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Can Cannabis Help Cure a Hangover?

can cannabis help cure a hangover

Many people who use cannabis opt not to drink alcohol for many good reasons. First, as far as we know, cannabis is less harmful to the human body than alcohol. Initially, the guidance for safe drinking was 3-4 drinks maximum weekly.

However, researchers and public health educators are now sending a different message: alcohol is toxic, and even small amounts of alcoholic beverages regularly can be detrimental to our health. Younger people who drink excessively are seeing damaging effects in their twenties and thirties (not in their senior years, as previously thought).

The first recent study that sounded the alarm was published in The Lancet in 2018. Dr. Emmanuela Gakidou of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (University of Washington) reported that nearly 3 million deaths globally were attributed to alcohol use. Consumption of alcohol was also responsible for 12% of total deaths for men aged 15 through 49.

Patients frequently ask if medical cannabis can help reduce hangover symptoms and make post-alcohol recovery easier. Many people are not sure how marijuana and alcohol mix. Let’s get into the facts about alcohol hangovers and whether medical cannabis helps.

What Are The Most Common Hangover Symptoms?

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If you consume alcohol at home or socially, chances are that you have experienced a hangover or two. Drinking alcohol in moderation doesn’t usually result in uncomfortable hangover symptoms, but when you drink excessively, you run a high risk of dealing with hangover symptoms the next day.

While cannabis engages the human endocannabinoid system, alcohol does some short and long-term damage to your healthy immune system. Here are some of the symptoms of a hangover that you may experience after drinking:

The Morning After Headache

A common symptom of a hangover is often described as a throbbing or dull pain in the head. This discomfort is primarily due to alcohol’s dehydrating effect, which leads to the dilation of blood vessels in the brain. Additionally, alcohol consumption can cause high blood pressure (hypertension), which can cause headaches. Those alcohol-induced headaches can vary in intensity and may be exacerbated by bright lights, loud noises, or physical exertion.

Nausea and Vomiting

Feelings of nausea or an upset stomach are prevalent during a hangover. Alcohol irritates the lining of the stomach, leading to increased production of stomach acid and delayed stomach emptying, which can result in nausea and vomiting. Additionally, alcohol consumption can trigger inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, further exacerbating feelings of nausea and discomfort.

Fatigue and Lethargy

Hangovers often leave individuals feeling tired, lethargic, and lacking in energy. This fatigue can be attributed to various factors, including disrupted sleep patterns caused by alcohol consumption, dehydration, and the body’s efforts to metabolize alcohol and its byproducts.

The human immune system doesn’t like alcohol. The substances in alcohol can also interfere with the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body’s primary energy source, leading to feelings of fatigue and weakness.

Thirst and Dehydration

Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production and can lead to dehydration. Dehydration is a common feature of hangovers and can cause symptoms such as thirst, dry mouth, dizziness, and dark-colored urine. When the body lacks adequate fluids, it can experience imbalances in electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium, which are essential for proper bodily function.

Audio and Visual Sensitivity

Many individuals experience heightened sensitivity to light and sound during a hangover, a phenomenon known as photophobia and phonophobia, respectively. These sensitivities can exacerbate headache pain and feelings of discomfort, making it challenging to engage in everyday activities.

Alcohol consumption can disrupt neurotransmitter levels in the brain, including serotonin, which plays a role in regulating sensitivity to sensory stimuli. Additionally, alcohol-induced dehydration can affect the brain’s ability to regulate blood flow, leading to increased sensitivity to light and sound.

Random Muscle Aches and Weakness

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Hangovers often coincide with muscle aches and weakness, making moving or engaging in physical activities difficult. That is because alcohol can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, which can cause muscle cramps and discomfort.

Additionally, alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy source for muscle contractions, leading to feelings of weakness and fatigue. Alcohol can increase inflammation, contributing to muscle soreness and stiffness.

Problems with Focus and Concentration

Hangovers often impair cognitive function, making concentrating, focusing, or thinking difficult. Alcohol affects neurotransmitter levels in the brain, including dopamine and serotonin, which play critical roles in regulating attention and cognition.

Alcohol-induced dehydration can lead to reductions in cerebral blood flow, further impairing cognitive function. Other hangover symptoms, such as headache, fatigue, and nausea, can distract from cognitive tasks and hinder concentration.

Mood Disturbance and Irritability

Hangovers can contribute to mood disturbances, including irritability, anxiety, and feelings of agitation. Alcohol affects neurotransmitter levels in the brain, including gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate, which play roles in regulating mood and emotions.

Alcohol-induced dehydration can disrupt normal sleep patterns, exacerbate irritability, and contribute to emotional dysregulation. The presence of other hangover symptoms, such as headache, fatigue, and nausea, can further contribute to feelings of irritability and distress.

Nervousness and Anxiety

Hangovers can be accompanied by feelings of anxiety or nervousness, which may manifest as racing thoughts, restlessness, or a sense of unease. Alcohol affects neurotransmitter levels in the brain, including gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and serotonin, which play roles in regulating mood and anxiety.

Increased Heart Rate When Sedentary

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Hangovers can lead to an elevated heart rate, known as tachycardia, which may accompany feelings of palpitations or discomfort in the chest. Alcohol affects the cardiovascular system by dilating blood vessels and altering heart rate variability, which can contribute to fluctuations in heart rate during and after alcohol consumption.

Most of your biological processes rely on hydration. Dehydration can reduce blood volume and electrolyte imbalances, which may further impact cardiovascular function. While transient increases in heart rate are expected during a hangover, individuals experiencing persistent or severe symptoms should seek medical attention to rule out underlying health concerns.

Changes in Blood Pressure

Hangovers can cause fluctuations in blood pressure, including increases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, which may contribute to feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness. Alcohol affects the cardiovascular system by dilating blood vessels and altering heart rate variability, which can impact blood pressure regulation. Dehydration can lead to reductions in blood volume, which may further impact blood pressure levels.

Impaired Coordination

Hangovers often impair motor coordination and balance, making it difficult to perform tasks that require precise movements or agility. Alcohol affects the central nervous system by interfering with neurotransmitter levels, including gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate, which play roles in regulating motor function and coordination.

Dehydration caused by alcohol also disrupts healthy sleep patterns, which can further impair coordination. The presence of other hangover symptoms, such as headache, fatigue, and nausea, can also contribute to impaired coordination.

Can Marijuana Help Alleviate Symptoms of a Hangover?

The potential of marijuana to alleviate symptoms of a hangover remains a subject of debate and ongoing research. While some individuals report anecdotal evidence of cannabis providing relief from hangover symptoms, scientific studies on its effectiveness are limited. Marijuana contains cannabinoids like THC and CBD, which interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, influencing various physiological processes.

THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, has been studied for its potential analgesic properties, which could help alleviate headaches and muscle inflammation associated with hangovers. Additionally, THC may have anti-nausea effects, potentially easing feelings of queasiness and stomach discomfort.

CBD, another prominent cannabinoid, is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and anti-anxiety benefits, which could potentially help reduce inflammation and alleviate mood disturbances associated with hangovers. If you take a daily CBD supplement, it may help reduce the severity of hangover symptoms.

Hangover symptoms are caused when you consume too much alcohol. However, when you opt to drink responsibly, you reduce and potentially eliminate hangover symptoms. Cannabis consumption in lieu of drinking alcohol can also help by reducing inflammation and the stress associated with moderate to severe hangover symptoms.

If you consume cannabis, remember to use the lowest potency possible to help manage your health symptoms. Drink plenty of water, and don’t mix cannabis with alcohol consumption. If you are traveling, remember that drinking laws and marijuana use while driving are the same; don’t operate a vehicle while you are impaired by any controlled substance.

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