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Find out the benefits of CBD, what it is, and the associated risks. Alcohol and CBD affect your body in different ways. Learn more about each product and what happens when they're mixed here.

Health Benefits of CBD

CBD is an abbreviation for cannabinoid. Cannabinoid is a natural substance found in cannabis, also known as marijuana, and also in hemp plants. Today, you can find CBD oil in capsules, oil bases for vaporizers, tinctures, food items, and beauty products such as bath bombs or lotions.

Unlike its cousin THC, CBD is not intoxicating or psychoactive. Proponents of CBD oil claim that it can be used to treat conditions such as chronic pain, inflammation, migraines, epilepsy, autoimmune diseases, depression, and anxiety.

Research into some of these claims is ongoing, and there is still a lot about CBD that we don’t know but researchers are trying to find out.

Health Benefits

Researchers are looking for answers when it comes to the full potential of CBD. What have they discovered in the meantime? So far, we know that CBD is a proven treatment when it comes to epilepsy, and early research is showing promise in regards to various anxiety disorders.

Approved to Treat Epilepsy

In 2018, the first FDA-approved drug, cannabidiol (Epidiolex), containing CBD was released on the market to treat two different kinds of epilepsy — Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

The FDA approved the treatment for patients as young as two years old. Studies showed it was effective in comparison to a placebo in reducing the frequency of seizures.

Anxiety

Though we need more research, a 2015 medical journal review article looked at CBD and its effect on multiple anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, seasonal affective disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The results showed that there was “strong preclinical evidence” to support the treatment of anxiety disorders with CBD, though more research is needed on long-term dosing.

Health Risks

Research surrounding CBD is ongoing, and there are many questions that researchers do not have the answers to yet, such as whether or not the means of taking CBD impacts the risks or efficacy. Some common means of taking CBD include inhaling through a vaporizer, ingesting in food, or taking orally as a pill.

Here is a list of a few potential risks and side effects that come with CBD. Some of these risks are controllable if taking CBD under the guidance of your doctor.

Continued

Liver Injury

During drug trials for Epidiolex, the FDA determined liver injury to be a side effect of CBD. Signs of liver injury showed up on blood work used to detect early problems with the liver. You can manage this risk by only taking CBD under the supervision of your doctor.

Interaction with Other Medications

If you are taking other medications, CBD can impact their efficacy, and the dose you are taking may need to be re-evaluated by your doctor. CBD can potentially interact with other medications to cause side effects.

Because there is limited research on how CBD interacts with prescription drugs and with standard over-the-counter supplements, it is best to talk to your doctor before taking CBD if you are taking other medications.

Fertility Damage

Though not much research has looked specifically at CBD, it seems that there is a negative relationship between cannabis use and sperm count, as well as other measures of male fertility, including sperm viability and motility.

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Most of these studies have focused on animal participants, and further research is needed. Experts recommend awareness around these potential side effects when prescribing cannabis to patients who are of reproductive age.

Amounts and Dosage

Because the FDA currently does not regulate CBD, there are not specific recommended doses. Doses in most clinical trials have ranged from 100 to 800 milligrams a day.

Before using any CBD product, you should speak to your doctor to come up with a safe dosage plan that works for you. This plan should also take into account your symptoms and any other medications or supplements that you may be taking.

Sources

Neurotherapeutics: “Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders.”

The Journal of Urology: “Cannabis and Male Fertility: A Systematic Review.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration: “FDA Approves First Drug Comprised of an Active Ingredient Derived from Marijuana to Treat Rare, Severe Forms of Epilepsy.”

U.S. Food and Drug Administration: “What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD.”

CBD And Alcohol: What Happens When You Mix Them?

Lenore Cangeloso is a board-certified acupuncturist and herbal medicine practitioner based in Oregon.

Commissions we earn from partner links on this page do not affect our opinions or evaluations. Our editorial content is based on thorough research and guidance from the Forbes Health Advisory Board.

Table of Contents

  • CBD and Alcohol in the Body
  • What Can Happen When You Mix CBD and Alcohol?
  • CBD as a Potential Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
  • Is It Safe to Consume CBD and Alcohol Together?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a popular compound found in hemp plants that can potentially help alleviate anxiety, improve sleep and relieve pain, along with other purported benefits. In a recent Forbes Health ​​survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by OnePoll, 60% of respondents said they’ve tried a CBD product, and 64% think CBD is safer than alcohol.

CBD can be derived from both hemp and cannabis sativa plants, the latter of which also contains detectable amounts of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9 THC). Delta-9 THC is the main component of cannabis that causes intoxicatingly psychoactive effects.

Research regarding what happens when humans consume CBD and alcohol together is sparse. As a result, consumers generally have access to limited information when deciding whether to mix CBD and alcohol.

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CBD and Alcohol in the Body

Alcohol and CBD affect your body in different ways, although consuming either substance can result in similar effects, such as sleepiness or sedation.

When you drink alcohol, it enters your bloodstream quickly, and its effects can occur within ten minutes. Alcohol affects the way your brain functions, potentially impairing coordination and your ability to think clearly and altering both mood and behavior.

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Depending on the amount you consume, alcohol can affect your speech, memory and judgment. Drinking alcohol can also affect your balance, raising the risk of falls and other injuries.

Unlike alcohol, CBD doesn’t contain intoxicating properties. Instead, CBD interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which comprises receptors throughout your body—particularly the central nervous system—to produce a variety of potential effects, including:

  • A calming of the central nervous system
  • A reduction in anxiety symptoms
  • Improvement in sleep quality
  • A decrease in chronic pain symptoms

With that said, some of the effects can be less desirable, including:

  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Sedation
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Vomiting

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What Can Happen When You Mix CBD and Alcohol?

With limited research available on potential interactions between alcohol and CBD, the effects of mixing the two substances is unclear. Potential interactions are also subject to variables, such as how much of each you consume and the amount of THC present in the CBD product, says John Mendelson, M.D., chief medical officer and founder of San Francisco-based Ria Health, which offers a medicine-based approach to drinking moderation and alcohol abstinence.

Depending on the amount, THC may interact with alcohol when you drink, says Dr. Mendelson. However, not enough research exists to know how THC in CBD products may interact with alcohol.

“The 0.3% THC allowed in hemp-derived CBD products can go up to amounts in the final product that may cause an interaction,” says Eloise Theisen, a nurse practitioner and the chief nursing officer at Leaf411, an online consumer resource on how to use cannabis safely and effectively. “We see levels of 1 to 4 milligrams of THC in some concentrated hemp CBD products.”

THC amounts in CBD are limited by the federal Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill of 2018) to 0.3% by dry weight to avoid being classified as cannabis, a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act. THC levels are often listed on a CBD product’s certificate of analysis (COA), which is typically made available on the manufacturer’s website.

However, CBD products are not regulated by the FDA, so you’re relying on the manufacturer’s claims and third-party laboratory test results to determine amounts of THC present in specific CBD products. Only Epidiolex, a prescription drug used to treat certain types of seizure disorders, has been approved by the FDA.

Ideally, it’s best to buy CBD that contains the lowest amount of THC to avoid alcohol and THC interactions, says Dr. Mendelson. When choosing a CBD product, check the label and the lot number’s COA to find the amount of THC present in the product.

“Dose will be the most important thing,” says Dr. Mendelson. “If someone stays within the recommended alcohol consumption amounts of one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men and a small dose of CBD at the manufacturer’s recommended level, there should be no significant reactions one way or another.”

Potential Harmful Effects of Using CBD and Alcohol Together

“I strongly advise my patients against consuming alcohol and cannabis together, whether it’s CBD or THC, since you can feel a stronger effect from both when using alcohol,” says Theisen.

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Side effects depend on several factors, including the amount of alcohol, the CBD dose and the amount of THC present in the CBD product. Combining alcohol and CBD may cause drowsiness, impaired coordination and, in rare cases, vomiting, says Theisen.

Combining CBD and alcohol could also potentially increase the effects of the alcohol, causing the person to feel drunk or impaired faster, says Theisen.

“If someone took CBD in the morning to help with their anxiety and wanted to have a drink or two in the evening, that [combination] hasn’t been shown to be problematic,” says Theisen. “Taking them concurrently is where I get concerned because of potential side effects—whether from the alcohol or even the CBD.”

CBD as a Potential Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

So far, studies on CBD use with the goal of reducing alcohol cravings and relapses are based mainly on responses or interactions in rodents rather than humans, says Theisen.

“That doesn’t mean we haven’t seen some observational case reports where people have been able to use cannabis successfully to reduce their alcohol intake, cravings or relapses,” says Theisen. “However, in terms of actual data, it’s only in animals. But that data is promising.”

One study in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research used rats bred selectively for high alcohol preference and consumption and found that when the rats received a low dose of CBD, the number of times they pushed levers that delivered alcohol decreased [1] Maccioni P, Bratzu J, Carai M. Reducing Effect of Cannabidiol on Alcohol Self-Administration in Sardinian Alcohol-Preferring Rats. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. 2020; 7(2):161-169. .

Meanwhile, consuming CBD alone may help alleviate the reasons some people drink, such as anxiety, insomnia, pain and post-traumatic stress, says Theisen.

“When I’m assessing a patient who is drinking a lot of alcohol, I always want to know why that is,” says Theisen. “Is it because they’re anxious? Are they using it to help with their pain or sleep? Sometimes we can reduce their alcohol intake by treating those conditions with CBD instead.”

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Is It Safe to Consume CBD and Alcohol Together?

Moderation is key to safety when consuming both CBD and alcohol, says Dr. Mendelson, who doesn’t recommend mixing the two substances due to the possible side effect of drowsiness, which could create a safety hazard while driving, operating machinery or working with kitchen equipment.

With that said, what little research exists on mixing alcohol and CBD is based mainly on studies of rodents rather than humans. As a result, it’s still unclear whether it’s safe to consume CBD and alcohol together.

Forbes Health covers CBD and cannabis products in accordance with FTC guidelines. Learn more about Forbes Health’s practices and policies regarding how we cover CBD and cannabis as a publisher.

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