Greening Out: Mixing Weed and Alcohol

Last Updated: February 6, 2024

Marijuana and alcohol are commonly used substances. As marijuana becomes more socially acceptable, it is also becoming more common to mix marijuana with alcohol. However, mixing alcohol and marijuana can cause a reaction called “greening out,” which is when a person becomes sick after consuming too much cannabis.

While greening out is not thought to cause lasting damage, it can be an unpleasant and frightening experience, especially for younger people. Understanding what greening out is can help you use alcohol and marijuana safely and properly respond to someone who is experiencing a cannabis overdose.

What Is Greening Out?

“Greening out” is often referred to as a cannabis overdose. It is when a person feels ill after smoking weed. Common symptoms include turning pale, sweating, getting dizzy or having “the spins,” and sometimes vomiting. In more severe cases, a person might experience a panic attack. Greening out is more likely to occur when the person is mixing marijuana with alcohol.

How Long Does Greening Out Usually Last?

Everyone responds to marijuana differently, and the length of a green out can vary. Some symptoms might only last a few minutes, while others can last hours. The best thing to do if greening out is to remain calm and lie down.

How to Stop Greening Out

While greening out can be an unpleasant and frightening experience, symptoms can be safely managed. Following these general guidelines can help anyone who is greening out:

  • Stay calm and try to distract yourself from uncomfortable feelings.
  • Lie down until dizziness subsides.
  • Drink water to rehydrate.
  • Eat a snack to balance blood sugar, which may help with dizziness.

Most greening out symptoms are not a medical emergency. However, vomiting can lead to severe dehydration, which would require medical assistance. In this case, call 911 to request emergency medical assistance.

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Mixing Alcohol and Marijuana

Alcohol and marijuana are both common substances to use recreationally. However, it might not be a good idea to use them at the same time. This is because alcohol can intensify the effects of marijuana.

Dangers of Mixing Alcohol And Marijuana

Alcohol is a depressant, and when mixed with marijuana, can bring forth increased risks for alcohol poisoning and “greening out.”

Marijuana can make it difficult to vomit. In the case that someone consumes too much alcohol, the body’s reaction is to vomit to expel excess toxins and prevent more alcohol from entering the bloodstream. However, if someone is unable to vomit because marijuana is in their system, they may be at an increased risk of alcohol poisoning.

“Greening out,” or getting sick after too much cannabis, can also cause the person to experience a panic attack, which can exacerbate symptoms. Greening out is more likely to occur if someone has already consumed alcohol. This is because alcohol encourages the body to absorb THC into the bloodstream faster. As a result, one might feel a high quicker and more intensely than they anticipated, despite smoking what they deemed a normal amount of marijuana.

Factors to Consider Before Mixing Alcohol and Marijuana

If you are planning to mix alcohol and marijuana, it is important to consider:

  • The type and strength of either substance
  • The length of time between taking each substance
  • Whether you take other medications
  • Your tolerance to each substance (how much you use before feeling an effect)
  • Your ability to control your use of either substance (if you’re struggling with either alcoholism or a marijuana addiction)

Substances affect every person differently. You should account for your tolerances of both substances before using them together. If you are planning to drink before smoking, do so cautiously and keep in mind that alcohol intensifies the effects of marijuana. Take time to assess how you are feeling before taking more of either substance.

Ultimately you should avoid using both of these substances if possible. If you do decide to use them, you should avoid combining them.

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

When mixing alcohol and marijuana, it can be difficult to tell the difference between greening out and alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning occurs when the body has so much alcohol in the bloodstream that the brain stops functioning properly. Signs of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Reduced or no gag reflex
  • Clammy skin
  • Confusion
  • Low body temperature
  • Slow breathing and heart rate
  • Difficulty remaining conscious

If someone who is greening out while using alcohol begins to experience any of these symptoms, you must call 911 immediately. Alcohol poisoning is a medical emergency and can become fatal if left untreated.

Effects of Mixing Marijuana With Other Substances

It is a common belief that marijuana is safer to use than other drugs like opioidscocaine, and even alcohol. However, marijuana can cause serious consequences when mixed with other substances. For example, one study showed that those who smoked marijuana were more likely to become habitual tobacco smokers. Combining both of these substances overtime can lead to an increased risk of lung and throat cancer.

Mixing marijuana with cocaine can impair decision making, increase the risks of dependence and overdose, and increase blood pressure, which can lead to a heart attack. In addition, mixing marijuana with opioids can increase drowsiness, impair decision making, and make it difficult to focus.

Get Help for Alcohol and Marijuana Abuse

Because of the normalization of these substances, it can be difficult to determine whether your substance use is a problem. Marijuana might not cause a physical dependence in the way alcohol or other drugs do, which can further blur the line between recreation and dependence.

Sources

Blanco, Carlos; Hasin, Deborah; Wall, Melanie; Flórez-Salamanca, Ludwing. “Cannabis Use and Risk of Psychiatric Dis[…]l Longitudinal Study.” JAMA Psychiatry, April 2016. Accessed July 19, 2022.

Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia. “How do you look after someone who is ‘greening out.’” December 2014. Accessed July 18, 2022.

Foltin RW, Fischman MW. “The effects of combinations of intranasa[…]e and blood pressure.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, June 1990. Accessed July 19, 2022.

Meier, Ellen; Hatsukami, Dorothy. “A review of the additive health risk of […]s and tobacco co-use” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, September 1, 2016. Accessed July 18, 2022.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose.” May 2021. Accessed July 18, 2022.

Prevention Insights. “Drug Overview Marijuana: Physical vs Psychological.” Accessed July 19, 2022.

Too Much to Lose. “No Upside of Opioids and Marijuana.” Accessed July 19, 2022.

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