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Cannabidiol (CBD) can be found everywhere nowadays owing to its increasing popularity and the hype surrounding it. With the rise of alcoholic beverages such as CBD-infused beers and cocktails, it is necessary to examine whether mixing CBD oil and alcohol is safe, and whether it is beneficial or detrimental to health.
Needless to say, if you are already an avid CBD user you have probably asked yourself something along the lines of – can I consume CBD while drinking?
Currently, there is a wave of ongoing scientific research exploring the interaction between cannabidiol (CBD) and alcohol. As you may already be aware, CBD is a body relaxant that has been shown to provide numerous health benefits without any significant negative side effects or dosage limitations.
On the other hand, it has already been demonstrated that mixing alcohol and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) results in increasing the THC levels in the blood eightfold. This significant interaction, in combination with THC’s psychoactive effects, can be a cause for concern with recreational users and legal authorities alike.
So, what does the evidence show – can you mix CBD oil and alcohol? If you are curious to find out, read on as we explore this topic in depth.
Before mixing CBD with alcohol
James Giordano, a well-renowned expert and a Rockefeller Professor of medicine and neurosciences at the Georgetown University Medical Center argues that you should ideally experience CBD oil and alcohol separately prior to mixing them in order to be able to make light of the interaction between CBD oil and alcohol.
This makes perfect sense as it is essential to understand how CBD works inside your body whether you’re an experienced user or trying CBD oil for the first time. CBD dosage is also a factor that should be explored extensively prior to mixing your CBD oil with other liquids (link to the CBD oil dosage article).
Similarly, it is important to determine your reaction to alcohol since different people may react differently – a “happy” drunk may become happier, while a violent drunk may become even more troublesome when mixing CBD with alcohol.
The interaction between CBD and alcohol – experts’ views
Alcohol is generally classified as a depressant “drug”, but it can also have stimulating effects on the central nervous system. CBD is similar in a way – it can have an energizing effect when a low dosage is used and a sedating effect at a higher dosage.
Professor Giordano also claims that CBD and alcohol can interact within a four to eight-hour window, rather than only if you mix them together in a drink directly. A combination of CBD oil and alcohol may lead to stronger, longer-lasting effects since both substances have a relaxant effect and tend to lower your inhibitions. This, in turn, results in a greater level of intoxication which can be problematic.
However, other medical professionals such as Soyona Rafatjah, a well-established New York based physician, suggest that taking CBD in combination with alcohol could actually be beneficial. She stresses that CBD may be able to nullify the effects of alcohol by promoting self-detox of damaged cells – on the other hand, alcohol is known to reduce the rate of degradation of damaged cells in the liver which results in conditions such as fatty liver, inflammation, and even hepatitis.
The interaction between CBD and alcohol – scientific evidence
There is still a distinct lack of rigorous studies characterizing the interaction between CBD and alcohol in humans.
The long term criminalization of low-THC industrial hemp, owing to its link with the high-THC marijuana, did not help matters and stunted the scientific progress in the field of CBD. In particular, industrial hemp has been banned in the United States from the onset of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 until its decriminalization in recent years with the Farm Bills of 2014 and 2018.
However, preliminary research conducted up to date does indicate that CBD and alcohol appear to interact with each other, although the effects are considerably less drastic than the previously mentioned effects of combining THC and alcohol.
A study published in the Psychopharmacology journal in 1979 examined 10 volunteers under the influence of placebo, CBD, alcohol, and CBD mixed with alcohol, respectively (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/120541).
Different treatments were spaced out one week apart and the researchers observed that alcohol and a mixture of CBD and alcohol produced considerable impairments of the participants’ motor and psychomotor performance as compared to placebo and CBD treatments.
Furthermore, the consumption of CBD and alcohol together resulted in significantly lower alcohol levels in the blood when compared to alcohol alone were administered to participants, while the level of motor and psychomotor performance impairment remained significant regardless of the CBD intake.
Thus, the study concludes that the inactivity of CBD on the motor and mental performance extends to its interaction with alcohol. The reduced level of alcohol in blood in the presence of CBD indicates that CBD alters the process of alcohol metabolism.
A study published in Reviews on environmental health in 1991 confirms that cannabinoids affect the enzymes responsible for metabolizing alcohol (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1957048).
Interestingly, recent studies in rodents have shown that CBD may play a protective role during alcohol consumption. Similar research and clinical studies performed on humans are ongoing and the results are expected at a fast pace.
In general, alcohol consumption may lead to build up of fat in the liver as a result of excessive oxidative stress. Importantly, CBD can act as an antioxidant while also preventing the alcohol-induced decrease in self-detox processes.
A paper published in the Free Radical Biology and Medicine journal in 2014 demonstrates that CBD protects the liver of mice from binge alcohol-induced steatosis by reducing oxidative stress and by increasing the autophagy self-detox process (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24398069).
A further scientific research study published in Scientific Reports in 2017 confirms CBD’s ability to attenuate alcohol-induced steatosis as well as metabolic dysregulation, inflammation and neutrophil-mediated injury in mice (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28935932). Neutrophils or neutrocytes are the most abundant type of white blood cells in mammals and an essential part of the immune system.
CBD treatment successfully attenuated the alcohol-induced increase in liver triglyceride and fat droplet accumulation. Thus, CBD appears to have excellent therapeutic potential in the treatment of alcoholic liver diseases and further exploration of these effects in human trials is well-warranted and necessary.
The effects of CBD on the attenuation of the binge alcohol-induced neurodegeneration in rodents have been studied (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24012796). In particular, it was found that transdermal delivery of CBD and a CBD injection resulted in the reduction of neurodegeneration of 56.1% and 50.6%, respectively.
The researchers utilized rodents to model alcohol use disorders and the results published in the Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior journal clearly shed light on the feasibility of using transdermal delivery of CBD for treatment and prevention of alcohol-induced brain damage and neurodegeneration.
Can CBD cure addictions such as alcoholism?
In order to examine the potential anti-addictive properties of CBD, we must first establish a basic understanding of the effects of alcohol inside the human body.
Alcohol disturbs the balance of serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitters in the brain which results in an uplifting sensation initially, followed by a depressant effect later on. The communication between the neurons in the brain further slows down as the alcohol consumption increases. Finally, long-term alcohol intake induces addiction due to the remnant hyperactive signal firing of the neurons that are attempting to speed up impaired communications.
Prolonged exposure to alcohol and genetic factors may lead to irregularities in the functioning of the endocannabinoid system, which in turn can lead to addictive behavior. A review paper published in the Alcohol journal states that CB1 receptors of the endocannabinoid system play a significant role in the reinforcing and motivating attributes of alcohol (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22459871).
This is where CBD comes into play yet again. Currently, an emerging area of CBD research is largely focused on CBD’s ability to help people in overcoming addictive behaviors such as alcoholism.
A very recent study published in 2017 in Addiction Biology shows that the administration of CBD reduces the reinforcing properties, motivation, and relapse for alcohol in mice (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28194850). Furthermore, the authors propose CBD as a potentially useful treatment of alcohol use disorders.
THC is known to have an affinity for the CB1 receptors, whereas CBD is a CB1 receptor antagonist. A paper in the Neurotoxicity research journal presents an overview of studies focused on the effects of cannabinoids during chronic alcohol consumption (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26353844). The conclusions are clear – CB1 receptor agonists such as THC encourage alcohol consumption, while CB1 receptor antagonists such as CBD reduce alcohol consumption.
Thus, preliminary research results indicate that CBD decreases alcohol consumption and generally reduces the motivation and relapse for alcohol.
While the jury is still out on the effects of combining CBD oil and alcohol, and further studies on humans are required, early findings seem to be promising although inconclusive.
A significant amount of research is currently being conducted on the endocannabinoid system and naturally occurring phytocannabinoids such as CBD. Inevitably, forthcoming studies will elucidate the full extent of the relationship between CBD and alcohol in humans.
Considering everything that you hopefully learned from this article, the best way to consume CBD oil and alcohol hand in hand is to initially explore the effects of each substance on your body. Once you know how you react to CBD oil and alcohol taken separately, you can try consuming them in conjunction by microdosing CBD initially and gradually increasing the dosage to suit your needs.