Hangover and cannabinoids

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Hangover is the term used to describe the short term symptoms that can arise after a session of drinking alcohol. This will normally occur the day after drinking, and the severity of the symptoms can vary depending on how much, and which type, of alcohol was consumed. It is likely that the higher the volume of alcohol consumed, the worse the hangover. There is no clinically researched cure for hangovers and everyone has their own system to ease the pain, but signs (and numerous testimonials) clearly point to cannabinoids as an option.

Common hangover symptoms


  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to light and sounds
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Lack of brain function and concentration

When abused, alcohol, also known as ethanol, can have a negative effect on our brains and bodies. It is so toxic that our livers have to work in overdrive to break this chemical down so it can be expelled from our system. The liver needs water to carry this out and as ethanol is a diuretic (it dehydrates the body) the liver must take water from elsewhere in the body to function which leads to severe dehydration. One source is from the brain’s dura mater, a fluid-filled membrane that separates the brain from the skull. When water is taken from this membrane it shrinks and causes painful headaches. Another problem that occurs during the breakdown of ethanol is that a lot of energy is used. This depletes the bodies Vitamin B levels and can cause fatigue.

Many of these aforementioned symptoms fall under the control of our endocannabinoid system (ECS). Cannabinoids such as cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol (CBD and THC, respectively) have many positive effects, such as being natural analgesics, antiemetic, and neuro-protectants[1].

THC has been clinically tested as an antiemetic[2], primarily as a remedy for nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, however if it was found that it inhibits emesis (nausea) that is related to both drugs and natural stimuli meaning THC could be helpful in remedying any nausea brought on by ingesting alcohol. Recently CBD has been researched as a analgesic and preventative for migraines and headaches[3].

Out of 121 test subjects, 103 of them found that the pain had reduced dramatically after consuming cannabinoids. This means that to beat the headaches that usual arise after drinking, cannabinoids such as CBD and THC could help A further remedy for the headaches is drinking water. Dehydration can often cause severe head pain so always drink plenty of water the next day. Two other, not so common, symptoms of a hangover are anxiety and depression. This stems from the fact that when we drink alcohol our brain releases dopamine (mainly into the areas associated with reward, hence the reason alcohol can be highly addictive to some). The next day our dopamine levels are depleted and depression and anxiety can arise. CBD has also been extensively investigated as an anxiolytic for many different neuropsychiatric disorders[4]. It has been found that CBD is not anxiogenic (something that causes anxiety) and can reduce anxiety that is both induced and natural.

All of these studies separately relate to the symptoms of hangovers, meaning that either just CBD or a mix of both CBD and THC can help alleviate the issues caused by alcohol. One last piece of information comes from the 1970’s. A study[5] found that when alcohol and CBD were taken together there was a significant reduction in the level of alcohol in the blood (compared to when alcohol was administered without CBD). This means that taking CBD before drinking can reduce the amount of alcohol that is absorbed into the blood stream, which could prevent some of the hangover symptoms before they even occur.

[1] Kogan, N. M., & Mechoulam, R. (2007). Cannabinoids in health and disease. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience9(4), 413–430. [PubMed]

[2] Sharkey, Keith A., Nissar A. Darmani, and Linda A. Parker. “Regulation of Nausea and Vomiting by Cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System.” European journal of pharmacology 722 (2014): 10.1016/j.ejphar.2013.09.068. PMC. Web. 11 Jan. 2018. [PubMed]

[3] Smith DR, Stanley CM, Foss T, Boles RG, and McKernan K.R. Rare genetic variants in the endocannabinoid system genes CNR1 and DAGLA are associated with neurological phenotypes in humans. PLoS One. 2017 Nov 16;12(11)

[4] Blessing, Esther M. et al. “Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders.” Neurotherapeutics 12.4 (2015): 825–836. PMC. Web. 11 Jan. 2018.

[5] Consroe P, Carlini EA, Zwicker AP and Lacerda LA. Interaction of cannabidiol and alcohol in humans. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1979;66(1):45-50.

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