High while Asian: Why Cannabis over Alcohol

Updated: Apr 13, 2021

You probably have met someone of Asian descent at a party turning bright red after just one drink or one shot. Chances are they have alcohol flush reaction (AFR), or more commonly known as Asian flush or Asian glow. About 30-50% of East and Southeast Asians, myself included, suffer from AFR due to deficiency of aldehyde dehydrogenase, an enzyme required to break down alcohol. Symptoms can include redness in the face and body, itchy skin, nausea and vomiting, racing heartbeat, difficult breathing, headache, etc. In my case, I start turning bright red after a couple sips, get quite tipsy after half a drink, and likely need to sit down after a full one. Most of my friends are surprised that I have never had a hangover or blackout from drinking. Well, this is TMI but the sad truth is that if I drink to a certain point, I would feel extremely sick and nauseous and end up having to throw up.

Source: ABC Fresh off the Boat

Asian flush sounds like a cute thing, is it even dangerous?

Sometimes when people just learned about me having Asian flush and my extremely low tolerance, they often joke that I’m lucky to not have to spend a fortune on alcohol. Well yes, I appreciate not having to order drinks after drinks to get a buzz at bars and in general, people suffering from AFR have lower than average rates of alcoholism. However, for those with AFR who do drink, their risk of having esophageal cancer is 6-10 times higher. There has also been research showing that Asian flush mutation may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

Is there a cure for Asian glow – you may wonder? The party trick that most with AFR resort to is to take antihistamine such as Pepcid AC, Zantac, or Zyrtec before drinking. While these OTC antihistamines help alleviate symptoms of Asian glow, they don’t address the underlying causes. Additionally, prolonged use of Zantac or Pepcic combined with alcohol can lead to toxin build-up and increased risk of esophageal cancer.

Source: Unsplash

Then why do I still drink?

To be honest, I have never seen the appeal of alcohol – it’s expensive and simply doesn’t make me feel good. Yet, given the prominent role of drinking in our social lives, I often force myself to drink or at least pretend to do so at happy hours, work dinners, or parties. Since going back to grad school this year, I too often found myself drinking way more than I wanted out of peer pressure.

Don’t get me wrong - I’m NOT against anyone drinking. There has been research showing the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. Plus who doesn’t like a good buzz? We all have our vices. Alcohol is just not mine.

Cannabis comes to the rescue

Alcohol and I have had an unhealthy relationship for years…until cannabis came along. As more states have now legalized adult use of cannabis and brands like Caan started introducing THC-infused drinks as an alternative to alcohol, it’s increasingly more acceptable for people to consume cannabis rather than alcohol at social gatherings (in states where it has been legalized of course). I feel so much more like myself not having to pretend to be drinking or forcing myself to do so. Here are just some of the benefits of consuming cannabis instead of alcohol:

  • Say goodbye to hangover! As we get into our late twenties, hangover is becoming more and more unbearable. I used to have to load up on pedialyte, coconut water, and advils after a night of drinking. On the extreme side, I sometimes dragged myself out of bed super early the next morning to go for a run to prevent the hangover (sad I know!).

  • Better sleep! Alcohol is known to disrupt REM sleep and result in shorter sleep duration lower sleep quality. Cannabis, on the other hand, helps us sleep more soundly through the night.

  • Lower alcohol consumption! In states where adult use of cannabis has been legalized, people do consume less alcohol by 9% of the national average. Medical marijuana has even been used as a treatment for alcoholism. While there are about 40,000 alcohol-related deaths occur each year due to binge drinking in the US, there has not been a single account of death due to a marijuana overdose.

If you are interested in learning more about the therapeutic and medical benefits of cannabis, check out our previous post Weed is bad for you, isn’t it?

If it wasn't clear, I’m not convincing everyone to give up alcohol, but if you have Asian flush like me or want to find an alternative for alcohol, I would suggest trying cannabis instead at your next party or social gathering and see the difference yourself!