Posted by Dave Kaplan
10 months ago / November 19, 2020
The Crossfade Effect: Mixing Cannabis and Alcohol
The idea of mixing alcohol and cannabis—also known as “crossfading”—is not new. People have been mixing the two substances for centuries. In fact, the practice dates back to ancient India, where the combination was used as a general anesthetic for surgery.
Crossfading no longer serves a medical function. Users who combine the two substances usually do so for recreational purposes, most commonly to enhance their highs or inebriation. The blending of cannabis and alcohol does not always result in feelings of euphoria and sedation, however. Crossfading often results in negative user experiences, which can range from malaise, anti-social behavior, and impaired motor skills to “greening out”, a phrase used to describe the mixture of dizziness, nausea, rampant sweating, and sometimes even passing out.
Numerous studies have been commissioned in recent decades to determine what happens at the biological level when alcohol and cannabis are ingested simultaneously or within a short span of one another. Here are two effects that have been discovered:
#1: Cannabis Slows and Reduces the Absorption of Alcohol in our Bodies
Contrary to popular belief, the ingestion of THC does not intensify blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) levels. In reality, research has demonstrated that it has the opposite effect. A 1992 study published in Neuropsychopharmacology, which analyzed the BAC levels of 15 volunteers who were given the cannabinoid shortly after consuming alcohol, concluded that THC activates certain CB2 receptors in our intestinal tracts, limiting the ability of our small intestines to absorb alcohol.
“Marijuana does a unique thing to your small intestine that alters the motility [the way things move through your intestines] of your GI tract in such a way that it causes your blood alcohol levels to actually be lower than if you had just consumed alcohol by itself,” said Dr. Scott Lukas, a Harvard professor of psychology and pharmacology who oversaw the study.
More research is needed to determine the implications of these findings, but they do seem to suggest that consumption of THC could help to moderate, and even pace, the effects of alcohol over extended periods of time. Conversely, the study’s findings could also be interpreted in a less optimistic light. Alcohol causes an accumulation of subtle cell deterioration and structural damage in the stomach and intestinal tract linings whenever it passes through these organs. This deterioration can worsen over time, especially with persistent alcohol consumption, leading to chasms in the linings out of which food particles can escape and ultimately enter the bloodstream. It would follow then that any unabsorbed alcohol that lingers in the stomach and digestive tract could exacerbate this erosion, causing unwanted, long-term health effects.
#2: The Effects of THC Are Intensified When Consumed After Alcohol
Although the consumption of THC seems to mitigate the absorption rate and effects of alcohol, the same cannot be said about how alcohol affects the potency of the cannabinoid when the two are combined. A 2001 study, also spearheaded by Harvard’s Dr. Lukas, that set out to determine whether alcohol affects the way our bodies absorb THC made a few noteworthy discoveries. In addition to increasing the plasma THC levels in our bloodstreams, alcohol also expedites the cannabinoid’s effects, which basically means when you consume the compound after consuming alcohol, its effects will be felt more quickly and more potently than if you had consumed the cannabinoid by itself.
One of the more interesting takeaways from this study is the cost efficiency that comes with consuming cannabis after imbibing alcohol. Because THC hits you harder and quicker when you’re drunk, you can consume less of it and still achieve similar or even more potent effects. And what better way is there to consume small amounts of cannabis than with a vape pen, which allows you to control the dose size you are inhaling?
Of course, crossfading also has its risks. An extremely fine line exists between feeling euphoric and getting the spins when the two substances are combined. As mentioned above, the combination of cannabis and alcohol can produce dizziness, malaise, antisocial behavior, and intense nausea in even the most experienced users—let alone those who seldom consume cannabis and don’t understand how the interaction of the two might affect them. Furthermore, because cannabis is a known antiemetic (anti-nauseant), it could actually prevent you from vomiting the alcohol your body is attempting to secrete. That could result in you getting stuck with pangs of nausea without any relief for hours, a predicament that you want to avoid at all costs.
It’s not our place or intention to advise against mixing cannabis and alcohol. Cannabis affects everyone differently for a variety of reasons, and there is no precise combination of the two substances that guarantees good times for all. The key, rather, is finding the balance that works best for you — and you alone!
We asked our colleagues here at the Greentank headquarters if they mix cannabis and alcohol and if so, in which order and amounts? Not surprisingly, we received just about every answer under the sun, confirming the idea that there is no magic formula when it comes to crossfading. Some abstain from ever mixing the two, knowing from past experience that even the smallest combinations of THC and alcohol don’t agree with them. Others said that if they are going to crossfade, they will vape first and then drink alcohol, citing the axiom: “Weed before beer, you’re in the clear; beer before grass, you’re on your @$$.” A handful of them relayed that they drink alcohol before vaping, albeit with a few caveats: they’ll have a finite number of drinks first and then only take a draw or two from their vapes.
Until you figure out what your golden ratio is, we emphatically suggest starting low and going slow. Nothing will put you off of cannabis quicker than ingesting too much cannabis after a few drinks. Well . . . perhaps consuming too many edibles, but that’s a discussion for another time!