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Poly-drug use is considered to be the use of two or more drugs (often psychoactive) at one time. The reason why people often use a combination of drugs is to either increase the effects of the primary drug taken, or to increase overall intoxication.

Often poly-drug use takes place when an individual is already intoxicated and not making rational decisions. According to the “Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute” of the University of Washington, not counting tobacco, the most most common form of poly-drug use is alcohol and marijuana.1

On the streets, this act is known as “getting crunk” or “cross-fading”. The issue is, the effects of either drug, especially in combination, may be more powerful than anyone can anticipate and can be highly dangerous!

As we have underlined in our previous articles, depending on your biochemistry at the moment (as it fluctuates depending on what you eat, hydration, stress levels, exhaustion etc), the effects of either drug may be more powerful, and the combination may produce different and unpredictable reactions. 1

kermit-1653827_960_720Evidence from several research projects indicate that having alcohol in your blood system causes for the faster absorption of THC (a cannabinoid which for some causes unwanted psychoactive or sedative effects). 1 This can result in having an individual “green out” – something that has been noted to happen more often when one consumes alcohol prior to consuming marijuana, rather than the other way around.

Although “greening out” is not life-threatening, nor has anyone died from it, the effect of over-consuming alcohol beyond an individual tolerance- alcohol poisoning – has killed people.

“According to Northeastern University, marijuana has an antiemetic effect, meaning that it makes it more difficult for the body to vomit. Normally this side effect is non-consequential, and it can even be beneficial in cancer patients who use medical marijuana because they have trouble keeping food down. However, in the case of alcohol poisoning, vomiting is the body’s way of expelling the excess alcohol. If a person is unable to properly vomit, they are more likely to choke on their vomit or succumb to the effects of alcohol poisoning.”2

Scott Lukas, a professor at Harvard Medical School, investigated what happens in the brain when “cross-faded”.3 THC and alcohol are two psychoactive substances; THC acts on the brain’s cannabinoid receptors and cognitive effects, while Alcohol depresses the nervous system in a different way, often resulting in a decrease in motor-skills (ex. walking in a straight line). 3 4 With the complex individuality of one’s neurochemistry, Lukas found that not only did the two drug effects individuals differently each time, but in some instances, the effects of each substance were amplified to “unreasonable” amounts. In his study, those that smoked a joint and drank three shots of alcohol had 2x the amount of THC in their bloodstream vs. those who smoked a joint and didn’t have three shots. 3

What is interesting is that it is not clear yet WHY this happens. We at SoCo hypothesize that this is due to THC traveling to the brain a lot faster, via the bloodstream. Since  alcohol is a vasodilator, this changes how quickly blood vessels in your lunges absorb inhaled THC.

Common Effects of Mixing Marijuana and Alcohol:  1 2 3 4 5

  • nausea and/or vomitingmadness-1608707_960_720
  • increased heart rate
  • increase in anxiety, paranoia and panic
  • difficulty breathing
  • sudden headache
  • extreme vertigo , “the spins”
  • sensory/motor skill deprivation (Ex.impaired seeing, hearing)
  • twitching, muscular lethargy and/or spasm (this can result in cramping/ pain)

Health & Saftey Risks: 1 2 3 4 5

  • Impaired judgement and the sudden decrease in environmental awareness and control of surroundings
    •  Note: this places an individual at a greater risk of making improper and unsafe decisions. Reports have included the loss or stealing of belongings, negotiation of safe and consensual sex, and increase in injury due to falling
  • Greater impairment of hand eye coordination
    • Note: the negative effects of driving while intoxicated is well documented. Marijuana has been noted to cause a reduction in concentration and reaction time. This further adds to impaired driving and puts the individual and anyone else on the road/in the car at risk
  • Those who are vulnerable to psychotic symptoms have an increased chance of exacerbating such.
    • Note: increased anger and agitation leads to fights, a manic stage can lead to actions where zero consequences are considered, hallucinations can take place when psychosis is present etc.
  • One should consider  that an individual may be turning towards poly-drug use to achieve intoxication, due to an underlining addiction, improper coping of a mental illness or personal crisis.


It is important to be mindful of your choices, those of others around you, and promote safety and wellness.


DUIs & Driving

In 2008, leading experts released data on the different effects of drugs on driving, summarizing the scientific evidence from the viewpoints of physicians, psychiatrists and pharmacists. In their publication “Drugs, Driving & Traffic Saftey”, they declare that their studies are inconclusive as to how much THC is responsible for impaired driving crashes, vs. drunk driving. 5  While “ethanol (alcohol) is clearly the most significant substance used by drivers”, people who were involved in motor vehicle accidents (accident-297191_960_720MVA), tested positive 50-80% of the time for both alcohol and THC. 5  Therefore, it is the conclusion of this research that “the combination of THC and alcohol poses a bigger risk potential than those of either drug alone.” 5

For Future Sake:

In Colorado (U.S.A), state patrol data shows that the total DUI citations, in 2016 thus far, has rose to 398, compared with 316 for the same period in 2015.6 Many people were pulled over for having bloodshot eyes and/or smelling of marijuana. Even though some proclaimed to not be high (and were not at the time “stoned”), the state blood test were often positive for THC. 6 The issue here is that THC is stored in your fat and is not water soluble like ethanol. A THC positive blood test does NOT , nor is it enough evidence, to charge someone with a DUI.

The state has concluded that measuring a person’s THC level is actually a poor indicator for intoxication, yet they have imposed this ideology that a 5 nanogram of THC per millilitre of blood is “intoxication”. 6

Unlike alcohol, which has a generally linear relationship between the amount of alcohol you consume, your breath alcohol content and driving performance, the THC route of metabolism is very different,” says Thomas Marcotte, co-director of the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California, San Diego. 6  

Hence why adapting drunk driving laws to marijuana makes for bad policy. 

There should, ideally, be a ZERO drinking and driving policy. Even if they invented a nanogram detector for breathalyzers tomorrow, which could indicate both THC & alcohol content, it all comes down to the individual at hand: their BMI, what their bio-chemistry is at the moment, and of course the eligibility of documentations for prescriptions and permits.

What we can say here is: it is never a good idea to drink and drive, nor “crunk” and drive. If you find that marijuana is causing unwanted psychoactive or sedative effects, do not handle any sort of heavy machinery and be mindful, safe and calm.


Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute U of W. Alcohol and Marijuana. learnaboutmarijuanawa.org. http://learnaboutmarijuanawa.org/factsheets/alcohol.htm. Published June 2013. Accessed October 17, 2016.
Dovey D. Drunk And High: Science Explains Some Of The Side Effects That Come From Mixing Alcohol And Marijuana. Medical Daily. http://www.medicaldaily.com/drunk-and-high-science-explains-some-side-effects-come-mixing-alcohol-and-marijuana-278486. Published April 23, 2014. Accessed October 17, 2016.
PUIU T. What happens inside your brain when you mix marijuana and alcohol. ZME Science. http://www.zmescience.com/science/mixing-pot-and-alcohol-brain-423432/. Published September 1, 2014. Accessed October 15, 2016.
Scharff Ph. D. C. The Dangers of Combining Alcohol and Marijuana. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ending-addiction-good/201405/the-dangers-combining-alcohol-and-marijuana. Published May 6, 2014. Accessed October 18, 2016.
Verster J, Pandi-Perumal SR, Ramaekers JG, de Gier JJ, eds. Drugs, Driving and Traffic Safety. Vol 2. Berlin, Germany: Springer Science & Business Media; 2009.
Will legal marijuana mean more stoned drivers? Whittier Daily News & Partnership w/ Colorado Public Radio, KPCC, NPR and Kaiser Health News. http://www.whittierdailynews.com/general-news/20161008/will-legal-marijuana-mean-more-stoned-drivers. Published October 8, 2016. Accessed October 18, 2016.