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In a few short years, cannabidiol or CBD has grown from a little-known cannabis molecule to a benefit-packed phenomenon. It's primarily known as a health and wellness product but has made it's way into infused options outside the space.
One of the most popular infusion partners of CBD is alcohol. The compound can be found in options ranging from store-bought beer to craft cocktails at your local bar.
The strong effects of alcohol and the wide-ranging benefits of CBD have pushed many to wonder what happens when you combine the two, and if it's safe to do so.
CBD is a cannabis-derived compound primarily sourced from hemp that is well known to provide subtle health benefits without the high associated with THC use. It is well known for calming the nerves, reducing soreness, and improving sleep quality among other benefits.
Alcohol is known to reduce inhibitions and promote feelings of relaxation while inebriating the drinker.
The individual effects of these two are attractive, so the question of what it's like to consume the two together is common. Unfortunately, the available research does little to tell us about the experience of combining the two substances.
A double-blind 1979 study compared groups consuming alcohol alone with those consuming CBD with alcohol against control groups. The study concluded that consuming CBD in addition to alcohol didn't appear to have any impact on the effects of alcohol: "...there were few differences observed between the pharmacological effects of the two alcohol conditions."
Instead, for the effects, we have to look to anecdotal evidence for experiential outcomes. James Giordano, a professor of neurology and biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center told Vice in an article published in 2018 that: “On CBD, you’re very chill, very lighthearted, mellow. The alcohol will make that more intense, for some people, it makes them very, very sedated.”
This interaction can be found in countless and there are many reports online of the two compounds apparently having interactions - especially when consumed in higher quantities. This can range from increased sedation to intense mood alteration.
Research has little to say about the experience of consuming these two compounds, but studies have produced some promising pharmacological results to negate alcohol's negative effects.
Blood alcohol concentration or BAC measures the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream. A higher BAC often correlates with increased impairment and loss of motor control and cognitive function.
The same 1979 study we cited above concluded that: "The combination of alcohol plus CBD resulted in significantly lower blood alcohol levels compared to alcohol given alone..." The jury is still out on this conclusion however as this study is dated, used a high dose of CBD (200mg), and had a small sample size of only 10 participants.
Additionally, subsequent studies on mice found conflicting results indicating that CBD consumed with alcohol did not have an impact on BAC. Nonetheless, this is an interesting topic that deserves more research.
Excessive consumption of alcohol is well researched to cause damage to our bodies. This can range from damage to cells, inflammation, and increasing the risk of chronic diseases.
Encouragingly, research suggests that CBD may offer some protective properties when consuming alcohol.
A 2014 study on mice concluded that the compound reduced oxidative stress on the liver ultimately reducing ethanol-induced liver damage. Another study on mice in 2013 concluded that transdermal delivery of CBD may assist in the prevention of alcohol-induced neurodegeneration.
While these are animal studies, they show significant promise and if the results were replicated in humans, would hold great promise.
Some researchers have shown the promise for CBD in the use of treating alcohol use disorder.
Several studies and a review on CBD's use have been published. In an experiment on alcohol-dependent rats, CBD was found to reduce cue and stress triggered alcohol seeking and self-administration behaviors. This helped reduce the intake, prevented relapse, and decreased the overall motivation to consume alcohol.
While again, human research is lacking specific to alcohol, there are preliminary findings on humans that indicate CBD may help with reducing cigarette consumption in smoking populations. This indicates CBD's potential use in addiction treatment.
What about consuming CBD after a long night of drinking? While not likely an immediate and solitary cure for a hangover, CBD with other proper self-care, may support some of the symptoms like headache and nausea.
With the current research being so limited, it's hard to know the short or long-term impacts of combining CBD and alcohol.
CBD impacts different people in different ways, and the complex interactions and large range of variables in products and drinks make the pair unpredictable.
Until more research is performed, the complex interaction of consuming CBD with alcohol is unknown but also promising. As with any type of drinking, if you choose to combine these two substances it's best to check with a health professional first and practice moderation if you do plan to consume the two together.