It seems like CBD is being added to everything these days. Some companies have even begun marketing CBD-infused beers and cocktails. But is combining CBD and alcohol really a good idea?
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys a tipple now and then but also wants to get the benefits of CBD, you may be wondering if it’s safe to take them together.
Let’s examine the facts about CBD and alcohol.
What is CBD, and How Does It Work?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of over 120 beneficial compounds produced by hemp and cannabis plants. These compounds, called cannabinoids, interact with our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a network of receptors that plays an integral role in keeping us in balance. The endocannabinoid system helps us to maintain homeostasis in a variety of essential functions, such as:
- Body temperature
- Sleep patterns
- Inflammation and pain responses
CBD can support our endocannabinoid system by interacting directly with ECS receptors and boosting our body’s natural endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2-AG. Preliminary research has shown that CBD may provide a host of health benefits, including alleviating stress, reducing inflammation, and promoting healthy skin.
What Happens When You Mix CBD and Alcohol?
According to a report from the World Health Organization (WHO), “CBD is generally well-tolerated with a good safety profile.” Alcohol, on the other hand, is a potent neurotoxin that can result in life-threatening health consequences when consumed in excess.
So, what happens when you mix CBD and alcohol together? While every person’s reaction to CBD and alcohol is unique, researchers have uncovered some interesting data. Here’s what we know so far:
CBD and alcohol may amplify each other's effects.
CBD and alcohol taken within 4-8 hours of each other can create combined effects. Alcohol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system, modifying our moods, motor coordination, and speech patterns. After the initial buzz begins to wear off, alcohol causes marked sedation.
While both alcohol and CBD can be relaxing, they often cause drowsiness, especially in higher doses. The FDA warns that combining CBD and alcohol can increase sedation and drowsiness, which can lead to injuries. CBD and alcohol both act as vasodilators and may also cause a drop in blood pressure, which can lead to lightheadedness or fainting.
CBD may lower blood alcohol levels.
A 1979 study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Psychopharmacology, found that test subjects given CBD with alcohol had lower blood alcohol concentration (BAC) than participants who consumed alcohol alone. However, this study was conducted several decades ago using higher CBD dosages than most people would take today.
CBD may lessen some of alcohol’s adverse effects.
Preliminary animal studies have shown that CBD may help combat some of alcohol’s damaging effects.
In 2013, the Journal of Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior published a study investigating the combined effects of CBD and alcohol on rats. Researchers concluded that transdermal CBD may prevent alcohol-induced neurodegeneration caused by binge drinking.
Another set of results published a year later found that administering CBD to mice 30 minutes before giving them alcohol significantly reduced oxidative stress in their liver tissue. Researchers suspect that this action may help increase the regeneration of liver cells and protect against alcohol-induced fatty liver disease.
Furthermore, alcohol-related health conditions are usually associated with chronic inflammation. One of the most promising properties of CBD is the compound’s ability to help reduce inflammation through its interactions with CB2 receptors in the immune system.
Can CBD Help with Hangovers?
Consuming alcohol in moderation is always the best advice, but CBD may be able to help with the occasional hangover caused by overdrinking.
CBD helps to reduce nausea and vomiting.
When the body senses the toxic byproducts of alcohol consumption, it often responds by encouraging us to vomit. Alcohol also causes the stomach to produce more acid, exacerbating feelings of nausea. CBD, like many cannabinoids, has been shown to reduce both nausea and vomiting.
CBD can soothe headache pain.
When many of us experience a headache, we often reach for anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. However, NSAIDs can upset the stomach and cause serious digestive problems with long-term use.
CBD can help reduce inflammation without harming the digestive tract. A recent clinical study has also found that CBD may be helpful for treating migraines.
CBD may help ease alcohol-induced anxiety.
The dreaded “hangxiety” phenomenon is caused by alcohol interrupting the activity of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain. Consuming alcohol also causes our bodies to release more cortisol, the “fight-or-flight” hormone. CBD has the opposite effect and helps boost serotonin levels and calm the amygdala, the primary part of the brain responsible for our fear responses.
CBD for Alcohol Addiction and Withdrawal
It's always a good idea to seek medical supervision when you decide to quit drinking alcohol, especially if you’ve been consuming high quantities on a daily basis. Some alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening if not treated properly.
That said, members of the recovery community are investigating CBD’s potential to help with harm reduction in cases of alcohol addiction.
CBD can help reduce alcohol cravings.
CBD can help with some of the underlying reasons people choose to self-medicate with alcohol: anxiety, depression, and pain. A 2018 study conducted on rats found that CBD reduced stress-induced drug-seeking behaviors and may be helpful in preventing relapse in recovering alcohol and drug addicts.
CBD mocktails can serve as alcohol substitutes.
Enjoying another tasty beverage in a cocktail glass can help people resist alcohol cravings, especially at the beginning of recovery. CBD provides the added benefit of its inherent relaxing and calming effects.
Researchers still have years of investigation to complete before fully understanding the effects of mixing CBD and alcohol. While CBD may help mitigate some of alcohol’s harmful effects, most of the studies so far have been conducted on animals and may not translate to a clinical situation with humans.
Additionally, CBD and alcohol taken together have been shown to provoke increased sedation, especially in higher doses. Both substances may affect motor coordination, and consumers should never combine CBD and alcohol before driving or operating heavy machinery. Until we know more about how CBD and alcohol interact, consumers should exercise caution when taking the two substances together and stick to low doses of each.