We all know it’s not a good idea to use cannabis and drink alcohol together, but what about CBD? Would that combination be safe? As CBD use increases and we see dispensaries popping up on every corner, it becomes increasingly important to learn about the risks. Scientific studies may not answer our questions directly, so we have to do a little digging to discover the risks or benefits of combining CBD and alcohol.
First, let’s dispel one common myth
Many sources report that CBD has not psychoactive properties because it doesn’t make you high. In truth, CBD isn’t exactly non-psychoactive. By definition, a psychoactive substance is any substance that affects how the brain works and causes changes in mood, awareness, thoughts, feelings, or behavior. Well, CBD does, in fact, affect the brain.
For example, CBD binds to various receptors in the brain, including:
- Serotonin 5HT1A, which contributes to CBD’s anti-anxiety effect
- TRPV1, which contributes to CBD’s anti-psychotic effect
- The nuclear receptor PPAR-gamma that regulates gene expression
- Orphan receptor GPR55
The reason THC makes a person feel high and CBD doesn’t is because they park at different biding sites in the brain. More on this here.
CBD and Alcohol
Let’s take a look at three scholarly studies involving the use of CBD and alcohol. These are by no means all of the studies available, but they do answer some common questions.
Protection of the Liver
Alcoholism damages the liver in many ways. When overtaxed by alcohol, scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) and/or fatty liver disease (steatosis) often result. Additionally, alcohol impairs the liver’s ability to eliminate damaged body cells. This can cause a build up of damaged free radical cells that can lead to other diseases and complications.
One study investigated how CBD can protect the livers of mice from progressive damage caused by alcohol. The study indicates that the antioxidant power of CBD may protect the liver from alcohol-generated oxidative stress-induced steatosis. It also can prevent the decrease in autophagy induced by alcohol.
One small study tested the effects of combining alcohol and CBD by measuring motor and psychomotor performance. Alcohol and alcohol plus CBD produced significant impairments of motor and psychomotor performances, overestimations of time production and subjective responses indicating an accurate self-perception of their intoxication and deficits. The combination of alcohol plus CBD resulted in significantly lower blood alcohol levels compared to alcohol given alone, however, there were few differences observed between the pharmacological effects of the two alcohol conditions.
So, while CBD may protect the liver from the side effects of alcohol consumption, it does not appear to reduce the pharmacological effects of inebriation.
Excessive alcohol consumption results in neurodegeneration (loss or death of neurons) and cognitive impairments. In one study, injecting varying concentrations of CBD gel in mice resulted in increased neuroprotection. These results demonstrate the feasibility of using CBD for the treatment of alcohol-induced neurodegeneration.
What All of this Means
While the above studies examine some common claims about CBD and alcohol, there are still many questions left unanswered as of yet. CBD is still relatively new to the natural wellness and recreational scene, and more studies are needed to determine the full effects.
In the meantime, what are we to do?
As with anything else, I stress starting slowly. If you choose to drink alcohol while using CBD, use caution and monitor the way you feel. It is completely unwise to think that CBD is going to completely protect you from any unwanted health risks or side effects of consuming alcohol. The best way to avoid damage to your liver and brain from drinking is to moderate your drinking habits and not overdo it.
We have loads of information about CBD on the blog. Check out this post for a listing of other articles. If you want to go “all in” and learn all there is to know about CBD, check out my CBD Intensive.