CBD And Alcohol
Human creativity has combined CBD and alcohol to make CBD beer, CBD wine, CBD cocktails, and CBD-infused drinks. The reasoning is to blend two compounds like CBD and alcohol into something that is both enjoyable and beneficial to the body.
We have already seen CBD in almost all possible products, edible or not: foods, coffees and lattes, chocolates, protein bars, edibles, gummies, topical creams, balms, oils, tinctures, sparkling water, and vapes, among so many others.
But CBD and alcohol are among the very last products to hit the market. The reason lies mostly with safety concerns. Is it a safe combination? And how does it affect our body and our mind?
To answer that question, we must first understand how each of the components acts on the body.
What does alcohol do to the body?
Alcohol interacts with the central nervous system and has a direct effect on mood, motor coordination, and speech.
When you drink a glass of wine or a pint of beer, you relax and feel euphoric. This is because the brain releases the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Dopamine is the so-called feel-good neurotransmitter and is related to feelings of pleasure and relaxation. For example, dopamine is also released when we eat chocolate or during sex.
When taking alcohol, dopamine overwhelms the system with feelings of joy and happiness. As the body becomes increasingly accustomed to drinking alcohol, the brain requires higher doses of dopamine, which can be achieved by drinking more alcohol. In some cases, this becomes a vicious circle of alcohol and dopamine feeding into each other, leading to alcoholism.
What does CBD do?
CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in the hemp plant. It is extracted and then processed into CBD oil or other CBD products. This, in turn, is either consumed as such or added to foods, drinks, salves, balms, and vapes.
Research is exploring CBD’s potential benefits. So far, studies suggest that CBD may have pain relief, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, neuroprotective, and anti-psychotic properties. CBD has also been used extensively for relaxation purposes: people consume it to unwind and feel at ease from their everyday stress.
Although research is still ongoing, initial findings are promising regarding CBD’s possibilities in helping with various conditions, pains, and ailments.
CBD and dopamine
Just like alcohol, CBD affects dopamine. CBD interacts with the human endocannabinoid system and indirectly affects the release of several neurotransmitters, including dopamine, through the so-called GABA inhibitors. Specifically, CBD prevents GABA inhibitors from suppressing dopamine release, thus allowing dopamine to flow freely in the brain.
Therefore, both CBD and alcohol affect the same neurotransmitter, namely dopamine.
What happens when we drink alcohol and CBD?
It has been suggested that alcohol taken with CBD may amplify each other’s effects and produce enhanced relaxation. The theory goes that the two substances taken together might intensify each other’s potential.
This theory was tested by a 1979 small study that separated participants into three groups where they administered CBD and alcohol, separately and in combination.
The study found that people who had taken alcohol combined with CBD “produced significant impairments of motor and psychomotor performances [and] overestimations of time production.”
Interestingly, the results were the same for the participants who had taken only alcohol. There were no major effects for those who had taken only CBD.
One unexpected finding was that “the combination of alcohol plus CBD resulted in significantly lower blood alcohol levels compared to alcohol given alone.” This suggests that CBD might help alleviate the effects of alcohol addiction and harmful damage.
Could CBD help with alcohol addiction and health damage?
How does alcohol damage the body?
Drinking a glass of wine from time to time won’t cause any damage to your brain or body. But consuming large quantities of alcohol regularly will have a severe impact on your body and could even lead to death.
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to behaviour changes, heart damage, cancer, brain shrinkage, liver damage, pancreatitis, diabetes, motor problems, difficulty in motor coordination, and memory problems.
Could CBD help with alcohol damage?
Although research is still ongoing, preliminary findings look encouraging. CBD might be helpful in alleviating alcohol and drug addiction. It may also mitigate the harmful effects of alcohol on the body and brain.
CBD for alcohol-induced liver damage
A 2014 study found that CBD could protect the liver from alcohol damage in mice. CBD has been found to have antioxidant qualities, fighting oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is involved in alcohol-induced liver damage.
Likewise, CBD could increase autophagy. Autophagy is the ability of the body to get rid of damaged cells. If autophagy is impaired, old, and damaged cells hang on while new, healthy ones cannot be produced. Unsurprisingly, autophagy plays a big part in several kinds of cancer.
Chronic alcohol consumption stops our body from cleaning itself from damaged cells. The aforementioned study found that “cannabidiol can prevent the decrease in autophagy induced by alcohol.”
CBD for neurodegeneration
Another side effect of chronic alcohol consumption is cell degeneration. Excessive alcohol consumption has been found to increase brain cell inflammation and brain damage. Brain cells lose their ability to function and execute directions.
A 2005 clinical study supported the role of “CBD as an in vivo neuroprotectant and shows the efficacy of lipophilic antioxidants in preventing binge ethanol-induced brain injury.” In other words, CBD may prevent brain damage from alcohol.
This was supported by a 2013 study that showed that “transdermal delivery of cannabidiol attenuates binge alcohol-induced neurodegeneration” in mice. The study showed there was a “48.8% reduction in neurodegeneration in the entorhinal cortex.”
A further 2019 study examined previous findings on CBD’s ability to prevent neurodegeneration. Again, “CBD was found to exert a neuroprotective effect against adverse alcohol consequences on the hippocampus.”
CBD for alcohol addiction
There is a growing interest in evaluating the possible effect of CBD on alcohol addiction.
CBD is non-intoxicating and does not cause the sense of ‘high’ that drugs and alcohol cause. Instead, CBD acts indirectly on the brain by making the endocannabinoid system work better and more efficiently.
Due to CBD’s possible ability to relieve pain and inflammation, researchers are looking into its potential to help with addiction. The thinking is that CBD might help alcohol-addicted people fight their cravings by relieving their pain.
A 2018 preclinical proof-of-principle study showed that “CBD attenuated context-induced and stress-induced drug seeking without tolerance, sedative effects, or interference with normal motivated behaviour.” Drug and alcohol addiction are similar in how they affect the brain, therefore, this is a promising proof of principle that CBD might help with alcohol addiction.
The 2019 study previously mentioned also concluded that “CBD attenuates cue-elicited and stress-elicited alcohol-seeking, alcohol self-administration [and] withdrawal-induced convulsions.” Based on this finding, CBD might be a potential treatment for alcohol addiction.
CBD for relaxation
CBD has been found to help with relaxation and anxiety. When an individual is trying to quit alcohol, it is inevitable they will feel stressed and anxious. Taking CBD may help alleviate these feelings and make the transition to an alcohol-free life easier and smoother.
CBD and alcohol: insufficient data
Taken together, CBD and alcohol could feed into each other’s sedative and relaxing effects. However, alcohol has well-documented adverse effects on the body. When taken together with CBD, alcohol appears to be doing the main damage while CBD doesn’t seem to add any further side effects.
Mixing CBD and alcohol has not shown to have any detrimental effect. On the contrary, adding CBD to alcohol may alleviate some of the damage caused by alcohol.
There is ongoing research about the potential of CBD to treat alcohol addiction, alcohol-related cell degeneration, and alcohol-induced liver damage.
However, excessive alcohol consumption is highly damaging to the body and no amount of CBD can heal such physical devastation. Consumers should drink alcohol responsibly without thinking that CBD will cure any damage to their bodies.