of the reason medical marijuana is prescribed to chemotherapy patients to help ease their nausea). And in the case of alcohol poisoning, vomiting is the body’s way to remove excess alcohol, so, being unable to vomit, poses serious health risks.
On the plus side, there are no indicators that this combination could cause a synergistic overdose; however, the fact that more THC enters the brain causes some marijuana’s characteristic effects to increase, which could cause more car accidents than those that normally occur when only drinking alcohol or smoking cannabis. So, if you do decide to try mixing them out, drink and smoke responsibly.