Why does alcohol combined with pot make me so sick?
January 18, 2006 7:03 PM   Subscribe

I get tremendously sick when I drink, and then smoke pot.

I am not a habitual binge drinker or pot smoker. I probably enjoy the latter more than the former.

On two ocassions in the past, I have smoked a joint whilst drunk, and then immediately become intensely, disgustingly, sick, with some residual nausea lasting well into the next day. I cannot overstate the strength of the nausea that hits me - it is incapacitating and keeps going even after my stomach has emptied itself completely.

On neither occasion was I fall-on-the-floor drunk, maybe I had five drinks or so. Neither alcohol (in reasonable quantities) nor pot makes me sick on its own - I generally have a pretty strong stomach.

I believe the magic combination is being reasonably drunk followed by a lot of pot. On both these occasions I smoked a joint big enough for about 8 people among 4 people.

Does anyone know why this happens to me? Does anyone else share this affliction? Is there a way to prevent it? I don't really plan on doing it again - the memory still makes my stomach tremble - but I'd like to know why, and if it's possible to avoid the nausea.
posted by lemur to Health & Fitness (41 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Very common. Do one or the other. I do the former.
posted by unSane at 7:04 PM on January 18, 2006

I did the drinking-smoking combination exactly once. I was tipsy, but not falling over drunk, when we smoked, and I spent the rest of the night vomiting in the bathroom. I didn't feel right until two days later.

I haven't smoked in four years, so I'm not likely to ever do it again, nor do I know why that happened, but at any rate, you're not the only one.
posted by Meredith at 7:06 PM on January 18, 2006

Happens to me all the time.

My advice? Don't drink and smoke at the same time. I hate being drunk when I'm high (and vice versa) because one distracts from the other--when I'm stoned I want to experience being stoned, when I'm drunk I want to experience the drunkenness. Both at the same time is too much.
posted by maxreax at 7:07 PM on January 18, 2006

I actually find if you do it in the other order you won't get as sick.
posted by nadawi at 7:22 PM on January 18, 2006

Ditto everyone else. Like maxreax said, there's no reason to combine the two unless you're trying to get seriously fucked up. Pot doesn't complement alcohol the way cigarettes do.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 7:23 PM on January 18, 2006

Response by poster: The funny thing is, none of the people who were smoking with me felt nauseous, and they had about the same amount to drink, too. A few years ago, when I commonly consorted with hardcore potheads, I would routinely see people drink a twelve pack and then start taking huge bong hits. I guess I have shitty genes for partying.
posted by lemur at 7:32 PM on January 18, 2006

This has happened to me a time or two as well. Like nadawi said, it happens only when I smoke pot after already being drunk. What I find is that smoking pot at that point is almost certain to give me an intense bout of dizziness, which leads to nausea and throwing up.
posted by number9dream at 7:32 PM on January 18, 2006

It's happened to me. Breath more air between tokes. Seriously.
posted by furtive at 7:34 PM on January 18, 2006

I grew up thinking weed made you puke, because that's what my mom told me. I later found out the one time my dad smoked it he had also consumed a bunch of alcohol. It was the mixture that made him sick. The experience was bad enough that 35 yrs later they still mention it.
Oh and my dad has a super strong stomach, too. As everyone has said, I think it's fairly common.
posted by jdl at 7:49 PM on January 18, 2006

I don't smoke dope, but I have always found that the hangovers are orders of magnitude worse if I smoke a lot of tobacco when I drink.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:12 PM on January 18, 2006

This is very common.
posted by bshort at 8:13 PM on January 18, 2006

I'm well beyond my heavy partying days, but in the past, the only times I ever had blackouts was when I both drank and smoked pot. It happened several times -- I would wake with absolutely no memory of hours that I reportedly spent talking, dancing, etc.

It probably just means we have a more sensitive central nervous system. We're all wired a little differently -- maybe it's a genetic survival strategy designed to protect us.
posted by blogrrrl at 8:20 PM on January 18, 2006

Best answer: On the off chance that no one ever told you this, alcohol and marijuana smoke are both toxic. Your body has special sensors in the brainstem to detect toxic loads; when they detect a lot of toxins, they tell your gut to empty itself.

Your brain also has a special system designed to stop you from repeating your past mistakes. This system is responsible for generating the very unpleasant feelings you describe, because the toxic sensor area also activates it.

Once you're beginning to become intoxicated with these mind altering substances, by the way, you may have difficulty accurately judging your subsequent intake of the next round of intoxicants. My guess is that after the third drink or so, your understanding or recall of how much more you actually indulged in is probably faulty. You can often work around this issue by deciding in advance exactly how much you're going to consume, and then sticking to it. Some folks would find this puritanical, but I don't mean it that way; it seems to me that if you're going to be using euphoriants, you ought to aim at the induction of euphoria, not vomiting.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:38 PM on January 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

We used to call it getting droned. It doesn't usually make me sick but it can make me extremely dizzy - the kind where putting a foot on the ground doesn't help.

A little bit of alochol can go nicely with a small to medium amount of pot. It takes the edge off any paranoia the pot may induce. The key is moderation of your intake of both.
posted by rhiannon at 8:50 PM on January 18, 2006

My friends who have experienced this said it feels as if you're tumbling, somersault-style, head over heels repeatedly and very quickly. Extreme dizziness, to say the least.

One of them had worked out a formula that worked out, involving two drinks and then the bowl. But seriously.
posted by disillusioned at 8:53 PM on January 18, 2006

This happens to me too. In my experience it has to do with two things. The first being the order in which you participate. The second has a lot to do with how much pot you smoke on a regular basis. I have no scientific back up on this but a lot of my friends smoke a LOT of weed and this never happens to them, where as I partake maybe once a month if that.

Yeah, yeah, just say no, blah, blah, blah.
posted by lannanh at 9:14 PM on January 18, 2006

In Scotland the technical term for what you're experiencing is called 'Throwing a Whitey' - when one minute everything seems fine, and the next you're white as a sheet and driving the porcelain bus. And the best way to achieve a whitey is exactly how you describe - a reasonable amount of booze followed by a what-seemed-a-really-good-idea-at-the-time joint.

I should also note that even if you manage to successfully avoid Throwing a Whitey, it's pretty guaranteed that you're going to end up with 'The Whirlybeds' - a term which I feel needs no explanation here....
posted by forallmankind at 9:16 PM on January 18, 2006

Haven't had this problem since I was in highschool*.

I'll enjoy a beer sometimes to enhance marijuana smoking, or smoke so I drink less.

It really depends on the strength and, probably more importantly, the ratio of the different cannabinoids of the particular buds your smoking.

Also, are you drinking (cheap/light/foamy) beer or cheap wine? (Not) Eating solid carbohydrates/proteins before drinking?

*It also involves tolerance (to both substances).
posted by PurplePorpoise at 10:57 PM on January 18, 2006

Remember the old motto

`Beer and bongs, you're in the wrong
Bongs and beer, you're in the clear'

I once smoked two cigarettes after drinking to tipsiness. I became so dizzy I couldn't stand, remained sitting in a char for what felt like a decade or two. I knew that if I stood up, I would be instantly sick. Moments later I was sick anyway (then felt really good).

And that, 14 years ago, cured me of the any desire to smoke. I think that for some people, combinations of drugs just make their bodies react poorly.
posted by tomble at 12:06 AM on January 19, 2006

I've had this happen - go really hot, dizzy and clammy prior to feeling really ill. Usually happens when there's a close atmosphere - lots of smoke, and no fresh air.
Going outside and breathing deeply for about 15 minutes helped an awful lot...
posted by Chunder at 1:26 AM on January 19, 2006

Funny, pot doesn't seem to do anything to me unless I'm drunk. Of course, then I enter this very strange state of hyperdrunkeness that sits somewhere between enjoyable and uncomfortable. But yeah, I don't know anyone who'd recommend pot + alcohol in large quantities.
posted by chrominance at 2:34 AM on January 19, 2006

The dreaded "spins"!
posted by anthill at 4:36 AM on January 19, 2006


My three attempts at smoking weed (what? I went to uni in the UK) have all ended up in violent vomiting and feelings of dizziness. I always suspected it might be to do with the combination of alcohol and weed.

Now I just drink. Even if I wanted to smoke by itself, I don't think I could physically bring myself to do it. Just the smell brings back a very Pavlovian response that makes me gag slightly...
posted by slimepuppy at 5:51 AM on January 19, 2006

Wow, it took 20 or so replies to hear the phrase "whitey" ?
I assumed that was a pretty universal term for exactly what you describe - guess it's more a UK thing ;)
posted by anagrama at 6:03 AM on January 19, 2006

Being drunk screws up your judgement and makes you want to prove how tough you are. Drunks (especially those inexperienced with smoke) often try to impress their friends by toking heroically. As you've now found out, and as you'd probably know instinctively when you're not drunk, toking heroically is a Bad Idea (especially if some poisoner has mixed a lot of tobacco with the weed).

Being stoned screws up your judgement and makes you forget you haven't finished your drink yet, which naturally limits the amount of alcohol you mix with your smoke.

Being stoned also tends to put you in touch with your body, while being drunk tends to separate you from it.

The same kinds of screwed up judgement apply to driving. Drunk drivers refuse to believe there's anything wrong with them, tend to feel detached from the driving situation and treat it like a video game, and love to show off by speeding like bastards. Stoned drivers get so in touch with the car that they worry about rattles and squeaks they don't normally notice, and start to feel freaked out at about 60% of their normal driving speed. That's why I'd much rather get in a car with a stoned driver than with a drunk one.
posted by flabdablet at 6:04 AM on January 19, 2006

I have found that if I smoke before drinking I am fine, but if I drink and then smoke I get the spins.
posted by terrapin at 6:32 AM on January 19, 2006

Never had it happen to me, personally. Oddly enough, quite the opposite occurs. The few times I've been drunk enough to feel the room "spin" I just loaded a bowl and brought myself back to level. Same thing with hangovers... I could take a veritable cocktail of pills, juices and have a huge breakfast - but until I get faded I've got that acidic feeling in my stomach all day.

I've seen it happen to other folks quite a bit though... even those who make a routine out of smoking. They were always incredibly hammered though, definitely not in the realm of four or five drinks. Strange indeed.
posted by prostyle at 6:41 AM on January 19, 2006

dope then beer, no fear.

beer then dope, no hope.
posted by handee at 8:10 AM on January 19, 2006

Best answer: As many others have pointed out, the order matters. I have my own theory about why this is true. Smoking (any drug), introduces the drug into your bloodstream very quickly, while drinking is (relatively) slow. If you smoke first, you go very quickly from sobriety to stonededness. You will then naturally, perhaps subconsciously, drink less and slowly. In fact, this is my favorite way to party: maintaining a good buzz that allows for high social functioning. The opposite is a recipe for disaster, because if you are quite drunk, smoking pot will quickly -- often far too quickly -- get to the point of seriously uncomfortable wastedness. This is my least favorite way to "party": on my knees clutching the toilet or having my friends carry me home. Very low social function.

The sad thing is that many people only smoke pot when their inhibitions have been lowered by being quite drunk. The results are predicatably disastrous.
posted by bumpkin at 8:33 AM on January 19, 2006

This is pretty common. The order does seem to matter a lot. IA, uh, friend of mine pretty much quit smoking because of it (he's generally drinking well before he would be smoking).
posted by fidelity at 8:39 AM on January 19, 2006

Rappers are always telling me to combine alcohol and marijuana.
posted by rxrfrx at 8:58 AM on January 19, 2006

To echo handee a bit, this is the one I coined in college:

"Pot then beer, never fear.
Beer then pot....you're fucked."
posted by tristeza at 9:07 AM on January 19, 2006

"Drinking beer and smoking dope together is like pissing into the wind" - Freewheelin' Franklin

Wine or spirits are usually fine though.
posted by bifter at 9:23 AM on January 19, 2006

I have no scientific evidence to back this opinion up, but I believe that not just the quantity but the kind of alcohol is of import.

This problem seems to be more prevalent, in my experience, when mixing THC with spirits that have high congener counts and contain lots of sugar.

The worst is smoking weed after too much red wine. It's a sure-fire path to popping. Closely followed by black rum, bourbon, or whiskey.

I think all the plant chemicals those drinks contain interact with the plant chemicals in the smoke.
posted by jbrjake at 9:42 AM on January 19, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all your excellent answers, folks! (Except for tiamat. Thanks for nothing.) I marked two that stood out to me as best.

It is very easy to over indulge when you're already inebriated. I think I'm going to keep my substances separate from now on.
posted by lemur at 9:51 AM on January 19, 2006

I want to suggest that perhaps the sickness could have something to with the act of smoking while drunk, rather than the weed per se. I've known people to puke after smoking a cigar while drunk, if they're not in the habit of doing so. I use a vaporizer, and can drink and get stoned simultaneously with no ill or unexpected effects. Although I rarely do it when I'm very drunk. Although I think that I probably have drunk and actually smoked in the same evening, and I don't recall usually having problems with that either.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:02 AM on January 19, 2006

It all comes down to tolerance. The first few times I combined the two, I think I got sick, but that was years ago. After that, I was fine as long as I wasn't to drunk. Like someone mentioned above, the alcohol takes the paranoia away. Most people in my circle combine the two all the time and don't have a problem, as long as they are not too drunk. It's simply toxic tolerance.
posted by jasondigitized at 11:25 AM on January 19, 2006

This is crazy, I've never seen this happen -- and I've never heard this happening to anyone. When SWIM goes to the bars and gets really shitfaced he always saunters over to the stoners so he can go to their after-party and avoid throwing up. In fact SWIM never feels sick or a hangover after smoking cannabis. SWIM thinks you're all crazy, among those I hang out with (which are very different cliques depending on my mood) all use cannabis to equal things out. The theater people use cannabis to start the party, the jocks use it to end it. The function is the same. I've known people to throw up on painkillers, probably from the APAP irritation and the alcohol, but never weed. I'm really surprised by all this.
posted by geoff. at 12:10 PM on January 19, 2006

Cigars are different, as nicotine does make you sick -- marijuana should do the exact opposite.
posted by geoff. at 12:11 PM on January 19, 2006

I'm amazed this is common - never encountered, experienced, or heard about it before today. You learn something ever day.
posted by agregoli at 1:55 PM on January 19, 2006

I wonder if the alcohol and then excessive smoking cause severe dehydration, which then leads to the nausea?
posted by Radio7 at 2:44 PM on January 19, 2006

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