People may use alcohol and marijuana together, but their combined effects can increase your risk of higher THC levels, greater impairment and alcohol poisoning.

It is common for people to mix alcohol and marijuana. In fact, marijuana is the most frequently used substance among drinkers. People may use a combination of these substances to get more of an effect for both or combat the side effects of one or the other, but it can be risky and unsafe.

Article at a Glance:

  • Using alcohol and marijuana in combination increases your risk of experiencing uncomfortable side effects due to increased absorption of THC.
  • Using a combination of alcohol and marijuana can lead to a greater degree of impairment than either on its own.
  • When you combine alcohol and marijuana, you’re more likely to experience “greening out,” which is a sick feeling following the use of marijuana.
  • Using marijuana and alcohol in combination can make alcohol poisoning more likely, which can be life-threatening.

The Effects of Mixing Alcohol & Marijuana

When someone uses alcohol and marijuana together, they might start to notice they feel the effects of one (or both) much more quickly and more pronounced than otherwise.

Marijuana and alcohol both impact the central nervous system. Marijuana impacts areas of the brain responsible for memory, thinking, pleasure and perceiving time and senses. Alcohol is a depressant that affects the entire central nervous system, heavily impacting motor skills, judgment, cognition and memory.

One of the main active ingredients in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC and alcohol are both psychoactive. THC acts on cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which can lead to cognitive effects and impairments.

When people drink and smoke marijuana together, alcohol increases the amount of THC that is absorbed into the body. While this means that people who use an alcohol and marijuana combination may report a “higher high,” the lows can also become amplified. For example, impaired judgment symptoms are more obvious.

What Are the Risks?

While people might use a combination of alcohol and marijuana to experience a more intense high, this can be dangerous. The effects of marijuana and alcohol on their own are unpredictable, and combining them makes this worse. You can absorb THC more quickly when there’s alcohol in your blood, which can increase the risk of experiencing uncomfortable side effects.

Combining the two substances also leads to a greater degree of impairment than taking either one on its own. This can increase your risk for accidents and injury. You may put yourself in risky or dangerous situations if you’re drinking or using marijuana, and an alcohol and marijuana combination makes this even more likely.

It’s also important to note that if you regularly use an alcohol and marijuana combination, you’re at a higher risk of developing a dependence on one or both of the substances. Further, if you try to cut back on either alcohol or cannabis, your reliance on the other substance is likely to increase.

What Is Greening Out?

If you’re researching the safety of mixing marijuana and alcohol, you may come across the term “greening out.” It refers to a person feeling sick after smoking marijuana. This can happen with marijuana use on its own, but with an alcohol and marijuana combination, it’s more likely to happen due to the higher THC levels when you drink.

How To Handle a Bad Reaction

If a person has been drinking and smoking weed, higher THC levels in their blood from drinking may increase the risk of a bad reaction. Because physical and mental impairment can be more pronounced when you combine cannabis and alcohol, it can be hard to know if someone’s symptoms are due to a marijuana green-out or excessive alcohol intake.

Because alcohol poisoning can be deadly, it is best to seek medical attention to make sure that your symptoms are not due to a dangerous blood alcohol level.

While awaiting medical attention, it is important to keep the person safe from harm. This includes preventing injury and providing reassurance and emotional support.

Can You Overdose On Alcohol & Marijuana?

Another risk of an alcohol and marijuana combination is that you may take too much of either substance. Although using too much marijuana isn’t usually life-threatening, inhalation burns and asthma attacks from smoking cannabis can be deadly.

Drinking too much alcohol can be lethal. If you’re using an alcohol and marijuana combination, you can be more likely to get alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal.

When To Get Help

It is important to seek emergency medical help if you suspect a person is experiencing alcohol poisoning. Because a person becomes more impaired when they mix alcohol and marijuana, it can be hard to tell if a person is reacting to too much drink or too much cannabis. The signs of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Confusion
  • Problems staying conscious
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Clammy skin
  • Dulled reflexes
  • Bluish or pale skin color

Alcohol poisoning can be fatal. If you suspect someone is experiencing alcohol poisoning, call 911 immediately. Do NOT be afraid to seek help. If you do not have access to a phone contact Web Poison Control Services for online assistance.

You shouldn’t mix marijuana and alcohol. If you think you’re abusing these or other substances, help is available. Contact us to speak with an intake coordinator who can answer your questions and help you understand what options may be available to you.

Melissa Carmona
Editor – Melissa Carmona
As the content manager at Advanced Recovery Systems, Melissa Carmona puts years of writing and editing experience to work helping people understand substance abuse, addiction and mental health disorders. Read more
Jessica Pyhtila
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more
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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.