CBD and Alcohol: Why You Shouldn’t Mix Them?
CBD and alcohol aren’t a dream duo.
In fact, taking them together doesn’t do anything good to your body.
That’s because they’re vastly different when it comes to their effects on the body and brain — and the way they affect our health.
Alcohol is a toxin that has no acknowledged “safe” dose according to the largest global study conducted in 195 countries.
CBD, on the other hand, is antioxidant and neuroprotectant with an impressive number of health benefits.
With CBD oil being sold virtually everywhere, people start to wonder whether they can mix it with other substances like alcohol for recreational use.
After all, if you can have a CBD-infused capsule, gummy, honey stick, and whatnot — why can’t you have CBD-infused booze?
Alcohol companies are trying to get their fair share of the cake by infusing their alcoholic beverages with CBD — but does it even make sense?
How does CBD interact with alcohol? Can you use CBD oil to deal with alcohol-related problems, such as misuse, hangovers, and withdrawal symptoms?
We reveal everything you need to know in today’s article.
CBD vs Alcohol: A Brief Comparison of Effects
There’s a world of difference when it comes to the effects of CBD vs alcohol on human health.
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring compound found in cannabis plants. It’s one of the major cannabinoids along with THC. But unlike THC, CBD doesn’t get you high because it doesn’t have intoxicating properties.
On top of that, CBD offers a plethora of health benefits for the nervous system, immune system, digestive health, skin nourishment, stress management, sensory perception, and more.
CBD oil can be extracted from hemp and marijuana, although the vast majority of CBD available globally comes from hemp due to its legal status.
It’s impossible to fatally overdose on CBD. The cannabinoid has been tested in doses as high as 1500 mg daily for several weeks, without severe or life-threatening side effects.
Alcohol is a different pair of shoes.
Also known as ethanol, this substance is the main intoxicant in alcoholic beverages; in plain English, this is what makes you drunk.
Alcohol derives from the interaction between yeast and sugar in certain high-carb foods such as grapes, potatoes, and grains.
Alcohol is the most misused substance in the world. It can have potent mind-altering effects and compromise your cognitive performance along with motor skills and decision-making.
People often feel no limits when under the influence of alcohol; drinking impairs judgment, reduces shyness, and has a depressant effect on the nervous system.
Some of the short-term side effects of alcohol include slurred speech, drowsiness, blackouts, impaired judgment, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, distorted vision and hearing, and weak coordination.
Long-term intoxication with alcohol may lead to poisoning, liver disease, addiction, nerve damage, malnutrition, gastritis, vitamin deficiency, sexual dysfunction, and permanent brain damage — to name a few (1).
Can You Mix CBD and Alcohol?
The main argument for mixing CBD and alcohol is that the CBD is alcohol-soluble. Ethanol extraction is a popular method of making CBD tinctures and other herbal extracts.
However, the alcohol is usually evaporated, leaving the manufacturer with a viscous botanical liquid that contains high concentrations of CBD and other cannabinoids. It is then infused into a food-grade carrier oil to improve bioavailability.
You generally don’t take CBD and alcohol together — and for a good reason.
CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a vast network of receptors engaged in maintaining homeostasis between the body’s biological processes — including memory, mood, pain perception, body temperature, fertility, immune function, appetite, and more.
The ECS has its own CBD-like molecules known as endocannabinoids. A deficient ECS is likely to cause further dysfunctions in the body, which CBD is supposed to prevent.
CBD signals the ECS to produce more of its endocannabinoids while slowing their breakdown. With more cannabinoids circulating in the bloodstream, the body can efficiently regain homeostasis.
Alcohol does exactly the opposite.
Why Mixing CBD and Alcohol Is Counter-Productive
Alcohol is a well-known sedative. People often consume it to promote feelings of relaxation and to reduce anxiety, social fears, and regulate emotions.
However, its long-term side-effects outnumber the potential short-term benefits. Alcohol has a negative effect on both physical and mental health. It can severely damage internal organs and their systems, let alone the addiction and the social harms associated with alcohol abuse.
Taking alcohol with CBD mitigates its health benefits because it indirectly damages the ECS.
That being said, some studies suggest taking a small dose of alcohol with a large dose of CBD may be beneficial for inducing sleepiness and reducing anxiety.
A study conducted on 75 people to examine the efficacy of CBD in reducing anxiety and improving sleep showed that a dose of 25–75 mg of CBD daily administered for 30 days lowered anxiety markers and improved sleep patterns of the subjects (2).
One small study has found that a mixture of 200 mg of CBD consumed with 1 gram of alcohol for every 2.2 pounds of total weight resulted in significant improvements in motor performance and changes in the perception of time. Participants didn’t experience these effects when they took CBD alone (3).
Nevertheless, this isn’t the most reliable study, as it was performed on a small sample and used a much higher dose of CBD than most people consume daily.
There’s not much research into the exact effects of mixing CBD and alcohol, but considering their mechanisms of action and effects on our health, taking them in tandem seems counter-productive.
Does CBD Help with Hangovers?
By looking at the benefits of CBD, many people believe the cannabinoid could help with at least several negative effects of alcohol — including hangovers.
Although CBD oil won’t help with acute alcohol intoxication or impaired motor skills, it may alleviate the symptoms of a hangover, including nausea, headaches, increased blood pressure, and fatigue.
The antioxidant and neuroprotective properties of CBD also make it a considerable option for nursing hangovers. While everybody reacts differently to both CBD and alcohol, it’s likely for CBD products to ease some of the most disturbing hangover-related problems.
If you want to enjoy the relaxation provided by CBD, you can mix it into cocktail recipes, skipping the alcohol, and having a “virgin” version of your drink with your friends.
CBD Oil for Alcohol Withdrawal
It’s possible that CBD oil helps with hangover symptoms, but could it also help with alcohol withdrawal?
Again, there’s not much research on this subject, but CBD may be able to help reduce the likelihood of alcohol withdrawals by promoting homeostasis and alleviating some other symptoms.
A 2014 study posted by the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine concluded that CBD can reduce liver toxicity associated with alcohol use in mice. The study found that CBD prevented fatty liver disease (steatosis) caused by binge drinking (4).
In a 2016 review from the journal Neurotoxicity Research, the authors found little evidence to support the benefits of CBD for alcohol withdrawals, but it did mention CBD’s affinity to CB2 receptors as potentially effective in treating alcohol addiction (5).
According to Dr. Melanie Bone, a medical cannabis practitioner working in Florida claims that CBD may reduce the harms caused by problematic drinking. By having a positive effect on the body’s defensive mechanism and reducing alcohol cravings, CBD may help addicts minimize the side-effects of alcohol abuse.
These findings are promising, to say the least. With more longitudinal studies examining the effects of CBD on the damage caused by alcohol, therapists may be able to incorporate CBD oil as an effective adjunctive therapy for those trying to recover from alcohol addiction.
Always seek counseling or medical supervision before going cold turkey, even when trying to manage your symptoms with CBD.
Taking CBD Before vs After Drinking Alcohol: Which Is Better?
Both methods have their benefits.
As mentioned earlier, taking CBD after drinking alcohol may help you reduce the severity of hangovers, protect your body against alcohol-induced damage, and improve post-drinking regeneration.
Taking CBD before drinking may reduce your blood alcohol levels. The amount of alcohol in your blood is expressed in blood alcohol concentration (BAC). A higher BAC usually indicates a greater impairment in motor skills and cognitive function.
There is limited evidence that CBD affects blood alcohol levels. One study conducted on 10 subjects found a dose of 200 mg CBD to significantly lower blood alcohol levels than when the alcohol was taken alongside a placebo.
However, not only was the study conducted very long ago — in the 1970s — but it also used a very high dose of CBD, up to 10 times higher than most people take in their routine. It’s not clear whether lower doses of CBD would produce the same effect.
In addition, several studies have brought conflicting results, reporting no significant impact of CBD on blood alcohol concentration.
Is CBD Safe for Recovering Alcoholics?
CBD is generally considered a safe compound. Numerous health agencies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), have recommended CBD as safe and well-tolerated by humans, with minimal potential for abuse and no severe side effects. Even doses as high as 1500 mg daily haven’t resulted in life-threatening adverse reactions.
That being said, studies have reported a few side effects attributed to high doses of CBD oil:
- Dry mouth
- Changes in appetite
CBD is also known to interact with many pharmaceutical substances in prescription and non-prescription medications. If you take any medication that has a grapefruit warning on it, it will probably interact with CBD because both compounds use the same metabolizing enzymes in the liver. CBD disrupts drug metabolism, therefore elevating the drug’s concentration in the blood. This, in turn, may lead to second-hand side effects.
Always consult a doctor before buying CBD oil to help with alcohol withdrawals.
Does CBD Protect Cells Against Damage and Disease?
Alcohol abuse can result in damaged cells, increasing the likelihood of inflammation and chronic diseases such as liver disease, pancreatitis, and certain types of cancer.
Several animal-based studies have observed that CBD demonstrates neuroprotective properties, reducing the damage caused by binge drinking.
For example, one study on rats concluded that topical CBD administration lowered the brain-cell damage caused by excessive drinking by up to 49% (6).
In another study, CBD administration to mice provided them with better protection against alcohol-induced fatty liver disease by promoting autophagy, a process that supports cell regeneration (7).
One study has correlated the use of CBD-rich cannabis extracts with an increased risk of liver toxicity in mice. However, some of the mice in that study were force-fed with extremely large doses of CBD from the whole-plant extract.
We don’t know if CBD could produce similar results in humans; the results from animal samples have never been replicated on human subjects.
Final Thoughts on CBD and Alcohol
Small doses of alcohol may intensify the effects of CBD, leading to drowsiness and sedation.
However, taking CBD with alcohol is counterproductive from the wellness point of view due to the negative impact of long-term alcohol use on the body and brain.
Some human and animal studies show that CBD has the potential to protect cells against alcohol-induced damage, reduce blood alcohol concentration, and control addiction and withdrawal symptoms.
Until more research is conducted, it’s unclear whether taking CBD alongside alcohol can be safe (even in small doses). For now, it’s better to err on the side of caution.
- Rehm, Jürgen. “The risks associated with alcohol use and alcoholism.” Alcohol research & health: the journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism vol. 34,2 (2011): 135-43.
- Shannon, Scott et al. “Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series.” The Permanente journal vol. 23 (2019): 18-041. doi:10.7812/TPP/18-041
- Consroe, P et al. “Interaction of cannabidiol and alcohol in humans.” Psychopharmacology vol. 66,1 (1979): 45-50. doi:10.1007/BF00431988
- Yang, Lili et al. “Cannabidiol protects liver from binge alcohol-induced steatosis by mechanisms including inhibition of oxidative stress and increase in autophagy.” Free radical biology & medicine vol. 68 (2014): 260-7. doi:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2013.12.026
- Kleczkowska, Patrycja et al. “Cannabinoid Ligands and Alcohol Addiction: A Promising Therapeutic Tool or a Humbug?.” Neurotoxicity research vol. 29,1 (2016): 173-96. doi:10.1007/s12640-015-9555-7
- Liput, Daniel J et al. “Transdermal delivery of cannabidiol attenuates binge alcohol-induced neurodegeneration in a rodent model of an alcohol use disorder.” Pharmacology, biochemistry, and behavior vol. 111 (2013): 120-7. doi:10.1016/j.pbb.2013.08.013
- Wang, Yuping et al. “Cannabidiol attenuates alcohol-induced liver steatosis, metabolic dysregulation, inflammation and neutrophil-mediated injury.” Scientific reports vol. 7,1 12064. 21 Sep. 2017, doi:10.1038/s41598-017-10924-8