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What Are the Actual Effects of Smoking Weed and Drinking at the Same Time?

Crossfading, polydrug, mixing, whatever you want to call it, mixing two different substances at one time can lead to different effects than what you may expect. Marijuana and alcohol is the most common drug mixture used by college students today, but not many people fully understand the effects of mixing the two. As you know from my previous articles, I feel it is important for anyone who makes the decision to try something like this, to also understand what will be happening in their body and mind if they do. Also, as I like to point out when I write articles like this, I am not suggesting anyone try mixing marijuana and alcohol, nor am I condemning it.

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Marijuana and alcohol actually act on the brain in two completely different ways, as one scientist describes it “It’s apples and vegetables.” Weed’s effects come on when the chemical THC acts on your bodies natural cannabinoid system. It does this by attaching to various cannabinoid receptors throughout your brain and body, meaning it effects your brains perceived output of chemicals. Alcohol on the other hand effects your brain’s intake of chemicals by depressing your central nervous system, causing excitatory messages to chill out a little bit and further slowing down relaxing messages. As you can see, the two are in completely different categories.

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So what happens when you mix the two? For one it greatly increases the amount of THC that reaches your brain, meaning that having a few drinks literally gets you higher. Harvard Medical School professor, Scott Lukas, published a study in 2001 that found that after people smoked marijuana and a drank a dose of alcohol equal to a couple of shots, the THC levels in their blood plasma was almost double that of people who smoked pot and consumed a placebo drink. The people who consumed alcohol and marijuana also noticed the effects of the marijuana sooner than those who did not.

If you or anyone you know has mixed the two substances, you are probably familiar with what is known as “the spins” (or “greening out” depending on where you are from.) This phenomena is just a factor of the two highs mixing with one another, as well as the intensified THC intake. As I have mentioned above, it is alcohol that intensifies the effects of marijuana, not the other way around. With this being said, smoking before you drink rather than drinking before you smoke can help to prevent “the spins.” Mixing the two is not normally viewed as something that will have fatal consequences, although Lukas is quick to point out that because the effects of mixing the two clouds the mind more than an individual is normally used to, they do face a higher chance of having an accident (driving or otherwise.) Also Australia’s National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC) states that, in vulnerable people, the combination can produce psychotic symptoms such as panic, anxiety, or paranoia (although this is obviously a pretty biased source.)

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