By Steven Voser

There are some obvious concerns about mixing alcohol with psychoactive cannabis. But what about CBD? Mixing cannabidiol with beer and cocktails is becoming ever-more popular, but how exactly do these two substances interact? Read on to find out.


Yes, CBD and alcohol can definitely interact with one another. Alcohol is technically considered a depressant drug because it tends to depress the central nervous system (although it can also have stimulating effects). CBD is kind of similar; in small doses, CBD has alerting and energising effects. In larger doses, it produces more sedative-like effects.

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of rigorous research into the way CBD and alcohol interact with each other. In 1979, the journal Psychopharmacology published a study[1] involving 10 volunteers who were given a placebo (orange juice and a sugar pill), CBD and orange juice, CBD and alcohol (mixed with orange juice), or alcohol on its own (also mixed with orange juice). The researchers then assessed the impact of the various combinations on the participants’ motor performance, psychomotor skills, blood alcohol levels, and more.

The study noted that the participants who were given alcohol and the alcohol-CBD combination showed significant impairments in all the tests. The authors wrote that there were “few differences” between the two alcohol conditions. However, they did note that the participants taking alcohol and CBD together had significantly lower blood alcohol levels, although their level of impairment was the same.

Blood Level CBD

A 2013 study[2] published in the journal Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behaviour tested the effects of CBD on rodents in an animal-based model of binge drinking. More specifically, the researchers tested the effects CBD had on alcohol-induced neurodegeneration. The animals were given either a transdermal CBD gel or a CBD injection prior to being given alcohol. Both routes of administration reduced alcohol-induced neurodegeneration in the rats by over 50%, although the transdermal gel was slightly more effective.

In 2014, the journal of Free Radical Biology & Medicine published a similar study testing the effects of CBD on alcohol-induced hepatic steatosis, or fatty liver disease. While it can be reversed, fatty liver disease can cause a wide variety of other liver problems. Ongoing studies are continuing to see if CBD provides a viable option. 

All of these studies show that CBD and alcohol interact in a particularly positive way. However, some sources suggest that mixing alcohol and cannabidiol isn’t such a great idea. In an interview with Tonic[3], professor of neurology and biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Centre James Giordano said that taking CBD and alcohol together can exaggerate the effects of both compounds. Based on our research, however, there is little evidence to support that.

CBD and the Science of Alcoholism

As well as looking at the physical damage caused by alcohol, CBD researchers are keen to find out if the cannabinoid can help to curb the psychological causes of alcoholism. To better understand the research surrounding CBD and addiction, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the underlying mechanisms.

Our brain has a very interesting way of feeling rewarded when we experience pleasure. When we feel pleasure (from eating, drinking, or having sex, for example), our brain releases dopamine to different regions of the brain, including the amygdala, the nucleus accumbens, the prefrontal complex, and finally the hippocampus. Each of these regions of the brain plays a different role in registering the pleasure you feel and engaging in more pleasurable activity in the future.

Drugs like alcohol have the ability to stimulate this reward system. The extent to which a drug can stimulate this pathway is what makes some drugs (especially stimulants like cocaine or amphetamines) more addictive than others.

Alcohol upsets the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly affecting levels of both serotonin and dopamine. This is what gives alcohol its unique effects, which are initially pleasing and uplifting, and later become more sedative. Higher doses of alcohol eventually slow-down the communication between neurons in the brain. After long-term use, however, the brain starts producing more excitatory neurons (like dopamine) to speed up communications in the brain. Once a person stops drinking, the brain can be left in a state of hyperactivity, creating cravings for another dose of alcohol to calm down the hyperactive signal firing of the neurons.

Alcohol and CBD


Some of the conventional routes used to treat addictions include abstinence, behavioural therapies, the use of certain medications to counteract the side effects of abstinence, and hospitalisation. In recent years, however, research has shown that the endocannabinoid system[4] can be an effective potential target for treating addiction.

The endocannabinoid system plays a key role in mediating our neurotransmitters and how they communicate, as well as our emotions and cravings. In fact, studies have found that endocannabinoid deficiencies/disturbances can play a key role in addiction.

In the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience, researchers from California’s Scripps Research Institute and New York’s Icahn School of Medicine wrote about the endocannabinoid system and its role in reward signalling. The authors made it clear that prolonged drug exposure or even genetic factors can lead to irregularities in the endocannabinoid system, which can lead to addiction.

Because CBD and other cannabinoids interact with the ECS, researchers are keen to discover exactly how they influence this body-wide network, including in models of addiction where ECS dysregulation plays a role.


Like most matters related to CBD research, early results seem promising but inconclusive. However, given the fact that CBD and the endocannabinoid system are receiving unprecedented study, it is really only a matter of time before we can make further assertions about the relationship between CBD and alcohol with confidence.

External Resources:
  1. Interaction of cannabidiol and alcohol in humans. - PubMed - NCBI
  2. Transdermal delivery of cannabidiol attenuates binge alcohol-induced neurodegeneration in a rodent model of an alcohol use disorder - ScienceDirect
  3. This Is What Happens When You Mix Alcohol and CBD - VICE
  4. The endocannabinoid system as a target for addiction treatment: Trials and tribulations. - PubMed - NCBI
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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