What’s Happening In Your Body When You’re Crossfaded

Photographed by Rachel Cabitt.
Hitting the bowl after a night of drinking can seem like a good idea if you're trying to unwind, but, more often than not, you end up feeling crossfaded — that unique combination of feeling a little too drunk and a little too stoned. Although some people like the ultra-relaxing effects of combining weed and alcohol, others can find it overwhelming. And, unfortunately, there's no surefire way to know before smoking and drinking that you'll feel good afterward. Feeling crossfaded is a very subjective sensation — but that doesn't mean it's a total mystery.
For one thing, feeling crossfaded is not the same as feeling purely stoned or purely drunk. That's because alcohol affects how your body absorbs cannabinoids (the chemical compounds in weed) and vice versa, explains Joanna Jacobus, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at University of California San Diego.
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On one hand, Dr. Jacobus says, cannabis is thought to actually reduce the effects of alcohol. A 1992 study found that smoking weed after drinking alcohol prompted lower blood alcohol levels than drinking alone. This doesn't mean that smoking will prevent you from getting drunk, but the effects of the alcohol might be delayed, Dr. Jacobs explains. And cannabis has been found to inhibit nausea and vomiting, which is your body's number-one defense mechanism against alcohol poisoning. So, even if you don't immediately feel the buzz that usually comes with drinking your favorite beer, that shouldn't be your cue to chug two more.
Meanwhile, studies have linked drinking and smoking weed to an increase in the concentration of THC (the main compound in weed that makes you feel high) in your blood. Naturally, if your body is absorbing more THC, you'll feel higher than you would if you'd only smoked weed. That might have been your goal, but Dr. Jacobus adds that you'll also have to deal with heightened "performance impairments" like difficulty concentrating and remembering things. In the most extreme cases, there's also the risk of "greening out," which commonly involves panicking, vomiting, and generally feeling like you overdid it. If you end up feeling too high, talk to a friend you trust, find a relaxing place to lie down, and definitely drink some water.
Although more research needs to be done on the effects of combining cannabis and alcohol, it's pretty clear that doing so comes with some (not life-threatening) risks. Getting a little crossfaded probably won't hurt you in the long run, but the old substance use rule-of-thumb still stands: Know your limits.
(Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity and would like to remind its readers that marijuana usage continues to be an offense under Federal Law, regardless of state marijuana laws.)
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