For a long time, the idea of opening up a cold beer or pouring yourself a stiff cocktail after a taxing day at work was an image that got many people through the final hours of the afternoon at their job. Now, in 2019, people across Canada and many US states can add lighting up a nice joint or packing a big bowl to that image of the perfect after work treat. But should the two be mixed? What are the effects when combined? When you look at the people’s ever-evolving relationships with cannabis and alcohol respectively, it only makes sense that the two would become more common together as cannabis use is more socially accepted. So what should we know before mixing the two?
Alcohol and Cannabis Sales
Before looking into how it might impact Canada and the US, it may be beneficial to look at a city that has already dealt with both cannabis and alcohol consumption, Amsterdam, and how the results raise concerns as we proceed with legalization on a local front. As we had discussed in our previous blog on Cannabis Tourism, Amsterdam has a love/hate relationship with its party reputation with an increasing lean towards wanting to move past it. It is illegal for coffee shops, the name given to cannabis cafe’s in the city, to sell alcohol. If you have ever been to Amsterdam after dark you quickly see why. Many visitors underestimate, or just don’t even consider what the combined effects of alcohol and cannabis can be until they find themselves in over their head.
Many large alcohol corporations have invested large sums of money coming up with cannabis-infused drinks, convinced that liquid edibles are the future of consumption. Whether their forecast is correct or not, even they do no combine alcohol and THC. This way of thinking is not exclusive to large corporations either. In Canada, the provinces are left to decide who controls the cannabis in their government and many have chosen to place it in the hands of the local liquor boards. One might assume that this would be a perfect opportunity for alcohol retailers to add cannabis products to their shelves, but in fact, they are sold in separate locations. Why would they do this? To discourage the combination of both substances in order to avoid negative and potentially dangerous side effects. So what are they?
Public Health Ontario explains in their study EVIDENCE BRIEF – Risk Factors for Simultaneous Use of Alcohol and Cannabis that the combination of alcohol and cannabis “has been shown to have harmful effects on cognitive and psychomotor performance.” In fact, some studies have shown that alcohol makes your body more receptive to THC, meaning what an individual might think is their desired amount of cannabis will actually be far more potent when done in conjunction with the consumption of alcohol. This raises obvious concerns as people may be inclined to operate heavy machinery or make riskier decisions if they underestimate their level of intoxication.
The other possible side effect is one that, if you have tried, or have witnessed someone mixing cannabis and alcohol, you know all about. The combination of the two often results in what many people refer to as greening out or the spins. Meaning when you close your eyes, it feels as though the world is spinning rapidly. Now, this may sound somewhat enticing, but after you’ve experienced it for more than 30 seconds you quickly realize how ill it can make you. Obviously, this will not be the result every time the two substances are mixed but it is vital to be aware of the potential risks. Some experts also warn of the potential for accidental alcohol poisoning, as you are not as aware of your body’s signs that you have had too much. Just as most people know by now; you cannot die from a cannabis overdose, they also know that alcohol holds a very real threat and the potential to kill if abused. So what should you do if you’re planning on mixing the two?
Things You Should Consider and Put in Place Before Mixing Cannabis and Alcohol:
- Have a safe way to get home – This one should go without saying, as in 2019 there’s no excuse for not knowing the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol. There are differing opinions on driving after using cannabis, but ideally, you should only ever drive sober. There’s no point in taking a chance with your own, or forbid, someone else’s life just because you don’t want to pay for a cab, take a taxi or walk. You may THINK you can handle yourself when driving after using cannabis or alcohol but you can never accurately anticipate inebriation and lack of reaction.
- Have a sitter – You may think you’re a seasoned pro when it comes to crushing beers and smoking blunts but ask yourself ‘would I be able to handle myself if I had to deal with an emergency?’. You might argue that you don’t handle emergencies well in the first place, which is fair, but just imagine how much more difficult it would be if you had been using alcohol and cannabis together. Ultimately you have the right to say what you do with your body and what you put into it. With that said, if you plan on taking so much that you can no longer rely on your reaction time and decision-making ability, then have a friend or family member with you that is clear-headed, if not in case of an emergency, then to be the one to talk to the pizza guy. Because no stoned person wants to talk to the pizza guy, that’s just science.
- Listen to your body – Even though it may not feel like it after a hike or hard workout, your body actually has your best interests in mind. Crazy, we know, but we believe your body wants you to be well. That’s why it is vital to listen to your body when it tries to tell you that you’ve had too much. Whether that be beer, bong hits, or brownies (the normal kind). It may sometimes be tempting to want to ignore what your body is trying to tell you, but it is important to be self-aware and know if you are getting close to your limits.
- At the same time, you cannot rely on JUST your body – Alcohol and cannabis are processed differently for everyone, especially when mixed, or if the cannabis is eaten. It may take a while for the effects to kick in. Just because you do not feel something 20 minutes in, does not mean you should take more. Give it time. Learn how your body works, how you feel when you’re under the influence and most importantly the warning signs your body is trying to give.
Let’s Be Frank
As cannabis is legalized and accepted across the globe, its relationship with alcohol will grow and inevitably become more complicated. Cannabis and alcohol are not the same things. Many people use cannabis throughout the day for a variety of ailments, or simply for their mood. If people attempted to medicate with alcohol in the same way, their health would deteriorate over time and most people would agree the person should seek help. To think that people will be able to keep these two substances separate from each other at all social events would be naive. That being said, you should be fully aware of the potential risks and effects to protect both yourself and those around you. Know your limits, take it slow. You can’t take bad decisions like drinking and driving back so try not to put yourself in that situation in the first place. You are you’re own greatest advocate and know yourself better than anyone. So treat yourself with respect and kindness. Allow yourself to indulge in what life gives you. Just be safe ❤️