Mixing CBD and Alcohol

More bars and companies are mixing CBD with alcoholic beverages—what are the risks and benefits?


A lot of us learned the hard way that marijuana and alcohol aren’t the best combo. But cannabidiol (CBD), touted as a remedy for anxiety, improved sleep, and more, could turn out to be a different story, right? Let’s talk about that idea for a bit.

Increased interest in CBD-infused drinks

As CBD rises in popularity as a safe alternative to a host of medical conditions, the alcohol industry has been showing keen interest in combining the two. Brewers and distillers from all over the world are eager to understand how the two substances complement each other.

More brewers and bars are marketing CBD-infused cocktails and beers as a simple, easy way to use CBD while you enjoy your favorite adult beverage. While the CBD/alcohol industries are still in their infancy, the interest is high. Consider that nearly 2 billion people drink alcohol, and you quickly realize the market potential.

For initiates, CBD is a phytocannabinoid in hemp and cannabis that isn’t psychoactive. As we mentioned, it potentially has some very helpful benefits for a variety of conditions from everyday aches to Alzheimer’s, cancer, and beyond. It won’t make you “high,” and it’s sold as an oil, capsule, vape juice, and edibles.

Both alcohol and CBD are relaxants and both lower inhibitions. Combine the two, and the results could be strong and long-lasting.

What the experts say about mixing alcohol and CBD

A study, published in Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, determined that rodents experienced less alcohol-induced neurodegeneration when a CBD topical gel was administered with the alcohol. Research published in Free Radical Biology & Medicine showed that when rodents ingested CBD 30 minutes before ingesting alcohol, they were less likely to experience alcohol-induced oxidative liver damage, as compared to those that didn’t receive CBD.

Some intriguing research indicates that mixing CBD and alcohol suggests:

CBD could prevent cell damage and disease related to excessive alcohol consumption. It’s well-known that heavy drinkers and alcoholics experience increased cellular damage, inflammation and chronic diseases, such as some kinds of cancer, as well as pancreatitis and liver disease.

Several animal studies have observed that CBD may protect against cell damage caused by alcohol consumption.

Another study concluded that mice injected with CBD experienced increased autophagy—the process that increases the turnover rate of new cells and supports tissue regeneration—and reduce the incidence of alcohol-induced fatty liver disease.

CBD could also be useful in treating alcohol addiction. Some animal studies have shown that CBD can alleviate some of the symptoms of addiction and withdrawal. A recent study investigated the effects of CBD on alcoholic rats. The findings revealed it helped reduce intake, prevent relapse, and decreased motivation to consume alcohol.

Can you mix CBD and alcohol?

Let’s look at alcohol and CBD individually. Alcohol acts as a powerful depressant. It affects the central nervous system, which is responsible for coordination, speech, and mood, among other things. If you’ve done much drinking or know someone who does, you know its effects already. You’ve probably witnessed those effects firsthand, especially when you or others have had more than a couple of drinks.

CBD, however, has a more subtle effect that influences your body’s interaction with your endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a whole-body network that keeps our many different systems regulated and balanced. CBD also interacts with other molecular structures found outside of the ECS.

At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking CBD’s balancing effects limit alcohol’s impact on you. The truth is that experts just don’t know if that’s true—the research into the combination of the two is only just beginning.

One other thing that could affect your performance if you consume CBD and alcohol, is how you take it. Some have reported a feeling of increased impairment when vaping CBD. Possibly this could be caused by the ratio of CBD to THC as well.

If THC is a constituent part of the CBD/alcohol mix—as can be the case when vaping—THC’s effects are magnified. Alcohol dissolves THC and acts to double the amount. A recent study, “Interaction with other drugs: metabolic interaction,” also showed that cannabis and alcohol, consumed together, produced more lasting effects.

A study published in Psychopharmacology suggests that it’s not the best idea to mix alcohol and CBD. Researchers compared the effects of a placebo, alcohol alone, and alcohol with CBD. When they compared against the placebo, they found that alcohol and CBD/alcohol resulted in significant impairments in motor skill performance, as well as psychomotor performance.

The alcohol and CBD/alcohol groups also overestimated aftereffects over time and had an inaccurate understanding of their level of intoxication, as well as the severity of the impairments. While the study showed significantly lower BACs for alcohol and CBD than for alcohol alone, there were few differences between either alcohol or CBD/alcohol. Mixing the two may mean impaired reaction time.

Another, recent research study, published on PubMed, examined the interaction between CBD and alcohol. The researchers concluded that cannabidiol, or CBD with alcohol-induced the same effects as alcohol alone. The study showed that people who consumed alcohol and CBD experienced the same impaired motor and psychomotor performance, as well as inaccurate subjective evaluation of their intoxication level and resulting deficits. Researchers also noted decreased BACs for alcohol combined with CBD.

Mixing? It’s complicated

Based on the early findings (and there needs to be more research) it’s hard to say exactly how mixing alcohol and CBD will make you feel.

Studies show CBD could reduce the cellular damage to your brain and liver cells. It could also decrease your BAC or help with alcohol abuse.

Early evidence seems to show that the risks of reflex and judgment impairment may not be worth the benefits of a reduced BAC.

Even if you don’t mix the two at the time, taking CBD between 4 and 8 hours before or after drinking can still cause the same impairments, according to one expert.

Given the early findings, we don’t want to advise one way or another. We just think it pays to know the risks, as well as the potential benefits.

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Jack Studebaker

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