Does Cannabis Affect Alcohol Consumption?

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Cannabis and alcohol. These two are often talked about and consumed together. Have you ever tried it? If you have, how did it make you feel? Perhaps you were affected by using the two together?

Did you know that these two are actually very different from one another? One is a a toxin while the other is a “skeleton key to one of the body’s most critical systems”(Project CBD). Cannabis and alcohol remain linked together due to the culture, business, and even public policy. There are frequent calls for cannabis to be legalized and be treated just like alcohol. What are your thoughts? Do you feel like they are the same? Different? Should they be treated the same in terms of laws?

Scientists have studied the relationship of cannabis and alcohol for decades now. The studies have focused on their relationship of using one with the other, impacts on human health, impacts on our society and how the two affect the endocannabinoid system. There is a lot of research surrounding how alcohol affects the endocannabinoid system, and how the endocannabinoid system in turn drives alcohol dependence. In particular, the CB1 receptor ,  THC’s main target , is believed to play a role in this . We have learned and continue to see that even though cannabis and alcohol play similar roles they are in fact drastically different. Researchers are continuously exploring the links amongst the two (Project CBD).

Authors of a recent study that was published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, suggest that cannabis is a substitute for alcohol. Others suggest that cannabis complements alcohol which causes  increases in drinking

Lead author Hollis Karoly and senior author Kent Hutchinson, both whom are from the University of Colorado Boulder, have worked on multiple studies that focus on the relationship of the two. None of their most recent journals digs deeper into the topic by attempting to determine the relative roles of THC and CBD. For this to happen, Karoly, Hutchinon, and two other colleagues at the University of Colorado “designed a naturalistic, observational study in which 120 cannabis- and alcohol-consuming adults were assigned to use one of three cannabis strains (predominately THC, predominately CBD, or balanced THC and CBD) freely over the course of five days” (Project  CBD) .

When the researchers compared the alcohol usage before and during this five-day period, they “found that CBD users drank fewer drinks per drinking day and had fewer alcohol use days and fewer alcohol-and-cannabis co-use days compared to the other two groups”. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the presence of CBD that made the difference. Instead, it was the absence of THC being that no differences emerged between the THC and THC+CBD groups. This finding was aligned with a separate survey of 600 individuals recently conducted by Karoly, Hutchinson and colleagues. Researches discovered that “medical cannabis patients and users of primarily CBD products reportedly drank less alcohol than recreational and higher-THC cannabis users” (Project CBD).

As always, it is important to mention that if you are consuming cannabis and alcohol together, be safe and be smart. Don’t drink and drive. Get a ride and get home safe.


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