I Swapped Alcohol for Cannabis Beverages — Here’s What I Noticed
If I had to sum up my drinking habits over the last few years, the word I’d use to describe them is “problematic-ish.” They weren’t taking a noticeably negative toll on my work, relationships, or health, but I couldn’t help wondering, “When did I start ending almost every workday with a glass of wine or two? And why do I feel like I need that to relax?” Given that alcoholism runs in my family, I wanted to nip this nightly routine in the bud before it grew into a bigger problem. So, when I discovered cannabis beverages, which promise to take the edge off and offer a subtle buzz without the hangover, I decided to try substituting them for my daily pour of sauvignon blanc and see if I noticed any benefits to the switch.
Studies repeatedly showed that drinking surged during the pandemic — in women, by more than 40%. And along with that, alcohol-related deaths rose as well. Over time, excessive drinking can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, digestive problems, liver disease, depression, anxiety, and certain types of cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With recreational marijuana use now legalized in 23 states and counting, and an increasing number of weed-based beverages hitting the shelves, more and more people are swapping out their go-to beer, wine, or cocktail for a cannabis alternative. In fact, a 2020 Harris Poll found that 45% of people who have ever used cannabis used it to reduce or replace their alcohol consumption during the pandemic.
On my quest to find a tasty wine substitute, I tried at least a dozen different cannabis drinks and found three that worked for me. Cann, a line of canned “social tonics” made from all-natural ingredients and only lightly sweetened with agave, makes several complex fruit- and herb-infused flavors — each of which only has a modest 2 milligrams of THC. Levia also makes a Water Soluble Tincture that allows me to get creative and create my own custom cannabis mocktails. Finally, Good Stuff Beverage Co. — a line of ready-to-drink lemonades made with real pureed fruit and tropical blossom honey — are delicious on their own or mixed with seltzer. As with the Levia Tincture, Good Stuff’s products can be dosed according to my desired experience — in other words, I can add more or less depending on how much I want to feel the effects.
Armed with three new beverages to crack open when I need to unwind, I gave up my nightly glass of wine for one month to see if I felt any different. Here’s what I noticed.
My anxiety is lower in the morning.
I’ve struggled with anxiety since my early 20s, and it’s especially intense first thing in the morning.
Alcohol can actually trigger or worsen anxiety — which can then drive you to drink more in an effort to feel calmer. On the other hand, studies have shown that low doses of cannabis can actually help to relieve anxiety.
I certainly found this to be true. After a few days of enjoying an evening cannabis beverage instead of wine, I began waking up without that stomach-churning, heart-racing feeling I had gotten so accustomed to.
Note: There’s been a lot of hype around using CBD products for mental health benefits in recent years, but studies have suggested that CBD is more effective for relieving anxiety when it’s taken in conjunction with THC — even “microdoses” like 2 to 5 milligrams.
I’m sleeping more soundly.
Sure, sipping on some malbec at night can send me off into dreamland in a snap — but the problem is, I don’t stay asleep. In fact, I tend to wake up frequently throughout the night, leading me to feel groggy the next day. That’s because alcohol creates an imbalance in your sleep cycles, decreasing your overall sleep quality. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve also always been a light sleeper.
The jury is still out on whether marijuana helps or hurts sleep — some studies have found that it can allow you to catch more Zs, while others have found that it can have a negative effect. However, a 2021 review revealed promising findings that suggest cannabis may have therapeutic potential for a wide range of sleep disorders.
Personally, I found that I was able to sleep more soundly straight through the night. And as a result, I woke up feeling more well-rested and energized.
My mild digestive issues mostly went away.
While my acid reflux went away around the time I graduated high school, I do still find that my stomach is a little sensitive to acidic foods and drinks. What I didn’t realize is that alcohol can actually make your stomach produce more acid than usual, which can wear away at your stomach lining and even cause painful inflammation over time. So, it makes sense why cutting out alcohol helped to relieve unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms.
Conversely, cannabis can relieve nausea — hence why it’s used medicinally for patients undergoing chemotherapy. Some research has even shown that cannabis may be effective for treating the symptoms of irritable bowel disease, like abdominal pain and cramping.
Within less than a week of making the switch from wine to weed beverages, I found that I experienced less nausea and heartburn after meals.
My relationship conflicts are less frequent — and fiery.
Real talk: Booze-fueled fights are the worst kind — even small disagreements can quickly spiral into blowouts, causing you to say things you don’t mean and later regret. It makes sense, too, when you consider that alcohol lowers your inhibitions, impairs your judgment, and affects the emotional center of your brain. My husband doesn’t drink alcohol, and while my alcohol consumption is pretty moderate, I did wonder sometimes if drinking wine made me a little more feisty, defensive, and combative during our occasional arguments. It seemed to turn up the dial on my emotions: after a couple of drinks, something that might normally just irritate me felt like an infuriating offense.
Emerging research is examining how cannabis may impact romantic relationships and the findings thus far as promising. Whereas alcohol use has been linked to aggressive and violent behavior, a 2014 study found that couples who use marijuana are significantly less likely to engage in domestic violence. What’s more, a 2019 study discovered that even just using cannabis in the presence of a romantic partner is associated with increased experiences of intimacy.
In my experience, sipping on cannabis drinks rather than alcohol made me feel a lot calmer and less reactive. I didn’t perceive innocent remarks as attacks quite as often, and I had an easier time letting small annoyances roll off my back. In short, I was able to pick my battles — which any couple can tell you is so crucial in maintaining a healthy dynamic.
Now that my experiment is over, I’m back to enjoying an occasional glass of wine or two — but the difference is, I approach drinking more mindfully. Before pouring a drink, I ask myself: “Why do I want to want this right now? How do I expect it to make me feel? Is there something else I can try instead?” The experience may have only lasted a month, but it left a lasting impression on me, and I still find myself reaching for cannabis beverages instead of alcohol — whether at social gatherings or relaxing solo after a stressful workday. My only regret? That I didn’t start making the switch sooner.
Good food brings people together. So do good emails.