People commonly combine marijuana and alcohol, and as marijuana becomes legal for recreational purposes in many states, this practice is likely to increase. Both of these drugs have many similar effects, but act through different mechanisms. Both result in sedation, alterations in judgment, perceptual effects that include time distortions and even minor hallucinogenic effects, and physical effects that include slowed reflexes and decreased motor coordination. Marijuana affects the cannabinoid receptors in the brain, whereas alcohol primarily affects the neurotransmitters gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter) and NMDA (N-methyl-d-aspartate, an excitatory neurotransmitter). When these drugs are combined, particularly at high doses, the effects of both drugs are enhanced, and this can lead to some significant issues.
The Adverse Effects
All in all, Individuals who have recovered from any type of substance use disorder are always at an increased risk for relapse; however, the risk for relapse decreases sharply after the individual has been abstinent for 5-7 years and maintained active participation in treatment-related activities. Nevertheless, lifelong participation in some form of treatment-related activities, such as peer support groups, is strongly recommended for individuals who are recovering from any form of substance use disorder.