Can Weed Cure a Hangover?
Jack swears by smoking weed to treat a hangover. The first time he tried it was in college as a freshman. He’d been drunk before, and he’d been high before, but after one especially rough night, his world-wise roommate told him weed could blunt his aching hangover.
They couldn’t smoke in the dorm, so they went to his roommate’s car. “Almost immediately I wasn’t focused on feeling bad, just being high, and it felt like my headache and upset stomach were gone,” he says. It also gave him an appetite while recovering. Even today he turns to the green after a night of over-drinking.
Jack’s roommate wasn’t a medical pioneer. Weed has been prescribed—and debated—as a hangover treatment going back generations. Nowadays, plenty of weed smokers testify it’s helped them recover from a hangover, with multiple threads on Reddit filled with users praising the technique. “They don’t call it THC for nothing,” says one, “because it’s The Hangover Cure.” Others are more skeptical, saying marijuana might just exacerbate a hangover headache, even if it’s worked before, and worrying that it might cause anxiety or paranoia, or lead to vomiting.
What Mixing Weed and Alcohol Does to Your Mind
There’s also a healthy debate over whether it’s better to smoke or take an edible, and theories about the right choice between sativa and indica, depending on your symptoms. Some warned of the dreaded crossfade that happens when you combine weed and alcohol (“If you are still drunk, don’t smoke”), while others wondered why anyone would drink at all when they could be smoking weed instead.
Beyond street-level anecdotes, though, what does scientific research say about smoking dope to treat a hangover? Does it actually work? Is it any better than the myriad other dubious hangover cures out there?
“There’s actually not a lot of study on this,” said Kent Hutchison, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He’s studied substance use and cannabis for years, including work on the National Academy of Sciences committee that produced a comprehensive study on the effects of cannabis.
He also said there hasn’t been much study on hangovers in general, which makes the question doubly tricky to answer. But looking at how alcohol leads to a hangover, he said, can help us theorize how smoking weed might help.
Alcohol makes you urinate, which can lead to dehydration; produces an inflammatory response in your immune system; irritates the stomach lining, often provoking nausea or vomiting; lowers your blood sugar, which can make you feel fatigued or jittery; and expands your blood vessels, which can cause headaches.
Many of these problems can be addressed with drinking water and eating food, even when you feel sick. But Hutchison noted that there are three areas in which weed might be particularly helpful. There’s evidence that smoking cannabis can quell nausea and alleviate anxiety. As many smokers can attest, those effects may help you better cope with the day after a night of hard drinking—-it’s just that research hasn’t yet caught up with the folk remedies. Most of what we know about weed and hangovers comes from anecdotal evidence. “It’s true of so many questions around marijuana,” said Hutchison.
Hutchison pointed to another potentially helpful effect of weed: pain relief. Right now, there’s anecdotal evidence to suggest it can help with headache disorders, as well, but not enough clinical study to prove it, according to a 2017 review article in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.
Everything You Need to Know About Using Weed for Headaches
There’s some evidence it works best as a headache treatment when you get the combination of THC and CBD, rather than using them separately. Without more study, though, researchers can’t be certain under what circumstances it’s helpful, including for hangovers. “We don’t really know the underlying mechanisms by which marijuana might relieve pain,” Hutchison said. “It’s better to know the real underlying mechanism.”
However cannabis can help with your hangover, it’s important to note that it’s not curing anything so much as letting you live with the consequences of too much drinking while your body recovers. “Marijuana treats the symptoms,” said Elaine M. Burns, naturopathic medical doctor. She’s long advised patients and doctors about using weed therapeutically. The best ways to deal with a hangover, she said, are “A, avoid it begin with, then B, treat the symptoms.”
For A, she offered the usual tips—drink a glass of water between every drink, for example, and don’t overdo it. But let’s say you’ve already botched things and wake up with pounding headache, dry mouth, dizziness, and upset stomach. In that case, Burnes recommended trying some weed alongside more conventional, proven measures. “It’s about rehydrating,” she said, “with water and electrolytes.” Magnesium supplements can be useful, as well as Emergen-C packets, which provide vitamin C and potassium, as an alternative to Gatorade, which contains a lot of sugar. The very best solution to the dehydration problem, she said, is an IV drip and some magnesium.
When it comes time to spark up (or however you get your weed), remember that you’re trying to treat your specific symptoms—choose your strain and method of delivery wisely. Burns noted that THC and CBD both seem to help with pain relief, while CBD helps more with anxiety. Indica strains have more CBD, so take that into account.
About the most we can say with certainty is that you’ll probably feel better while you’re high, recovering from your previous bad decisions, and honestly, it probably won’t hurt. But right now, the science around cannabis is largely unsettled—we’re still in unfamiliar territory, grasping around with anecdotal evidence. If you’re going to use weed to treat a hangover, congratulations, you’re part of the collective experiment.
Cannabis can quell nausea, alleviate anxiety, and dull pain—so we looked at the evidence for it as a hangover cure.
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Here’s What Marijuana Does to Your Hangover
There is no such thing as a hangover cure, but there are ways to treat the symptoms. First, drink a tall glass of water, of course. But before you reach for that bottle of Advil, consider cannabis.
Like over-the-counter painkillers, marijuana has anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate pain after a night of overindulgence. Unlike Advil, however, pot doesn’t carry the risk of damaging your stomach lining and it is significantly more effective at treating pain, as numerous studies have demonstrated.
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Headaches aside, having a hangover also usually involves feeling nauseous. If it’s a particularly bad case, you’ll have trouble keeping waterвЂ”let alone foodвЂ”in your stomach. Again, marijuana to the rescue: scientists have found that the substance is highly effective at treating nausea. Even the U.S. National Cancer Institute, a federal agency, has acknowledged as much.
“Different compounds in marijuana have different actions in the human body,” the NIC wrote on its website. “For example, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) seems to cause the ‘high’ reported by consumers of marijuana, and also can help relieve pain and nausea, reduce inflammation, and can act as an antioxidant.”
Though studies that have looked at the effect of marijuana on nausea have focused on cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy, experts say there is no reason that the results would be limited to one form of nausea over another.
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Part of what makes nausea so miserable is that it often prevents you from being able to eat or drink without feeling the need to vomit. Well, as pretty much any stoner (and a number of researchers) can tell you, marijuana increases appetite. And many users claim that smoking pot the morning after binge drinking helps them stabilize their stomachs.
One study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience found that “THC fits into receptors in the brain’s olfactory bulb, significantly increasing the animals’ ability to smell food and leading them to eat more of it,” Smithsonian Magazine reported.
To be sure, moderating your alcohol consumption is the best preventative measure you can take to avoid a nasty hangover. But if you do find yourself struggling to get out of bad after a night on the town, anecdotal and scientific evidence suggests that marijuana is one of your best options for the quick, safe, and effective treatment of hangover symptoms.
Again, it is no cure. Smoking pot won’t make the excess ethanol in your bloodstream disappear. Still, there’s good reason to believe that it can help get you through the day. It’s certainly better than the “hair of the dog” approach, which involves drinking more alcohol and simply numbing yourself to the pain of a hangover. Let’s be clear: alcohol is toxic and marijuana is not.
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A side note: regularly consuming too much alcohol can cause neurodegeneration and cognitive impairment, contributing to a cycle of alcoholism, according to researchers at the University of Kentucky. A 2013 study showed that cannibidinoal (CBD), a non-psychoactive component of marijuana, can reduce alcohol-induced neurodegeneration by almost 50 percent.
“Alcoholism is a cyclical disease consisting of periods of binge intake, acute physical withdrawal, protracted withdrawal and ultimately relapse, which all may be treated by extended release formulations of CBD,” the researchers wrote. “For example, CBD has anti-convulsant effects (acute withdrawal), anxiolytic effects (protracted withdrawal/relapse), reduces drug seeking behavior in rodents (craving/relapse), and has neuroprotective properties (binge intoxication).”
Here’s how marijuana affects alcohol hangovers.