Mixing up the Medicine: CBD in cocktails?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: In my opinion, cannabis is WAY safer than alcohol. But what happens when the two are combined? I’m not talking about getting crossfaded after you decide to take a puff or two after a night of drinking — I’m talking canna-beverages.

Weed beer and wine have been on the horizon for a while, but as someone who has had the exciting experience of trying beer brewed with THC-laden cannabis (shout out to good friends who brew excellent beers!) I will be the first to say that THC + alcohol, at least within the same beverage, can be a dangerous proposition. And by “dangerous” I don’t mean that there is inherent physical risk (besides falling asleep); moreso that drinks of that nature, if/when they do appear on the market, will need to be highly regulated to ensure a safe and proper dosage. Most people just won’t be able to crush a six pack of THC beer (or a bottle of weed wine) like they may be able to do with their alcohol of choice sans cannabis.

So far, every legal state has prohibited combining THC and alcohol in the same beverage, thus makers of weed beverages like beer and wine often remove the alcohol before the cannabis is added, or they are offered in non-smoking, edibles-only social gatherings.

But what about CBD? THC’s softer sister compound, increasingly popular for it’s non-psychoactive healing effects for just about everyone, could have great potential as a companion to alcohol. In fact, breweries and bars in legal states are already serving up CBD-infused beers and cocktails (see recipe below), and with the recent legalization of hemp nationwide, there seems to be an influx of CBD-infused everything popping up in every corner store. But what happens when you combine CBD with alcohol? More research is needed, as always seems to be the case with cannabis (and will be until we have federal legalization), but what we do know so far might surprise you.

Unlike mixing THC and alcohol, which can increase the effect of THC in the bloodstream and lead to a less-than-ideal level of intoxication, scientists are discovering that CBD may actually help to temper the effect of alcohol in one’s system. Even as early as 1979, a study published in the journal Psychopharmacology reported that participants who were given a 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 don’t go thinking you can use CBD to sober up and drive, folks!) Since then, multiple studies have shown that CBD acts as a neuroprotective antioxidant, and can actually help to protect the body and brain from alcohol-induced neurodegeneration and oxidative damage to the liver, as well as reduce alcohol consumption and withdrawal symptoms. Further, a recent review awaiting publication in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology found that “because of its impact on various aspects of the disease (including ‘intake, motivation, relapse, anxiety and impulsivity’), CBD ‘could have a significant action on drinking levels in human subjects with [alcohol use disorder].'”

Unfortunately, because the FDA has yet to approve the use of CBD in food and beverages, even hemp-derived CBD-infused drinks are still considered unlawful, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Trade Bureau is unlikely to approve of CBD in alcoholic beverages until the FDA changes its tune. So for now, those looking to experiment with mixing cannabis and alcohol will have to administer the substances separately, or make their own cocktail at home (hot toddy, anyone?). Because there are so many variables and every body is different, no matter which method you choose (or if you’re drinking CBD, THC or both), remember to start low and go slow. It’s a good idea to start with non-alcoholic drinks, choose a safe environment (like your home) for the experimental experience, and wait at least 30 minutes between beverages. Drink responsibly!

CBD Hot Toddy:

  1. Heat 1-2 cups of hot liquid cider (add whiskey if you’re feeling frisky)
  2. Add 1/4 ounce honey and 1 pull of tincture (preferably alcohol-based) to the mix
  3. Garnish with 1 cinnamon stick, 1 lemon wedge, and serve

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