Getting “crossed” is a term often used among teens to describe using marijuana while drinking alcohol at the same time. With easy access to both substances, getting crossed occurs more often than parents might realize. Understanding the risks of using multiple substances at once can help you educate your child and protect them from negative consequences.
Greater risks when "crossed"
A common misconception about using marijuana and alcohol at the same time is that a person experiences a combination of the effects of each drug. People may assume that THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana provides a “high” while alcohol relaxes the body. In other words, getting “crossed” simply provides both sensations at once. 1 In fact, the two substances interact in a way that wouldn’t occur if they were used separately.
When marijuana is used with alcohol, THC levels in the bloodstream nearly double.2 This can be very concerning as THC potency is on the rise. Before the 1990s, THC potency was less than 2% while in the 1990s it averaged about 4%. Today consumers can buy leaf marijuana products with 17% to 28% THC potency while edibles and oils can have a THC strength of upwards of 95%. Using marijuana with a high concentration of THC increases the risk of psychosis, anxiety, and Cannabis Use Disorder (also known as marijuana addiction). Teens can be at risk without even knowing it when they use marijuana and alcohol at the same time.
Another concern about getting crossed is its impact on decision-making. The use of alcohol and marijuana either at the same time or on the same occasion can lead to poor judgment, memory, and confusion. This can result in accidents, injuries, and other risky behaviors. 3
Tips for parents
- Talk early and often to understand your child’s attitudes and beliefs about alcohol and marijuana. Asking questions like “What do you know about getting crossed?” or “What would you say if someone offered you a drink and/or a joint?” can get the conversation started.
- Be your child’s source of accurate information to help them understand the risks associated with getting crossed. The information they get from friends or the internet may glorify getting crossed without showing the downsides of it.
- Understand that alcohol and marijuana are readily available to underage youth at parties and social gatherings. Check-in with other adults who will be present if your child plans to attend a party as to how they plan to monitor the occasion. Have a conversation with your child as to your expectations about substance use if your child wants to host a party.
- If your child comes home under the influence of one or both substances, try to wait until they are sober to have a conversation. Be sure to convey your concern for their health and safety rather than taking a punitive approach.