Crossfading: What happens when you mix alcohol and weed?

crossfading girl mixing cannabis and alcohol

Crossfading, or mixing weed and alcohol, has been the bane of many college students. Many of us remember “greening out” on the floor of a dorm room, trying to shake out of the spins — that is if you remember anything at all.

It’s a fact that alcohol is a much more toxic, addictive, and carcinogenic substance than marijuana, despite the rantings of reactionary political and social factions throughout the U.S.

But that doesn’t mean cannabis use is benign and without health consequences. And those who mix alcohol and cannabis find the drugs’ effects — each potent on their own — together form a whole that’s more than the sum of its parts. That is, mixing cannabis and alcohol is likely to get you way more intoxicated than you planned, and can be dangerous.

Why does mixing cannabis and alcohol often lead to such a pronounced, vomit-inducing, blackout, dizzying effect?

How does crossfading work?

The main psychoactive component in pot, Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and ethanol, the common component of all alcoholic beverages, have a toxic friendship with one another.

You know the type — those two guys who used to be college roommates, and everyone groans when they find out they’ll be at the party together. They’re always trying to out-macho each other until one ends up with third-degree burns from jumping over the bonfire on a dare.

Similarly, according to three different placebo-controlled studies from the early 1990s through 2015, THC increases blood ethanol levels, and alcohol increases blood THC levels.

crossfading is tricky because alcohol makes THC more bio-available

So one increases the “bioavailability” of the other, meaning, the body lubed by alcohol is more able to absorb the THC from marijuana and vice versa.

It has also been revealed that ethanol activates cannabinoid receptors — showing that crossfading can escalate your high substantially.

Currently crossfading? Is the experience too much? Try some Cannabidiol (CBD); It has been shown to mitigate the effects of THC  and could help “bring you down” from the high.

Weed in 2017 is much stronger, so ‘greening out’ is more likely

Interestingly, the three studies that describe this phenomenon used doses of THC far below the kind of dosage expected from current strains of marijuana.

The highest THC dosage drunk subjects consumed in the 1992 Neuropsychopharmacology study was a joint with pot containing 2.53 percent THC. This sent their blood plasma levels of ethanol soaring.

By now, weed producers have developed strains with as much as 30 percent THC, as described by experts at the 2015 conference of the American Chemical Society in Denver.

Related Article: Cannabis potency has increased 300% in the last 20 years.

“As far as potency goes, it’s been surprising how strong a lot of the marijuana is,” said Andrew LaFrate, president and director of research of Charas Scientific, one of eight labs certified by Colorado to do potency testing. “We’ve seen potency values close to 30 percent THC, which is huge.”

It stands to reason that consuming THC at such a ratio would jack up blood levels of ethanol in direct correlation if you’ve been drinking.

This can cause a phenomenon called “greening out,” which can lead to vomiting and “the spins.”

Certainly combining cannabis and booze leads to more fatal car crashes. Scientists at the American Association for Clinical Chemistry analyzed traffic deaths influenced by pot and alcohol consumption and found that crashes were more likely when drivers combined weed and booze than when they consumed either alone.

“The combination of cannabis and alcohol raises the chance of crashing more than either substance by itself,” the 2015 study states. “In a study of 1,882 motor vehicle deaths, the U.S. Department of Transportation found an increased accident risk of 0.7 for cannabis use, 7.4 for alcohol use, and 8.4 for cannabis and alcohol use combined.”

Long story short: be extremely cautious when venturing into the world of crossfading. Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or cannabis, and definitely don’t drive if you’re under the influence of both.


“What Mixing Weed and Alcohol Does to Your Mind”

Thor Benson


Feb. 22, 2017

“Any dose of alcohol combined with cannabis significantly increases levels of THC in blood”

American Association for Clinical Chemistry

May, 2015

Marihuana attenuates the rise in plasma ethanol levels in human subjects.
Lukas SE et al


May 1992

“Ethanol increases plasma Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels and subjective effects after marihuana smoking in human volunteers.”
Lukas SE et al

Drug and Alcohol Dependence

Oct. 2001

About Adam Townsend 50 Articles
Adam Maxwell Townsend has been a journalist for 15 years. His reporting has covered science, technology and medicine. Currently, he edits and writes medical and pharmaceutical articles for consumer websites, including WoahStork.

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