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High Thoughts: What Happens if you Consume Alcohol Before Cannabis?

alcohol and cannabis
Written by Joseph Mcqueen

“Weed before beer, you’re in the clear. Beer before grass, you’re on your arse” 

It’s likely that in your recreational travels you’ll have heard this well-known rhyme, or something similar, which explores the infamous relationship between alcohol and cannabis. According to this line of thought, it seems that the relationship between cannabis and alcohol can lead to unpleasantries but, not only that, it also seems that the two substances are genuinely better in a specific order of consumption. But why is this? Why is alcohol before cannabis so much worse than cannabis before alcohol? Or is this just an urban myth? This is a high thought that has come to me and perhaps many others plenty of times, and I have made it my goal to flesh out the truth.  

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High Thoughts

Anyone who has experienced a cannabis high, will know the kinds of thoughts that can find themselves in your mind. Why is the sky blue? Can you overdose on acid? Why does our heartbeat without us even thinking about it? Why does ecstasy make me feel so good? Why can’t dogs look up? I’m not sure about that last one, I’m pretty sure I saw a dog look up at my top floor window once. Nonetheless, the value of high thoughts are that they may usually be ignored or batted away but, when we’re high, we allow them to rise to the surface to be observed. But where do they come from? Well, Maxim writes:

“Cannabis enhances neural activity in the frontal cortex of your brain, which is essentially command central. It handles everything from attention and problem solving, to personality and temperament. When you toke up, the THC allows your brain to form new connections and pathways that didn’t exist before, thereby guiding your thought process into enlightened territory.”

When the cannabinoids - such as THC or CBD - within the strain connect with the body’s endocannabinoid system they affect and alter various processes in the body. One of these triggers deeper and more active thoughts. The concept of ‘high thoughts’ is often ridiculed and demonized by the media as dumb and lazy. Stoner culture may be a celebration of cannabis to some but, for others, it's also an easy way for the establishment to dismiss cannabis-related thinking as idiotic. 

History of High Thoughts

It might be hard to understand why some high thoughts have any value to the world, but you must realize the importance of free thinking and where that has taken us as a society. For instance, a lot of the internet was designed from psychedelic-using nerds in silicon valley. Steve Jobs openly spoke in support of LSD:

“Jobs once said that taking LSD was one of the "two or three most important things" he ever did in his life. A bold statement, to be sure, but Jobs credits his LSD experiences with opening up his mind and enabling him to see the world in a different light.”

In fact, a lot of the world’s inventions came about from someone asking a question or thinking a thought that was against the norm. Many ancient scientists and philosophers were known to enjoy the free-thinking and openness that cannabis can give a person. Perhaps it was this that birthed democracy and the legal system. But not only that, high thoughts have been part of religious and spiritual ceremonies for centuries. Rastafarians use it to this day, as well many early civilizations.

However - as happened primarily in the 60s - many of the world’s establishments do not like the questions that drugs can trigger in us. Instead, they’d rather people blindly follow the rules and borders of capitalist existence. Well, not today. 

Alcohol and Cannabis

Now that we have established why high thoughts are important, we need to delve into one in particular: What happens if you consume alcohol before cannabis? I first became aware of this well-known rhyme when I was about 13 and started experimenting with cannabis as well as alcohol. People would say that doing the two together would be fine, as long as you didn’t smoke cannabis first. I didn’t think much of it until I was at a festival when I was 16 and ended up throwing a whitey for the exact reason that the rhyme describes. I was already pretty drunk but the moment the joint reached my lips it was like the effects of the alcohol and cannabis had tripled and I felt unbearably dizzy. After this moment, and many others like it, I began to start using the rhyme as gospel and have lived by it ever since. Another term for a whitey is ‘greening out’, Discover Magazine writes:

“Greening out happens when a person feels sick after consuming too much pot… this occurs because cannabinoid receptors in the brain become flooded with THC, causing a system overload and a mild toxicity effect. While not life-threatening, the experience is not fun. Your body switches back and forth between the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system, leaving you with chills, cold sweats, nausea, dizziness and repeated vomiting.”

When the rhyme says: ‘you’re on your arse’ or ‘you’re in the clear’, it is referring to greening out or throwing a whitey. Avoiding that at all costs - unless you're someone who enjoys pain - is the main aim. A nice and enjoyable cannabis experience is possible and easily achieved, as long as you follow certain steps. Alcohol and cannabis is, of course, a slippery slope. Both substances have their effects increased when mixed. But why is it that the order at which you consume them makes such a difference?

Beer Before Grass

A quick disclaimer: when we say ‘weed’ or ‘grass’ we mean any sort of cannabis product, and when we say ‘beer’ we mean any sort of alcoholic product. Those two words just suit the famous rhyme. Cannabis before alcohol has often been spoken about as far more likely to cause an unpleasant result than the other way around. This is because alcohol can intensify and increase the absorption of THC in the body. This results in a much stronger high, which for many can spin them into greening out. In addition, a 2020 report in Frontiers in Neuroscience wrote that alcohol use can compromise the brain barrier, which helps to stop other drugs from entering the brain. With this barrier being less active, drugs like cannabis can have more effect than usual. Healthline adds:

“In a 2015 study, 19 participants drank either a placebo or small amount of alcohol. Ten minutes later, they used a vaporizer to inhale either a low or a high dose of THC. The researchers found significantly higher peak THC levels among participants who had alcohol versus those who had a placebo. This was true for both low and high doses of THC.”

It seems that the evidence is there to prove why beer before grass puts you on your arse. But what about the other way around, is it better?

Weed Before Beer

‘Weed before beer, you’re in the clear’. How can this be true? Surely the order of which you consume these two substances shouldn’t make that much of a difference. They both end up in the bloody system and the body afterall. Oddly enough, the research - be it limited - suggests that cannabis actually slows down the effects of alcohol. This means that essentially the complete opposite happens. A 1992 study seemed to suggest that THC delays the reaction of alcohol in the body and, in some cases, dulls it. However, this can easily turn topsy turvy if you aren’t aware of how much you are drinking. Discover Magazine continues:

“THC can change how alcohol is metabolized in the body by pulling alcohol more slowly out of your GI tract. Alcohol can also affect the brain, making it harder to discern whether you had too much to drink…if you decide to smoke first, you should drink less than you usually would because of alcohol’s delayed effect.”

As you can see, there are issues with both ways of combining alcohol and cannabis. However, it does seem that one way leads to more people throwing whiteys. Perhaps beer before beer actually is a better idea. 

Final Thoughts

These urban myths spread around the world quickly and we often take them as divine law. However, it’s good to understand why they exist, and where they originate from. It seems, in this case, that this well-known rhyme actually speaks some sense. Consuming alcohol before cannabis seems far more likely to send you in a direction you don’t want to go than the other way around. However, with moderation and care, there’s no reason why the relationship between alcohol and cannabis needs to be a negative one.

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About the author

Joseph Mcqueen

Joseph is a cannabis journalist in the UK. His search and love for the truth in the cannabis industry is what drives him to write.