Combining Marijuana and Alcohol: Dangerous or Harmless?

Man and Woman Sharing a Joint and Drinking
Photo by:

Marijuana Bud in Beer Caps
Photo by: Doug Shutter/Shutterstock
Crisscross applesauce, the saying used to go. Now, it’s more along the lines of crisscross leaf-and-sauce.

Today, we hear more and more about smoking weed while drinking alcohol. This activity, colloquially termed “cross-fading,” is an example of mixing two mind- and body-altering substances.

Alcohol is a depressant, and cannabis varies; though it can be very relaxing and therapeutic, certain strains have an opposite effect. Combining the two involves a lot of guesswork and a lot of feeling out the situation, which can be hard to do when the symptoms of being both drunk and high come to fruition.

Though the true origins are unknown, we can assume that one day a true innovator woke up and said, “Today is the day I’ll mix two of my favorite things for the ultimate buzz.” And it’s true. A cross-fade can lead to an ultimate buzz, though it can also pave the way to a hefty nightmare.

Safety First

Here’s the bottom line: if you use both cannabis and alcohol at the same time, it’s fine; you just better be sure to be used to both of them. And that comes with its own asterisk: “fine” means that it’s popular, but also mean that it comes with its own set of risks, and might not work out, especially when done in excess.

As a first-time user, it’s better if you do not mix marijuana with alcohol. Experience is necessary to have a truly fulfilling experience. Like the 10 Commandments of Edibles state, “this should only be attempted by masters of both substances.” Alcohol comes with its own set of rules, nuances, perks, and risks, which should be fully understood before indulged; pot is the same.

The experiences regarding the mixture of weed and booze have been reported going both ways. Sometimes the high is massive, an outstanding tsunami of mind-blowing good waves. However, it seems as though this reaction can be fleeting, as soon as people go beyond their tolerance limits. Many people instead have many issues when they try the famed fade.

Things can turn, fast.

Researchers are looking into the science behind this combined high, and how safe it really is. There are studies that look into smoking first then drinking, as well as drinking then smoking. Smoking cannabis activates the body’s cannabinoid 2 receptors, which in turn can affect the speed that the body absorbs alcohol, and slow it down. Reversely, drinking first can lead to higher levels of THC in the body’s plasma, leading to an intense spike of a high, very quickly.

Cross-fades often lead to users drinking beyond their limits, which is extra dangerous; marijuana has been known to have antiemetic properties, making it harder for bodies to vomit (think of how beneficial that can be health-wise, in situations dealing with cancer patients). In this case, however, when the body is exposed to too much alcohol, throwing up is the body’s best defense mechanism. Without that, it’s a lot easier for alcohol poisoning to take over.

No one responds to this mix (let alone marijuana or alcohol separately) the same, which makes the matter of safety a little shaky when it comes to the cross-fade.


Man and Woman Sharing a Joint and Drinking
Photo by:
The cross-fade is popular because of the unique high it gives the user. It’s intensified and can often result in an ultra-feel-good effect. Just as you would feel good a little tipsy or a little high, the emotions excel when mixed. It’s only natural that combining the two would accelerate the symptoms.

“It’s my favorite thing in the universe,” University of Colorado student Monica Elam said. “But you have to be careful.”

Many people, though, can attest to the good feelings running out quite quickly.

“Greening out” is when a person feels sick after smoking cannabis. This is not a common result of smoking pot, but the chances of greening out increase when mixing weed and booze. It’s accompanied by various symptoms, including nausea, dizziness, shivers, and sweats. When this happens, users will probably want to lie down. Usually, these harrowing effects are more common when the user drinks before smoking.

This intensified high can also produce symptoms such as panic, anxiety, and paranoia. Between alcohol’s effect of making a user black out and marijuana’s reputation for inhibiting memory, there could be damaging effects on the brain that can alter the mind, even if just temporarily.

When it comes to mixing substances, it’s a good idea to use common sense. Again, novice users should not attempt. But even for practiced marijuana and alcohol lovers, exercising caution is never a bad idea. In this case, cross-fade with practicality and wisdom. Moderation is key.

Make it a low-risk situation, in a safe environment with plenty of water and pillows around, in the comfort and security of a home or bedroom. Like with any other mind-altering experience, don’t overdo it.

Article by: Savannah Nelson