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April 24, 20240

CBD and Alcohol: Do They Actually Mix?

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Hayley Heidelbaugh

CBD and alcohol are worlds apart. One is a non-intoxicating, non-addictive cannabinoid, and the other is an intoxicating and addictive substance that, when abused, can lead to misery and death.

In recent years, CBD has soared in popularity as a health supplement, and cannabis products in general are rapidly gaining on alcohol as the go-to method for relaxation and stress relief. Unlike its cousin marijuana, hemp-derived CBD doesn’t get you high, but it can provide potent soothing effects.

While alcohol is a depressant and is addictive for some users, most casual drinkers aren’t risking their health when they have a drink or two. And while you should be cautious using alcohol and CBD together, for most people it’s fine to enjoy CBD products and alcohol together in moderation. You don’t need to choose one over the other.

Taking low-dose CBD gummies or a few drops of CBD oil alongside a glass of wine may be the best of both worlds. You can soak in the haze of alcohol without overdoing it, and on top of that, enjoy the benefits of CBD. Here’s what to keep in mind before your next relaxing night in.

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Does CBD interact with alcohol?

Any substance can interact with other substances you consume, disrupting how one or the other is metabolized. CBD is known to interact with ethanol, the intoxicating component in alcoholic beverages. There’s a bit of a give and take here: although CBD can worsen certain negative effects of intoxication, it may also reduce alcohol cravings and lead to less drinking.

When we bring up “drug interactions,” be aware that supplements can cross paths with medications and addictive substances, alcohol included. Cannabinoids like CBD are processed by the liver, so other substances metabolizing in the liver can be affected by CBD. Two seemingly beneficial compounds can interact negatively or positively with one another, just as they can with toxins.

Alcohol isn’t the only substance CBD interacts with, either. CBD distillates and their cohorts can interfere with anti-epileptic medications, antidepressants, and even common over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol.

Exploration into CBD’s relationship with alcohol launched well before the advent of commercial hemp-derived CBD. In 1979, researchers found that while CBD alone didn’t cause motor impairment, these symptoms weren’t reduced when it was administered with alcohol.

Even here, the findings weren’t a complete let-down. While it’s true that alcohol’s disorienting effects weren’t counteracted (and may be exacerbated) by CBD, the cannabinoid seemed to reduce the study subjects’ blood alcohol levels lower than in those who’d only consumed alcohol. Signs of intoxication can stick around or worsen, but CBD may prevent users from getting too drunk, too quickly.

In recent years, chemists have looked beyond surface-level interactions. Interest in how CBD could benefit those with alcohol use disorder (AUD) is steadily increasing. This powerhouse cannabinoid may even help prevent AUD from developing or worsening.

Alcohol, CBD, and the nervous system

Beyond their common metabolization path through the liver, both alcohol and CBD can also alter human nervous system function.

Alcohol’s relationship to the central nervous system is a core danger of AUD. In excess, it interrupts communication between brain and nerve receptors, triggering a potentially life-threatening domino effect.

One or two drinks can be stimulating. Overconsumption is a different story, with alcohol’s sedating–or, more accurately, depressing–effects taking hold. Drinking too much probably isn’t going to invigorate you and make it easier to socialize, but it won’t exactly be relaxing, either. Serious motor and mental impairments are more likely.

By stepping in the middle of nerve pathways, excessive alcohol consumption impairs vital bodily functions. Breathing and heart rate slow, reflexes are impaired, and the risk of neuronal injury is increased. Over time, this can lead to permanent nervous system damage.

CBD also impacts brain activity. It has direct and indirect relationships with several kinds of nerve receptors, including serotonin-boosting 5-HT1A. In contrast to alcohol, while CBD can temporarily rewire your senses, its effects are generally mild, beneficial, and well-tolerated. Pain relief, reduced inflammation, and mental relaxation are all associated with recreational CBD use.

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Effects of taking CBD with alcohol

One of the top effects of taking CBD with alcohol is…well, helping you consume less alcohol.

In a growing number of studies, the popular cannabinoid appears to alleviate cravings, making it easier for drinkers to pace themselves–or avoid using alcohol altogether. These results look especially promising for AUD patients.

Just keep what we mentioned about inebriation in mind. Consuming mass quantities of CBD with alcohol isn’t recommended, especially if you haven’t already gauged your body’s response to the combo. Keep your doses moderate and reasonable. First-time CBD users should work out their CBD preferences before bringing alcohol into the picture.

CBD as a 5-HT1A receptor agonist

We’re learning more about how and why CBD could minimize the dangerous outcomes of alcohol abuse.

Cravings aren’t where it ends. CBD appears to activate 5-HT1A, a type of serotonin receptor present in the peripheral and central nervous systems. If consumed before alcohol, CBD may reduce the user’s risk of life-threatening complications, such as kidney or brain damage. You won’t become invincible to the consequences of alcohol overuse, but the effect could be significant enough to temper disaster in high-risk individuals. As always with cannabinoids, more research is needed.

Alcohol can lead to swelling in the liver (also known as hepatitis or hepatic injury). CBD’s well-explored anti-inflammatory properties may lower oxidative stress and reduce overall signs of liver injury.

CBD and sleep-wake cycles

Researchers already suspect a link between CBD and the sleep-wake cycle, a relationship that could support future AUD treatments.

CBD won’t actually make you tired. It doesn’t seem to have sedative qualities when consumed independently of other cannabinoids or medications, but there is evidence that it can modulate the sleep-wake cycle and improve sleep quality. Rest comes easier when you feel more physically and mentally at ease, which CBD can help promote.

Cannabinoids are an enticing alternative to drug-based sleep treatments and, as a bonus, could help patients avoid the worst possible side effects, like addiction and overdose.

Recreational CBD users aren’t the only ones benefiting from better-quality slumber. The majority of AUD patients struggle with sleep disturbances, feeding into the range of impairments to their day-to-day functioning and quality of life. CBD could prove useful in managing AUD-related sleep disturbances, as suggested by researchers in 2023.

No trials have been conducted on the specifics. In theory, CBD could allow care providers to treat AUD-related sleep disturbance without bringing in another addictive substance. Abuse liability is a major drawback of medications currently used to induce sleep.

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Is it safe to take CBD with alcohol?

For most users, taking moderate amounts of CBD with alcohol isn’t dangerous.

Light drinkers are unlikely to face serious adverse effects. Just be prepared for increased motor impairment, and hold off if you’re hoping to have an active night–take care of your responsibilities first. Also, avoid pairing alcohol and CBD if you’re running on an empty stomach. And, obviously, don’t drive.

If you’ve never consumed CBD and alcohol in the same night, pace yourself and keep tabs on how much of both you’re ingesting. Not only can this help the current session run smoother, but it will also provide a roadmap for the next time you’re dosing CBD with a drink.

Lastly, remember that serving recommendations don’t account for the interplay between multiple substances. You could need far less CBD than the manufacturer suggests.

The long-term effects of recreational cannabinoid use are still up in the air, and they’ll stay that way until the hemp market matures. Stay conscious of this whenever you experiment with cannabinoids. Rather than let CBD’s glowing reputation blind you, recognize that hemp is under-studied as a health supplement. Our current marketplace isn’t working in the consumer’s favor, either.

The United States hemp industry is unregulated. Cannabis products containing under 0.3% delta 9 THC are federally legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, but manufacturers aren’t obligated to have them third-party tested. There’s no legal requirement for hemp companies to publish a certificate of analysis (COA) for any of their products. As you shop around for CBD, check for a COA and stick to trusted retailers with transparent safety testing.

Should you feel unusually inebriated after combining CBD with alcohol, stop using both right away. It’s always best to trust your gut on this one.

Does CBD help with hangovers?

As of March 2024, there doesn't seem to be any research specific to CBD and alcohol-induced hangovers. Anecdotes are another story. Many claim that CBD is at the top of their anti-hangover toolkit. (Bear in mind that home hangover remedies have been around for thousands of years.)

From what we know of CBD’s anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea properties, the potential for a link isn’t unfounded. Even the stress of having a hangover can amplify the symptoms you’re already dealing with. CBD might have the ability to target multiple branches of the dreaded morning hangover, from the physical to the mental.

Keep your expectations grounded, of course, and don’t assume CBD will cure or prevent a killer hangover. There’s no evidence that it will.

If you give CBD a shot during a hangover and find it helpful, then go right ahead. It’s an overall low-risk technique. Ideally, you’ll want to vape to get the CBD into your bloodstream most efficiently.

For maximum convenience, consider a CBD vape pen or a CBD cart. Grinding up some hemp bud (especially high-CBD bud) and loading it into a portable dry herb vaporizer can also do the trick. It's quick, simple, and—maybe—effective.

Taking CBD with alcohol: how soon is too soon?

It doesn’t look like there’s a limit on how long you should wait after consuming CBD before consuming alcohol, or vice versa. Depending on your preferences and what you’re seeking from the experience, how you pace yourself may vary.

Certain users don’t mind the way CBD interacts with alcoholic drinks. Others prefer the effects of one on its own, but not in tandem. Consider your own preferences before the session starts.

For a bit more perspective: in the 1979 study we addressed earlier, researchers administered CBD thirty minutes before the subjects consumed alcohol. Short waiting period or no, significant motor impairment was still observed in those who ingested both CBD and alcohol. Giving it a few hours might have made a difference, but we don’t know for sure.

At the end of the day, how long you prefer to wait may vary. Metabolic speed is at the whim of factors outside the user’s control, including age, health conditions, and simple differences in human physiology.

To play it as safe as possible, avoid consuming CBD and alcohol on the same night if you’d rather minimize inebriation. There’s really no other way to prevent the two substances from interacting.

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Hayley Heidelbaugh

Vaping since: 3 years

Favorite products:

Favorite flavors: White Wedding, Northern Lights, Platinum Valley, OG Kush

Expertise in: Oil carts, cannabis concentrates, cannabis flower

Hayley Heidelbaugh

I'm a Pennsylvania-based cannabis enthusiast and writer. As a part of the Vaping360 team, I'm eager to help cannabis consumers explore vaping and get the most out of their experience. You can also find me @faeberrystudios on Instagram.

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