CBD and alcohol are both ‘downer' compounds.
This means that both compounds have a tranquilizing, hypnotic, and sedative effect.
In medical literature combining alcohol with other tranquilizing or depressant compounds is known to cause major negative side effects ranging from seizures to death in the most extreme cases.
Based on the existing medical literature, we would expect that combining CBD and alcohol may lead to the same negative side effects.
But is this the case?
Let's find out.
The Effects of CBD and Alcohol
Although it's been only recently that the public has started hearing about the second most-researched compound found in the cannabis plant, CBD, already studies are showing that its consumption could be useful for treating pain2–3, anxiety4, but also insomnia and other sleep-related disorders5, to name just a few.
But these are just the beneficial effects.
CBD is also associated with various side effects, the main ones being:
- Decreased appetite, and;
When it comes to alcohol, research shows that it can affect the human body in a myriad of ways6, and while some of these are beneficial, most effects have a negative impact on your health:
- Impairing motor function;
- Cognitive performance, and;
- Causing damage to the heart7, liver8, and pancreas9.
Since both alcohol and CBD have a sedative effect, one may think that combining the two, will lead to better sleep quality.
Is Alcohol Mixed With CBD a Good Sleep Aid?
Apart from the previously mentioned effects, alcohol can also, similarly to CBD, cause sleepiness. Studies show that drinking alcohol before going to bed reduces the amount of time needed to fall asleep10, and initially, the alcohol-induced sleep will even be deeper. However, it doesn't mean that the benefits outweigh the downsides.
According to one study, alcohol consumption before sleep led to frequent waking up throughout the night and feeling less rested in the morning11.
In another study focused on the relationship between alcohol and sleep, researchers found that although alcohol consumption could help insomniacs in rare cases12, for the majority of people, alcohol is not a good sleep aid, as it shortens the REM sleep phase, which is essential for learning new information13.
At the same time, consuming alcohol in the evenings suppresses the secretion of melatonin14, which is a sleep hormone. In yet another study, “chronically drinking hamsters” were found to have disrupted circadian rhythms15, making it harder to fall asleep at regular times.
It is especially troubling since, according to one sleep expert, around 20% of Americans use alcohol as a sleep aid16. Unfortunately, although studies show that alcohol reduces the time required to fall asleep, it has a negative effect on sleep quality. Because of that, if you are experiencing sleep problems, you shouldn't mix CBD oil and alcohol – it’s best to stick to just CBD.
Separately, both of them could help you fall asleep faster, so it might seem logical that mixing those two substances could bring about even a more pronounced effect. Still, even if you’ll fall asleep more quickly, your sleep won’t be as restorative.
Could CBD Make the Effects of Alcohol Less Harmful?
A 2019 study17 suggests that CBD’s neuroprotective properties could protect against the damage done to the hippocampus by the consumption of alcohol. That's not all – CBD could also help addicts control the urge to consume alcohol.
Another study18 showed that CBD could also help deal with tobacco addiction, making it easier to exercise self-control. Though we need more research on this subject, the early findings on CBD’s anti-addictive properties are undoubtedly interesting.
When it comes to the effects of mixing alcohol and CBD on the blood alcohol levels and motor functions, the studies are inconclusive. A 1979 study19 suggests that mixing both of those substances could lower blood alcohol levels. Nonetheless, it didn't lead to motor functions not being impaired or being affected to a lower degree – quite the contrary. While combing the two lead to lower blood alcohol levels, the pharmacological effects of the alcohol stayed the same.
However, another study, during which participants consumed a much lower amount of CBD than in the previous study, showed different results20. This time, taking CBD and alcohol together did not lead to lower than expected levels of blood alcohol levels. However, regardless of the effects of mixing alcohol and CBD on the BAC, it is safe to say that it won't allow you to maintain your motor functions to a greater degree.
Animal studies indicate that the application of CBD gel protects from the alcohol-induced neurodegeneration21. It is unknown if taking those two substances in a different form, e.g., consuming CBD oil and alcohol could lead to the same benefits. At the same time, we cannot be sure if this property of CBD would also work on humans, but the animal studies certainly seem promising.
Additionally, CBD has been found to protect the liver from the effects of alcohol22. That's great news, as the liver is the organ that usually suffers the most during excessive drinking. One of the consequences of taking CBD and alcohol could lead to less painful hangovers.
Is It Safe to Mix CBD and Alcohol?
While current study results show that combining pure CBD with alcohol doesn't necessarily lead to adverse reactions, as we have mentioned in our article about CBD and pregnancy, the problem with CBD products is that oftentimes, they are mislabeled.
As a result, the CBD oil that you bought could contain a significant amount of THC for example. According to one study23, only 31% of tested CBD products were accurately labeled. However, what's even more problematic, 21% of the CBD products that were sold as THC-free did, in fact, contain THC. That's why we always recommend getting CBD products from reputable and transparent companies that provide results of third-party lab-test reports.
What's the risk? Combining THC and alcohol does come with significant health risks. For example, various studies found that combining THC with alcohol leads to heavier alcohol use24–25, making alcohol’s negative effects more likely to occur.
At the same time, alcohol consumption leads to higher THC levels in the blood26. Because of that, the motor functions are impaired for a longer period of time, increasing the possibility of an adverse situation, like a car accident taking place.
Although it doesn't seem likely that consuming small amounts of CBD and alcohol will lead to severe adverse reactions, you should remember that our bodies are complex mechanisms. People react differently when consuming the exact same substances.
On the Food and Drug Administration website27, you can find a warning that mixing alcohol and CBD may potentially lead to injuries. At the same time, due to the limited number of studies and research about the effects of mixing CBD and alcohol, the Federal Alcohol Regulator does not allow CBD inside alcoholic beverages.
Although most studies seem to indicate that consuming small amounts of CBD and alcohol isn't dangerous, quite the contrary – even possibly providing protection against the harmful effects of alcohol, it is too early to reach any conclusions. CBD may be perfectly fine to mix with a couple of beers or a glass of red wine, it's just that we don't know yet, and it's best not to risk until we have 100% certainty.
It is true that most of the studies that we have mentioned in this article seem to suggest that it is safe to take CBD and drink alcohol, but the problem is that there aren't that many studies on the safety of mixing those two. Even though some studies suggest that CBD could help with alcohol withdrawals and addiction, we recommend avoiding mixing CBD and alcohol until we have access to more research.
- Preliminary assessment of the efficacy, tolerability and safety of a cannabis-based medicine (Sativex) in the treatment of pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis. D. R. Blake, P. Robson, M. Ho, R. W. Jubb, C. S. McCabe (2005).
- Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Ethan B. Russo (2008).
- Cannabidiol presents an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve in a simulated public speaking test. Ila M. Linares, Antonio W. Zuardi, Luis C. Pereira, Regina H. Queiroz, Raphael Mechoulam, Francisco S. Guimarães, José A Crippa (2018).
- Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Scott Shannon, Nicole Lewis, Heather Lee, Shannon Hughes (2019).
- Alcohol’s Effects on the Cardiovascular System. Mariann R. Piano (2017).
- The Molecular Circadian Clock and Alcohol-Induced Liver Injury. Uduak S. Udoh, Jennifer A. Valcin, Karen L. Gamble, Shannon M. Bailey (2015).
- Alcohol-Related Pancreatic Damage. Minoti V. Apte, Jeremy S. Wilson, Mark A. Korsten (1997).
- The association between alcohol consumption and sleep disorders among older people in the general population. Annie Britton, Linda Ng. Fat, Aidan Neligan (2020).
- Sleep, Sleepiness, and Alcohol Use. Timothy Roehrs, Thomas Roth (2001).
- Dependence on REM sleep of overnight improvement of a perceptual skill. A. Karni, D. Tanne, B.S. Rubenstein, J.J. Askenasy, D. Sagi (1994).
- Evening alcohol suppresses salivary melatonin in young adults. Tracy L. Rupp, Christine Acebo, Mary A. Carskadon (2007).
- Chronic ethanol attenuates circadian photic phase resetting and alters nocturnal activity patterns in the hamster. Christina L. Ruby, Allison J. Brager, Marc A. DePaul, Rebecca A. Prosser, J. David Glass (2009).
- Cannabidiol as a Novel Candidate Alcohol Use Disorder Pharmacotherapy: A Systematic Review. Jasmine Turna, Sabrina K. Syan, Benicio N. Frey, Brian Rush, Mary Jean Costello, Mark Weiss, James MacKillop (2019).
- Cannabidiol reduces cigarette consumption in tobacco smokers: preliminary findings. Celia J. A. Morgan, Ravi K. Das, Alyssa Joye, H. Valerie Curran, Sunjeev K. Kamboj (2013).
- Interaction of cannabidiol and alcohol in humans. P. Consroe, E. A. Carlini, A. P. Zwicker, L. A. Lacerda (1979).
- The effect of cannabidiol, alone and in combination with ethanol, on human performance. B. E. Belgrave, K. D. Bird, G. B. Chesher, D. M. Jackson, K. E. Lubbe, G. A. Starmer, R. K. Teo (1979).
- Transdermal Delivery of Cannabidiol Attenuates Binge Alcohol-Induced Neurodegeneration in a Rodent Model of an Alcohol Use Disorder. Daniel J. Liput, Dana C. Hammell, Audra L. Stinchcomb, Kimberly Nixon (2013).