This Is What Happens When You Mix Alcohol and CBD

CBD is everywhere, but is it safe enough to consume in or with an alcoholic drink?

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Jul 25 2018, 12:00pm

Science Photo Library / Getty / Joren Aranas

With CBD rising in popularity, it seems people are mixing it with everything, alcohol included. Los Angeles’ bar scene is spilling over with CBD cocktail offerings, and breweries are selling CBD-infused beer. But is mixing CBD and alcohol actually a good idea?

For those who don’t know, cannabidiol [CBD] is a compound in weed with relaxant effects, but it’s not psychoactive in the way that THC is, so it won’t get you high. It’s sold as oil, in edibles, capsules, vape juice, and, apparently, alcohol.

Even if you’re not slapping the two together in a drink, CBD and alcohol can interact if you take them within four to eight hours of each other, says James Giordano, professor of neurology and biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center. This means that if you have a drink with dinner then take CBD dab before bed, the CBD could have a stronger effect than it would without the alcohol.

Since alcohol and CBD both relax you and lower your inhibitions, these effects could be especially strong and long-lasting when you mix the two substances. “On CBD, you’re very chill, very lighthearted, mellow. The alcohol will make that more intense,” Giordano says. “For some people, it makes them very, very sedated.” For this reason, he doesn’t recommend the combination.

“Like anything else, as doses increase of either or both, you get yourself more into a problem,” he explains. “The more you drink, the more CBD you’re taking, you get a potentiated effect that's greater than the effect of either alone. The level of intoxication is going to be greater: greater loss of control, inhibition, motor coordination, and that becomes problematic.”

The effect this combination will have on you depends on what kind of drunk you are, though. “If you’re a happy drunk, then CBD could make you a happier drunk,” Giordano says. “If you’re an angry or violent drunk, the CBD may certainly disinhibit some of that.”

But there could actually be benefits to taking CBD with alcohol, suggests Soyona Rafatja, a New York-based functional and integrative family medicine physician. One study in the journal Psychopharmacology found that people who had alcohol and a CBD capsule had lower blood alcohol levels than those who had alcohol alone, though they experienced the same impairments in cognition and motor coordination. Another study in Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior found that rodents experienced less alcohol-induced neurodegeneration if they received CBD through a topical gel while the alcohol was administered.

More research from Free Radical Biology & Medicine showed that rodents that ingested CBD 30 minutes before ingesting alcohol were less likely to experience alcohol-induced oxidative damage in the liver than those that didn’t have the CBD. While they’re just animal studies, experts think they’re quite telling. “Alcohol decreases autophagy [degradation of damaged cells] in the liver, causing fat to accumulate in the liver and therefore cause fatty liver, inflammation, and hepatitis,” Rafatjah explains. CBD does the opposite, spurring damaged cells to degenerate, which can counteract alcohol’s effects.

Jordan Tishler, president of the medical cannabis practice InhaleMD and the Association of Cannabis Specialists, on the other hand, says there isn’t enough research to prove any interaction between alcohol and CBD. He’s more concerned about people mixing alcohol with THC—this, he says, increases THC levels in the blood eightfold.

So, the jury’s still out on the effects of combining alcohol and CBD, and experts can’t even seem to agree. If you’re going to take CBD and alcohol together, Giordano recommends at least keeping the doses low and trying both on their own first so you know how you react to them. “People who don’t drink or do CBD regularly, if they drink and do CBD together, good luck—that’s really going to be unpredictable,” he says. “If there’s any prediction at all, that prediction is, that person’s going to be pretty stoned.”

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