Mixing cannabis with alcohol may seem like a recipe for disaster, and often can be. The combination of alcohol and THC can increase THC levels in the blood eightfold, significantly lowering inhibitions and potentially causing damaging effects. What may come as a surprise to many is that CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabis compound, could in fact help people cut back on alcohol, reduce its harmful effects and even stop cravings in people with addiction issues.
CBDs interaction with alcohol – the benefits
In a study on rodent models, researchers investigated the link between CBD and alcohol-induced neurodegeneration, a disease that is hypothesized to contribute to the chronic and relapsing nature of alcoholism, and found that the rodents who had received CBD through a topical gel whilst alcohol was administered, experienced less alcohol-induced neurodegeneration. The study concluded that the results ‘demonstrate the feasibility of using CBD transdermal delivery systems for the treatment of alcohol-induced neurodegeneration.’
Luckily for those interested, in 2019, the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology collated and reviewed the various studies that indicate the efficiency of CBD in drinking reduction or on the improvement of any aspect of alcohol-related toxicity in alcohol use disorder (AUD). Collecting data from numerous studies, the authors of the article found that overall, experimental studies show that ‘CBD reduces the overall level of alcohol drinking in animal models of AUD by reducing ethanol intake, motivation for ethanol, relapse, anxiety, and impulsivity’ as well as reducing alcohol-related brain and liver damage.
Despite this optimism, the authors do call for further human trials, expressing their belief that new trials could help with new harm reduction approaches in alcoholism. With soaring rates of alcohol misuse in the UK and addiction services under immense pressure to cope with this, any further research into alternative treatments should be a priority and taken seriously.
In recent years, CBD has been hailed for its therapeutic potential in treating neurologic and psychiatric disorders, which in turn, has raised interest in CBD as a potential therapy in treating drug addiction. A 2018 study ‘evaluated the “anti-relapse” potential of a transdermal CBD preparation in animal models of drug seeking, anxiety and impulsivity’ the outcome showed that a one-week administration of CBD oil did help reduce alcohol cravings and subsequent relapse for up to 5 months.
Professor Julia Sinclair, chair of the College of Psychiatrists addictions faculty in London, has said that the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for more investment into addiction services: ‘Covid-19 has shown just how stretched, under-resourced and ill-equipped addiction services are to treat the growing numbers of vulnerable people living with this complex illness.’ The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) echoed this opinion, also adding that the current approved medications for AUD ‘have limited efficacy and significant side effects.’
These thoughts display the urgent need for more evidence-based approaches to reduce the health-related harms of alcohol misuse. We hope that clinical human trials exploring CBD as a treatment for substance abuse are undertaken shortly.
Mixing CBD with alcohol
Now whilst the studies discussed illustrate the potential of CBD in helping with damage caused by alcohol and reducing alcohol cravings and intake, they barely touch on the effects of mixing CBD with alcohol. As both CBD and alcohol can lower anxiety levels, the impact of taking both substances at once does have the capability of amplifying a relaxing state, causing sleepiness and sedation. This is only likely when consuming high or dangerous levels of alcohol or CBD and shouldn’t put you off trying a CBD infused beer or cocktail!
One study actually found CBD to lower alcohol levels in the blood: An study published in the journal Psychopharmacology looked into the interaction of cannabidiol and alcohol in humans and found that participants who had alcohol and a CBD capsule had lower blood alcohol levels compared with those who only had alcohol.
As the effects of CBD vary from person to person, it’s difficult to tell how combining CBD with alcohol will react in different people. By taking the recommended dose of CBD, you can expect alcohol to affect you the same when consuming it alongside CBD.
The use of CBD to treat alcoholism or alcohol damage to the body is still a very new phenomenon. There are positive results in scientific reports about the use of CBD for alcohol withdrawal, but more human large-scale studies are needed before we can confirm that CBD has proven benefits for those struggling with alcohol addiction.