Are Cannabis Drinks Healthier than Alcohol?
If you've ever heard your parents go on about the "stuff" they smoked back in the day, you already know that weed has come a long way. It has come so far, in fact, that you can now drink it.
Cannabis beverages are gaining serious traction in the great wide world of weed, and it isn't hard to see why. Cannabis infused beverages kick in much faster than food-based edibles, new flavors and formats hit shelves every month, and they're smoke free. If there's a more discreet and intuitive way to get high, it hasn't been invented yet.
Even folks who don't identify as cannabis users are trying all the goods like:
- Cannabis beer
- Cannabis cocktails
- Cannabis infused sodas
- Cannabis infused seltzers
- Cannabis infused sparkling water
Yes, all of these contain a tasty treat of THC. From fruity berry lemonade and pomegranate hibiscus to root beer, there's a flavor for everyone's taste bud. Plus, a real buzz without a hangover? All the upshots of drinking without the pitfalls of alcohol? It's a pretty compelling pitch.
There's reason to believe that infused beverages are the best non alcoholic alternative, but are weed drinks healthier than alcohol, or will there always be some sort of price to pay for getting our kicks? Let's take a look at the facts.
What are Cannabis Infused Drinks?
First, if you're just hearing about cannabis infused drinks, we highly recommend the beginner's guide to cannabis beverages. There's plenty to learn that won't be covered here. So, for now, here's the short and sweet version.
Cannabis beverages are drinks that are infused with cannabinoids, which are chemical compounds extracted from cannabis. Some of these compounds get you high, namely THC. Cannabinoids like CBD and CBN aren't intoxicating but can help you fall asleep, boost your mood, or ease aching muscles.
From here on out, we'll be talking about beverages infused with THC or a mix of THC and other cannabinoids. These are the psychoactive drinks, the liquids that bring a buzz without the booze.
In established markets, you can find all kinds of cannabis drinks. Think of something you like to sip on and rest assured that there's probably an infused version out there. You can even roll up to a consumption lounge and order custom cannabis cocktails from a cannabis mixologist in some states. What a time to be alive.
How Do Weed Drinks Work?
The THC in gummies, candies, and food-based edibles needs to be processed by your stomach and converted into a different chemical before it can work its magic.1 That's why it can take up to two hours to get high when eating weed.
On the other hand, infused THC drinks and their active ingredients are absorbed immediately by your mouth, tongue, esophagus, the lining of your stomach, and your small intestine. It turns out that this is precisely how our bodies absorb alcohol.2
The upshot of quick absorption is a rapid onset time. Just as you would with a "real" cocktail or beer, you can expect to feel the effects of a THC infused beverage within 15-30 minutes of consumption. If you know how to drink booze, you know how to drink delicious and refreshing THC beverages, and that's no coincidence.
Is Getting Drunk the Same as Getting High?
Modern weed drinks and alcoholic drinks have a lot in common, but the fact remains that getting drunk and getting high are not one and the same. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana drinks. THC isn't alcohol, even if you drink it.
Many cannabis beverages are engineered to produce a heady, social buzz that's good for conversation, partying, group activities and overall higher vibes— you know, the stuff you tend to do when you're drinking. Humankind's ever-expanding understanding of cannabinoids has enabled the weed industry to get very good at tweaking ingredients to create specific experiences. To the extent possible, they can now design highs.
By using low doses and 1 to 1 ratios of THC and CBD, some of the most popular cannabis beverage brands have honed in on a high that feels a lot more like being tipsy than hitting a bong. So if bad memories of your roommate's brownies have kept you away from weed for a while, you might be pleasantly surprised by the user-friendly feelings most infused drinks bring to the table.
All that said, if you drink THC-infused beverages, you will get high, not drunk. Whether that's a wonderful thing, a pretty good thing or a wait-and-see depends on your preferences.
When choosing to consume cannabis products, always keep your priorities and tolerance in mind. For example, if you know your body doesn't respond well to cannabinoids, you should consider a different non alcoholic alternative.
What are the Health Risks of Cannabis Infused Beverages?
We're still learning about weed. Thanks to legalization, we're learning more quickly than ever before. However, we don't have long-term studies, rich data, and years of peer-reviewed research to rely upon. For obvious reasons, studying weed has historically been complicated. Researchers, scientists, and doctors are now playing catch up.
At time of writing, the list of health risks posed by cannabis use is pretty short. The list of risks posed by cannabis beverages is even shorter since drinks are smoke free. However, there's still debate whether smoking weed can be linked to illnesses like lung cancer or bronchitis.3 The good news is that you can avoid those concerns if you're not smoking it.
Even if drinking cannabis is your only method of consumption, there are still some health risks to be aware of.4
- Forgetfulness and brain fog with frequent, habitual use.
- Brain development issues among those who start using weed at an early age.
- The potential for addiction or dependency is also called cannabis use disorder.
- Some studies posit a link between habitual marijuana use and the development of schizophrenia, more specifically among users who display other risk factors and/or have a family history of the condition.5
- Negative interactions between cannabis and certain medications.6
Many of the risks above are linked to heavier, habitual use. As with most substances, moderate use greatly reduces the risk involved. In coming years, this list might grow as new discoveries are made.
However, what we know now is encouraging and seems to support the common conception that cannabis has a more favorable benefit-to-risk ratio than any other "drug" out there, including alcohol.
What are the health risks of alcohol?
Alcohol is the drug of choice in the United States. It's not just federally legal but woven into the fabric of our society. Doctors, scientists, researchers, and public health organizations have had plenty of time to conduct long-term studies and assess health risks. Of course, there's no shortage of data since drinking is so prevalent and widely accepted.
The point is that we know a lot about alcohol and the risks of drinking. It might not shock you to hear that booze isn't very good for us, especially when abused. Habitual, heavy consumption and even one-off episodes of binge drinking come with serious risks.7 such as:
- Alcohol abuse can lead to high blood pressure, liver disease, pancreatitis, heart disease, and cancer.
- Sustained, heavy drinking can damage the stomach and digestive system, nervous system, and internal organs.
- Long-term use can lead to infertility in males and females and erectile dysfunction in males.
- Excessive drinking can lead to problems with memory, learning, and development.
- Consumption while pregnant can lead to bad pregnancy outcomes such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth, and sudden infant death syndrome.
- It is highly addictive with the potential for long-term use to lead to alcohol use disorder.
- Alcohol poisoning can cause death.
- Excessive drinking increases the risk of violence as well as the risk of injury to ourselves and others.
If you're not a heavy drinker, you don't need to worry much about the long-term risks. Drinking in moderation, knowing your limits, and maintaining a healthy relationship with alcohol take many of booze's most severe side effects off the table. Still, there's no denying that caution and accountability are key in drinking.
Even those who just drink socially risk experiencing some pretty unpleasant short-term effects. Sometimes all it takes is one beer too many to enter the dreaded hangover zone.
Why Does Alcohol Give you Hangovers?
Alcohol causes us to lose liquids, agitates the stomach and internal organs, prevents us from sleeping soundly, sends signals to our bodies to produce more acid, and makes our brains adjust to and embrace our altered state of mind.8 Once booze has worked its way through our system, it leaves us with all the bad and none of the good, physically and emotionally.
Hangovers are a perfect storm of dehydration, bad sleep, inflammation, intense stomach irritation, and short-term withdrawal. The result is a set of symptoms we know and hate: headaches, thirst, fatigue, nausea, tanking your productivity, and negatively impacting your mental health.
If you're already weighing up non alcoholic alternatives, you probably don't need an in-depth description of just how bad it can feel to be hungover. The reality is that there's no true cure for a hangover. If you drink to the point of intoxication, there's a good chance you'll end up with one.
Can You Get a Hangover From Weed Drinks?
The short answer is no. Cannabis drinks don't contain alcohol, meaning the unfortunate symptoms of liquor simply don't apply. But, generally speaking, booze is way better at upsetting our bodies than weed.
Now, it is true that if you put back way too many cannabis drinks, you might feel foggy or a little out of it the following day. However, there's no comparing a slow start to the all-encompassing despair hangovers are famous for. So if you're looking to drink something fun but never want to be hungover again, THC-infused beverages might be your best bet.
We have more to learn about weed, but a simple side-by-side comparison suggests that drinking cannabis beverages is healthier than drinking alcohol. Given what we know at the time of writing, THC-infused drinks have fewer short-term and long-term health risks. Additionally, the health risks associated with marijuana consumption are less severe than many health risks associated with alcohol consumption.
One night of excessive alcohol use can be fatal. On the other hand, studies have determined that it's not practically possible to overdose on weed.9 Even responsible drinkers mindful of their intake must grapple with the fact that alcohol might make them feel terrible the next day. Getting too high can certainly be unpleasant, but there's currently no evidence to suggest that THC takes the same toll on our bodies. When it comes to booze, the stakes are simply higher.
It's also worth noting that marijuana is famed for its therapeutic benefits. After all, it is quite literally used as medicine. Recreational good times aside, cannabinoids can relieve pain, enhance moods, and help us get to sleep. For many, alcohol is an important and enjoyable part of social life, but the upside ends there. Barring significant scientific discoveries, cannabis is not only less risky but has more to offer.
The point is not that alcohol is wrong or that you should eliminate it from your life. Instead, the goal is to illustrate that cannabis drinks are an excellent substitute for alcoholic beverages, especially if your body is a temple.
The recent legalization of THC has created opportunities to explore a new world of alcohol-free possibilities. Now we can drink without "drinking" and potentially feel just as satisfied – if not more so – while being healthier.
What are the best cannabis drinks?
While cannabis drinks are an emerging category, one brand stands out among the rest for quality, flavor and value.
Artet crafts cannabis beverages that honor the aspects of drinking everyone loves and replaces the rest with THC. Their alcohol-free, botanical "liqueurs" make cannabis cocktails easy, whether you're hosting the dinner party of the year or taking cans on the go.
If you're looking for proof that cocktail culture and cannabis mix well, look no further than Artet — the makers of the original cannabis aperitif. Artet offers their drinks in Founder Blend, which is great for mixing your own cannabis mocktail. They also provide cans with various flavors like Mango Ginger Spritz, Tet & Tonic, Rosemary Jane and Strawberry Basil Spritz.
Many consumers are learning to replace alcohol with cannabis drinks like these, but for those who enjoy smoking cannabis, here's a pro tip: try cracking a cold Artet while puffing on a joint. When the high from the joint starts to cool, the feeling from the Artet elevates, keeping you at a nice equilibrium.
- Livwell.com | How Do Cannabis Drinks Compare to Traditional Edibles
- HealthlinkBC.ca | How The Human Body Processes Alcohol
- GoodRX.com | Is Cannabis Safer or Healthier than Alcohol
- Healthline.com | Weed vs. Alcohol
- Nature.com | Cannabis use and risk of schizophrenia: a Mendelian randomization study
- NIH / Pubmed.com | Cannabinoid Metabolites as Inhibitors of Major Hepatic CYP450 Enzymes, with Implications for Cannabis-Drug Interactions
- CDC.gov | Excessive Alcohol Use
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism | Hangovers
- Druglibrary.org | What is the lethal dose of marijuana?