Now that pot is legal in Alaska, Colorado and Washington, people are thinking more about the risks of combining it with good old fashioned alcohol. And so two researchers, Meenakshi Subbaraman and William Kerr, took data from the self-reported 2005 and 2010 National Alcohol Surveys (which included 8,626 people) to try to determine if smoking pot and drinking alcohol at the same time has a different effect than consuming either of these things concurrently. Their results were published in a journal called Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, which is a super boring name for a study that was probably pretty fun for its participants.
I’m an Alcoholic and I Want it All!
Here’s the thing: you want to know who is not wondering if it’s better or worse to drink and smoke pot together rather than just do one on its own? Alcoholics. Addicts. Because, for a lot of us, when we were drinking and someone offered us pot, we just said, “Yes.” Or possibly, “Yes, please.” Or quite likely, “Yes, and hurry up about it!” Very few of us thought, “Well, maybe I’ll have these separately, but simultaneously seems like a little much.” Alcoholics know that more is better—until, of course, more threatens to destroy your life.
If I were a scientist, this is definitely the kind of study I’d propose on a Friday afternoon, just to, you know, get ready for the weekend. I would also feel like I had a good job and that it was pretty cool to be a scientist. I’d be proud of all the science learning I did in college to get that awesome science job. It’d be way better than sifting through a lot of boring data.
Less of a Party, More of a Job
Sadly, that’s not how the study came about. Subbaraman and Kerr used legit techniques to draw scientific conclusions by (yawn!) sifting through a lot of boring data. They didn’t just get drunk and high at work and take notes on their experience. Buzzkill. This is why I’m not a scientist.
They considered an array of variables such as demographics and how frequently people drank, smoked pot or did both at the same time. They set up a list of 15 issues including things like work, fighting and relationship problems. Then they measured “social consequences,” which meant someone checked off two of the 15 issues. Two out of 15? I would score way higher on that test. I would totally ace it.
Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun?
Researchers then looked at the whole pot-alcohol concurrent and simultaneous thing and it turned out that people who smoked pot and drank at the same time drank twice as much as those who did one separately from the other. So scientists now know that drinking alcohol and smoking pot at the same time is something that a lot of people like to do. Okay, that was a little obvious. Like, what will science discover next? That many people like to eat hamburgers and French fries simultaneously?
Ultimately the researchers determined that states that have legalized pot require a clear warning label on the package that notes the danger of smoking pot combined with drinking. Personally, I’d like to see a scientific study on the effectiveness of warning labels. Because in my experience, people are gonna do what their gonna do. In fact, I think some people consider a warning label on an intoxicant a suggestion or even a great recommendation.
But Not Every Conclusion Was so Obvious
Now for the bad news. People who consumed both substances simultaneously were 2.3 times more likely to drive drunk. This could, of course, be the result of the chemical combo or speak more to the notion that a person who consumes two drugs at the same time might make reckless decisions about driving.
And this is why studies like this are roughly a million times more useful than, say, a hamburger and fry combo study would be. While, as I said, this news may not impact the alcoholic community, let’s hope it enlightens those who can drink and smoke pot without either or both resulting in life destruction. Having a few drinks and getting a little high might not seem like a big deal at a party, until you’re mellow from pot and buzzed from booze while driving 11 miles per hour down the freeway.