Alcohol and marijuana are the most used-intoxicants in the United States. Among drinkers, marijuana is the most-popular chosen drug. Scientific American reports that people who use both have a DOUBLED likelihood of using them together, rather than separately.
Although it is almost unheard-of to fatally overdose on marijuana, it is ENTIRELY possible to get extremely ill from a temporary overdose known as a “greenout”. This condition is when the cannabinoid receptors within the brain are over-stimulated by an excess of THC.
Greening out isn’t fatal, but it is painful:
- Anxiety to the point of panic
- Poor coordination
- Verbal impairment
- Hot and cold chills
- Dilated Pupils
- Accelerated heartbeat
- Severe indigestion
- Dizziness— a sensation that the room is spinning
The odds of a greenout significantly increase when the user drinks alcohol before they smoke marijuana. And, since most greening out side effects also happen during alcohol intoxication, they are magnified to the point of incapacitation.
Both marijuana and alcohol can trigger “orthostatic hypotension” — extremely-low blood pressure upon standing or sitting up. This happens because as the alcohol and/or THC is absorbed, the blood vessels open up, resulting in a sudden drop in blood pressure. This means reduced blood flow to the brain, and, consequently, syncope, or fainting. Orthostatic hypotension happens with no warning – even hours after consumption.
The sensation of room-spinning is a very common – and powerful – side effect of greening out. Often, the person has to lie down on the floor to keep from falling down. This dizzy sensation raises the risk of injuries and accidents.
The Biggest Danger of Greening Out
But there is one extreme hazard during a greening out – choking to death.
The excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to severe nausea and copious vomiting. But at the same time, marijuana impairs the body’s gag/vomit reflex. In other words, a person who is feeling ill or queasy from the effects of greening out will be nauseous, but unable to successfully and completely throw up.
This disruption of that reflex can cause an unconscious intoxicated person to choke to death on their own vomit. There are several well-known examples of this:
- Jimi Hendrix, musician
- Bon Scott, musician
- John Bonham, musician
- Crash Holly, professional wrestler
- Leonard Chadwick, recipient of the Medal of Honor
Incomplete vomiting can also cause corrosive damage to the lungs, if any acid from the stomach is inhaled. When this happens, the lung damage can quickly progress to pneumonia, a potentially-fatal condition.
What’s the Bottom Line?
Even legal substances can become a problem if they are abused or used in the wrong combination. Over-intoxication from the simultaneous use of alcohol and marijuana can quickly move from pleasurable to uncomfortable to painful to dangerous to deadly.
The best way to protect yourself from these hazards is to never combine marijuana and alcohol. But if you are finding it too hard to drink and use these substances responsibly, maybe you have a problem that requires professional help.
Lasting Recovery outpatient drug and alcohol rehab in San Diego can give you the help and support you need to safely regain sobriety and control.