by Sugar Team September 15, 2022 6 min read
With the exploding market surrounding hemp and cannabidiol (CBD), it’s no wonder that people are curious about the possibility of mixing it with alcohol. After all, people have been infusing beer with all sorts of things for centuries. And what could be more refreshing than a cold, CBD-infused beer on a hot summer day?
CBD is known for its calming and relaxing effects, whereas alcohol is… well, the opposite. It is more about removing inhibitions. So, what happens when you mix the two? Let’s take a look.
First of all, it’s important to understand that CBD is not psychoactive like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). This is the compound in cannabis that gets people “high”. CBD does not produce this effect. Instead, it is known for promoting a sense of well-being.
CBD is short for cannabidiol and it is one of over 100 compounds found in the hemp plant. These are known as cannabinoids. CBD is extracted from the plant and then diluted with a carrier oil such as coconut or hemp seed oil.
It is now being sold in many forms including oils, capsules, gummies, and creams, with early studies providing evidence that it can be beneficial for a wide array of health issues. Some people have reported reduced anxiety, improved sleep, reduced inflammation, and relief from chronic pain.
While things still need to be studied in greater depth, the signs are encouraging, and the sales of CBD have increased to $1.8 billion in the U.S. alone for 2022. People are curious about this natural remedy, and how they can add it to their daily routine.
Suddenly, the alcoholic (and even the non-alcoholic) beverage market has started to take notice. CBD-infused drinks are now appearing on the shelves of stores and menus of restaurants.
The idea behind it is that CBD can help to take the edge off the effects of alcohol. In other words, it might reduce the chances of a hangover the next day.
It’s also being claimed that mixing CBD and alcohol can result in a more “relaxed” feeling without becoming intoxicated. This is because CBD is known to counteract some of the negative effects of alcohol, such as impairing coordination and increasing anxiety levels.
So, what does the science say? Unfortunately, not enough to make a concrete statement one way or the other. It will need more time and money to make real determinations on the viability of mixing CBD and alcohol. Here's what we know right now.
The worry of many is that mixing the two will end up amplifying the effects of each. That means the feeling of drowsiness from the CBD and the intoxication from the alcohol could be increased.
Way back in 1979, a study was done on the interaction between CBD and alcohol in humans and found that it produced "significant impairments of moto and psychomotor performances, overestimations of time production, and subjective responses indicating an accurate self-perception of their intoxication and deficits."
Unfortunately, there hasn't been a ton of work done since then to further this understanding, and during that study (which included just ten people), volunteers were given a huge amount of CBD, more than most people today would be consuming.
James Giordano, a professor at Georgetown University Medical Center, told VICE in 2018 that for some people, mixing the two can make them feel “very, very sedated.” Giordano cautions against combining them, though does note that “if you’re an angry or violent drunk, the CBD may certainly disinhibit some of that.”
Decreased Negative Health Effects
The most interesting part of the conversation is that there have been some, albeit limited, results that indicate taking CBD can decrease the negative health effects of alcohol.
From that same 1979 study, researchers found that the mix of CBD and alcohol resulted in a “significantly lower” blood alcohol concentration (BAC), even though the motor effects were increased.
It should be pointed out though that there have been other studies that have not been able to replicate that reduced BAC, so further research will be required before we know for sure.
A 2013 study found that CBD could potentially assist in the treatment of alcohol-induced neurodegeneration, and in 2021, another study found that it could help attenuate brain issues that were caused by early alcohol exposure, like when a pregnant mother continues to drink.
Still, these are studies done on animals and leave plenty of room for more research to be completed in the field before there is a clear answer to whether CBD treatment can help in this way.
One of the biggest ways that it might be able to help is through the treatment of addicts, alcohol and otherwise. Again, most of the studies in this field have been on mice, but there are promising results that show CBD can reduce the motivation for alcohol and the chance of relapse.
Beyond that even, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that CBD can help to cause the anxiety, stress, and frustration caused by the withdrawal process. The sense of calm that most people report can be a game-changer for addicts trying to get through difficult triggers or situations.
There are several other health benefits that CBD provides. These include:
Helping with anxiety and depression
Easing chronic pain
Reducing the risk of seizures
One medication has even been approved by the FDA for the treatment of epilepsy in children. It’s also worth noting that CBD is non-addictive and does not interact with other medications you might be taking. That said, it’s always best to speak to your doctor before trying anything new, just to be on the safe side.
If you are starting to use CBD, make sure to remember:
Start with a low dose and increase gradually as needed
Use a reputable brand that provides third-party lab results
Try different delivery methods to see what works best for you
Now, let’s get back to the original question – can you mix CBD and alcohol?
At this point, there just isn’t enough science to say that alcohol and CBD are a safe mix. While some results point to the potential benefits of taking the two together, there is enough unknown for it to not be recommended.
One thing to note is that CBD is likely a far better option to mix with alcohol than THC. Studies have shown that combining the two results in a far higher peak of THC levels, and many people have reported a bad reaction - sometimes called a “green out.”
It doesn’t appear as though CBD can have the same result, so more people may choose to try it in the future. If you do, make sure to remember to start with a very low dose and slowly increase it, or consult your doctor before trying it at all.
Remember too that the various ways of ingesting CBD can have very different timelines.
Smoking CBD-rich hemp flower or high-CBD/low-THC cannabis strains is the fastest way to feel the effects. You should feel them within minutes and they will peak in about an hour or two.
The effects will then start to dissipate after 3-4 hours. This is one of the most common ways of mixing it with alcohol because it can replace nicotine cigarettes, which are often used as a way to take the edge off while drinking. Check out some of our CBD cigarette products here.
CBD oils, whether they are taken under the tongue or used in cooking, can take a bit longer to have an effect. You may not feel anything for up to an hour after taking it. The effects will peak after 2-3 hours and then start to dissipate.
This is another common way of adding it to alcohol because you can just add a drop or two to an already mixed drink. Remember to start with a very low dose, especially if you are new to CBD.
If your oil dropper doesn't include an accurate dosage-per-drop, make sure to get a more precise one so that you don't use too much.
CBD edibles can take even longer to have an effect. It can be anything from 30 minutes to two hours before you notice anything. The effects will peak after 3-4 hours and then start to dissipate.
These are not as common a way of mixing CBD and alcohol because most people don’t want to wait that long for the effects.
Also remember that if you are eating something like a brownie or cookie, the effects will be even stronger and last even longer because it will have to go through your digestive system first. Start with an extremely low dose if you do choose to mix CBD and alcohol this way.
CBD topical creams are not a common way of taking it, but they can be effective for some people. Interestingly enough, some research suggests they could limit the neurodegeneration caused by binge drinking if applied at the same time. Again, this isn’t proven yet and should not be considered a medical treatment.
So while it may not be decided, there are at least enough encouraging results to show that CBD may have a place in helping to offset some of the negative effects of alcohol.
Make sure you don't use that as an excuse to drink more, however. Start with low doses and increase as needed - and always drink responsibly!
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