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Mixing cannabis and alcohol may have serious consequences

2016 has been quite a year. What a difference a year makes in regards to the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (MCPP). The choices of medical cannabis products now available to patients are staggering in their variety. To think that it started with only flower. As we approach the end of the year and we usher in 2017, let’s remember to be safe when we celebrate. This post is my Public Service Announcement (PSA) about the possible dangers of mixing cannabis and alcohol.

People react very differently to mind altering substances. That would explain differing reactions to combining them. Some people do not notice a significant difference in their cognitive abilities when they mix cannabis and alcohol. However, for the majority of people, mixing the two increases the effects of both, thereby impacting their cognitive capabilities. For some people, this is an exhilarating outcome. For others, it may actually pose serious health risks.

A Harvard medical school professor, Scott Lucas, explains why. THC acts on the brain’s cannabinoid receptors which can cause paranoia, time distortion, attention deficit and more. Alcohol depresses the nervous system which has a big effect on the functioning of our motor skills; it reduces them greatly. In many people the effects of each become amplified.

Lucas discovered that many people who had at least a couple of drinks and ingested cannabis had twice as much THC in their blood as those who did not drink. They reported that they felt the effects of cannabis sooner and described their high as better. One explanation may be that since alcohol can change how blood vessels absorb inhaled THC, more THC reaches the brain via the bloodstream. This translates into much stronger effects of cannabis; more impaired judgment and an increased heart rate. This can be dangerous for those with heart problems and for those engaging in activities that require focus and concentration.

Does it matter which substance you ingest first? Yes!!!! The saying goes “grass before beer, you’re in the clear, while beer before grass, well….” The explanation for this is that if you drink alcohol first, and then ingest cannabis, you are much more likely to drink beyond your tolerance level. Since cannabis is an antiemetic, which means it prevents vomiting, this could be a problem if you experience alcohol poisoning. The body’s way of expelling excess alcohol is via vomiting. If you can’t vomit effectively, you are more likely to choke on your vomit or succumb to the effects of alcohol poisoning.

On an upbeat note, I hope you all enjoy your New Year’s Eve celebrations. I will be watching the ball drop in NYC on TV at 11pm and then be heading for bed. Please, please, please be smart and safe out there. I know you all know this, already, but I am going to remind you, anyway. DO NOT DRIVE under the influence of any mind altering substances. See ya next year!


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