As cannabis products seep into the beverage sector, cannabidiol (CBD) is popping up on a lot of drink menus. But what are the effects of mixing, for example, CBD oil or CBD gummies, with alcohol? Most importantly, is the combination of CBD and alcohol actually safe?
What are the effects of mixing alcohol and CBD?
Though we still have much to learn about CBD's medicinal value, the key to understanding its effects is knowing how it interacts with our bodies' endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is largely responsible for maintaining the body's internal balance, or homeostasis.
CBD binds to several receptor pathways in the body, including the most well-known cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2. When the CB2 receptor is activated, for example, whether by endogenous cannabinoids or phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids from the cannabis plant), it may regulate immune responses, inflammation, and other functions.
Not all CBD reactions are the same because not all human bodies are the same. There are at least seven genetic mutations of the CB2 receptor, for example, which may in turn alter the way one individual responds to CBD as opposed to another. As a result, how one person reacts to a mix of CBD and alcohol may differ significantly from another.
The way our bodies take in and metabolize CBD is complex and under-researched, which makes it difficult to make any definitive statements on what to expect if you mix it with alcohol. An individual's response to CBD, like THC, is largely dependent on genetics.
With that in mind, we can still make a few general assumptions based on existing research — namely that mixing CBD and alcohol may lower blood alcohol levels while reducing some of alcohol's toxic effects on the liver.
In 1979, a study published in the journal Psychopharmacology gave 10 volunteers one of the following at random: a CBD capsule and alcohol, a CBD capsule and orange juice, a placebo with orange juice, or alcohol on its own. Participants who were given the mix of CBD and alcohol had lower blood alcohol levels than participants who had just been given alcohol, though there weren't any notable differences in impairment of motor skills.
So while CBD may affect a person's blood alcohol level, it may not temper the immediate outward effects of alcohol use. In fact, because both alcohol and CBD can be sedating in high doses, they may produce a higher level of sedation when taken together.
A few animal studies have also shown that CBD may mitigate neurodegenerative and oxidative liver damage associated with alcohol use. A 2013 study from the “Journal of Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior” administered CBD gel and injections to rodents, which were also given alcohol. Both the CBD gel and injection proved effective in decreasing the rate of neurodegeneration in rodent models.
Another study from 2014 found that rodents given CBD 30 minutes prior to being given alcohol showed significantly less oxidative stress on the liver than rodents who had just been given alcohol. It's yet to be determined whether these therapeutic effects are transferable to human alcohol consumption, but they do present the possibility that some of the most damaging aspects of alcohol use can be tempered with CBD.
However, based on the limited amount of research available to us, there's no way of telling whether a glass or two of CBD wine could potentially lead to any adverse health effects, and more evidence is needed to give a definitive answer.
Does CBD oil help with hangovers?
You may or may not already be familiar with CBD oil — a cannabis concentrate, tincture, or extract with a high concentration of CBD — as a popular wellness product. The rapidly growing presence of CBD oil in dispensaries, health food stores, major pharmacies, and on the internet has more people than ever wondering how it might improve their lives.
CBD oil is unlikely to alleviate immediate alcohol intoxication or impairment of motor skills, but could CBD oil help get rid of a hangover? While it isn't likely to be the most immediate cure, CBD oil may effectively treat several hangover symptoms, including headaches and nausea.
CBD's neuroprotective and antioxidant properties may also make CBD oil a viable option for nursing a hangover. Again, everyone's body is different and will react differently to both alcohol and CBD. But it's possible for CBD oil to treat some of the most notorious hangover symptoms.
CBD for alcohol withdrawal
If CBD has the potential to treat hangover symptoms, could it also help alleviate the harsh symptoms of alcohol withdrawal? Again, more research is needed to say for sure, but CBD may be able to help soften the dangers of alcohol withdrawal by treating symptoms and promoting internal balance.
A 2016 review published in the journal Neurotoxicity Research found little evidence to support the use of CBD in treating alcohol addiction or withdrawal but it did posit that a substance that acts on CB2 receptors, which CBD does, may be effective in treating alcohol dependence.
In addition, Dr. Melanie Bone, a board-certified OB-GYN and medical marijuana specialist who practices in West Palm Beach, Florida, asserts that “CBD can be part of a harm reduction strategy to reduce problematic drinking. By reducing cravings and amplifying the body's defenses, CBD may help individuals minimize the harms associated with alcoholism. For instance, CBD is shown to reduce liver toxicity associated with alcohol in mice.”
A 2014 study published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine supports Dr. Bone's assertion that CBD can reduce liver toxicity associated with alcohol in mice. The study, conducted by researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, found that CBD protected the livers of mice from binge alcohol-induced steatosis (fatty liver disease). More research is needed to illuminate if there are any similar protective effects in people.
Alcohol withdrawal can be very serious, even life-threatening if handled improperly, so it's always critical for those with an alcohol use disorder to seek medical supervision before ceasing alcohol use, even when taking CBD to help with symptoms.
Additionally, CBD cocktails may be useful for those who want to enjoy the relaxing experience of a cocktail without alcohol. Simply add CBD oil to your favorite cocktail recipe, withhold the liquor, and enjoy the CBD-infused drink in a social setting.
Major contributions from Dr. Adie Rae.