The use of CBD products is a growing trend within the health and wellness industry, thanks to its wide range of health benefits. CBD usage has been linked to various health effects – everything from reduced anxiety and better sleep to chronic pain relief and even treatment of neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s.
CBD products come in various different forms, including oils, tinctures, creams, lotions, and edibles. While these options are used as medical supplements, some people choose to take CBD recreationally by smoking or vaping the flowers they are extracted from.
In certain social situations, it’s often the case that alcohol also enters the mix. In fact, there are now a number of CBD beers, CBD spirits, and even CBD cocktails on the market, making it even more likely that people will mix alcohol with CBD.
But is mixing CBD and alcohol safe?
The short answer is yes – as far as current research can tell, there shouldn’t be any adverse reactions from mixing CBD and alcohol. But to get the full story on the relationship between alcohol and CBD, it’s important to discuss how CBD and alcohol interact within your body and what effects this can have on you.
How do CBD oil and alcohol interact?
To understand the way CBD oil and alcohol interact with each other, it’s necessary to delve into some of the chemistry behind CBD and alcohol, and what this means for your body when you take them.
CBD vs THC
Also known as cannabidiol, CBD is a compound known as a cannabinoid extracted from the cannabis family of plants. Out of the various types of cannabis plants, the most common sources of CBD are hemp plants and marijuana plants. While most CBD products share similar properties, there is one key difference between hemp and marijuana-derived CBD.
In addition to CBD, marijuana plants contain high levels of THC – the psychoactive compound which gives weed its signature high. Hemp, however, contains only trace amounts of THC, and much higher levels of CBD.
These cannabis products each affect your body in a different way. Unlike THC, CBD has no psychoactive or intoxicating effects. Instead, it works by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is responsible for regulating a number of the body’s internal systems to maintain homeostasis – essentially, the correct balance within our bodies.
Because of this, CBD is generally very well tolerated by humans and rarely has any adverse side effects, unlike weed or marijuana use.
Alcohol and CBD
Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it inhibits the function of the central nervous system and slows down various bodily systems as a result. This leads to a loss of inhibitions, reduced motor coordination, changes in the perception of time, and sleepiness from the sedative effect of alcohol.
When taken with CBD, the depressant effect of alcohol can be exacerbated due to the calming effect of CBD. In particular, this can manifest as sleepiness – CBD reduces the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the brain, which makes the user feel much more relaxed.
In combination with the sedative effect of alcohol, this can make people very sleepy, much more so than if either of the substances was taken on its own. Coupled with alcohol’s impact on your coordination, this sleepiness may reduce your reaction time even further.
The effects of CBD oil and alcohol
The science of what happens when you mix CBD and alcohol is one thing, but what visible effects this chemical interaction has is another. These effects will differ from person to person, depending on factors such as age, weight, gender, and genetic disposition, but the general effects will be similar across users.
How it feels
The most pronounced effect of taking alcohol and CBD together will be a heightened sense of relaxation and sleepiness. The sedative effect of alcohol and the stress-reducing qualities of CBD complement each other to create a much stronger sense of drowsiness than taking either on their own.
Taking CBD with alcohol can also help to regulate your mood. Whereas alcohol usually comes with an initial boost to your mood, it can often be followed by a “downer” as it inhibits chemicals like serotonin and dopamine in the brain which are responsible for happiness.
CBD helps to negate this effect as it increases your brain’s receptiveness to mood-boosting hormones, so by taking alcohol and CBD together you’re likely to stay in a happier mood for longer than taking alcohol on its own.
Potential side effects
Generally speaking, taking CBD with alcohol will produce the same side effects as taking alcohol normally – you’ll lose some of your coordination and if you drink higher amounts your speech may be slurred, and your perception of time may be altered.
The Harvard Health Blog states that taking CBD with alcohol “may lead to sleepiness, fatigue, and possibly accidental falls and accidents when driving”.
Quantity of CBD or alcohol consumed
The way you’ll feel when mixing CBD and alcohol is affected by how much of either substance you take. Generally speaking, the more you take of either substance, the more sleepy you will feel, and the more alcohol you drink the worse your coordination will become.
Due to the lack of research into the effects of taking different quantities of CBD and alcohol together, it’s advisable to take them both in moderation, just as you should in normal alcohol consumption.
Are CBD oil and alcohol safe?
The short answer to this is yes, as long as you use both substances in moderation. However, as with drinking alcohol, there are some safety hazards to bear in mind. For instance, your impaired coordination when drinking means you shouldn’t operate a vehicle or other machinery while under the influence especially when in combination with CBD.
Taking too much alcohol and CBD together can also make you feel very sleepy or drowsy, so plan around this when you take them both – it may be safer to enjoy your CBD and alcohol cocktail at home than risk falling asleep on public transport on your journey home, for example.
CBD oil for treating alcohol side effects
Some research has shown that CBD could be effective in treating some of the side effects of alcohol when it comes to the impact alcohol consumption can have on the inner workings of your body. CBD’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties can be helpful in treating the damage that alcohol may cause to your internal systems, and its regulation of the ECS can also prove useful.
CBD may protect cells from cell damage
When drinking large amounts of alcohol, your body’s cells may be damaged, especially in the liver where alcohol is processed. This can be dangerous for your health, as it increases the risk of inflammation and in turn can lead to chronic diseases like pancreatitis, liver disease, and certain types of cancer.
However, CBD may be able to protect against this cell damage. It has natural anti-inflammatory properties, and as an antioxidant, it can also reduce oxidative stress that may contribute to liver damage. It can also help to promote autophagy, the process where damaged or redundant cells are destroyed in order to create new, healthy cells.
This has largely been explored in animal studies – one study found that CBD decreased damage to brain cells from alcohol by 49% in rats, for example. However, there is not currently enough research to confirm the same effects apply to humans.
CBD may reduce hangovers, headaches, and nausea
The negative consequences of drinking too much alcohol don’t always appear right away – instead, they manifest as the dreaded hangover. Hangover symptoms include fatigue, headaches, nausea and aches, and pains in various parts of the body. CBD has shown promise in combating all of these.
CBD’s anti-inflammatory property means it will reduce aches and pains from hangovers, and as a powerful antioxidant, it can also help your body to process any alcohol remaining in the body more quickly. It also helps to solve nausea and vomiting by reducing inflammation in the gut.
CBD’s regulation of the ECS also helps to tackle the neurological effects of your hangover. This can help soothe headaches and avoids the feelings of anxiety and depression that may come after a heavy drinking session by promoting your brain’s receptiveness to serotonin and reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
CBD may be therapeutic for alcohol addiction
As many as one in eight adults suffer from alcoholism or alcohol use disorder, and the road to recovery is often a long and hard one thanks to the effects of alcohol withdrawal stemming from addiction. CBD may be able to help in this regard, though. Various animal studies have shown that CBD helps to reduce symptoms of addiction and withdrawal.
Research on how effective this is for humans is limited, but one study of 24 smokers found that using a CBD inhaler for a week reduced participants’ cigarette use by 40%, which suggests CBD can help to reduce cravings and addictive behaviors.
Reduction of blood alcohol levels
CBD may help to lower blood alcohol levels – also known as blood alcohol concentration – when drinking alcohol, which may help to alleviate its side effects. One study found that after taking CBD and alcohol together, participants had significantly lower blood alcohol levels than when they had taken alcohol on their own.
However, it’s worth noting that this study used far higher CBD doses than everyday users would take, and there is little other research into this effect. In addition, the study found that motor skills and the perception of time were unchanged between taking alcohol on its own and taking it with CBD.
Essentially what this means is CBD won’t stop you from getting drunk – if you drink too much, you’ll still lose your coordination and have lower reaction times, no matter how much CBD you take with it.
The Bottom Line
While the research surrounding CBD and alcohol is currently fairly limited, it’s generally accepted that mixing the two substances is safe, and usually won’t cause any adverse side effects if taken in moderation. What’s more, some researchers have suggested that CBD may help to reduce some of alcohol’s hangover symptoms and more harmful long-term effects.
So if you want to lessen and possibly avoid a hangover next time you’re drinking, it could pay off to experiment with pairing CBD and alcohol – just stick to small doses, to begin with, and check with a health professional if you have any concerns or prior conditions.