The Science Behind The Crossfade: Mixing Alcohol And Marijuana

Combining depressant and liberating qualities can produce strange effects.

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Who hasn’t smoked a bowl before going to a pub with friends? Or paused between drinks to roll a joint? If you answered yes to one – or both – question(s) then you know sometimes you can either get really buzzed by this combination, or sometimes experience almost no effect.

Dr. Scott Lukas, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Harvard Medical School guided two classic studies about this genuine crossfade. One was published in 1992 under the title “Marihuana attenuates the rise in plasma ethanol levels in human subjects, while the other was published in 2001 and called “Ethanol increases plasma Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels and subjective effects after marihuana smoking in human volunteers“.

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In his initial research, Dr. Lukas evaluated fifteen healthy adult males. For the study he provided volunteers with different doses of marijuana (low-dose, high-dose or placebo) along with different amounts of ethanol. Results showed “plasma ethanol levels rose sharply after the 0.7 g/kg dose and peaked at 50 minutes after drinking began”. This suggests “marijuana may alter ethanol bioavailability.

The second study also provided adult male participants with different amounts of marijuana levels (low-dose, moderate dose and placebo), subsequently requiring them to drink various doses of ethanol. For this study, professor Lukas decided to record mood changes in participants at 90 minute intervals.

“For many of the drug combinations, when subjects consumed ethanol they detected marihuana effects more quickly, reported more episodes of euphoria and had higher plasma THC levels than when they consumed placebo ethanol”.

With this, Dr. Lukas not only proved marijuana can lower alcohol levels when consumed together– but also that if alcohol is taken prior to smoking weed, the high might be intensified.

In this context, there are certain side effects when not handling this crossfade properly. One risk is the so-called “green out” — when a person feels sick after smoking cannabis. However, Dr. Lukas relayed to Vice, “If you’re sitting alone in your bedroom and you’ve got pillows all around you, and you’re well hydrated, and the bed’s not too far off the ground, the risk is low”.

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