We Asked Experts What Happens To Your Body When You Mix Weed & Coffee
It’s a laid-back Saturday afternoon, and you want something extra to go with your coffee and 14th rewatch of The West Wing. If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the dozen or so states (plus Washington, D.C.) that have legalized recreational cannabis, you may want to add a bit of a relaxing vibe to your morning buzz. But before you unearth that edible from the back of the cabinet, you might be wondering if it’s even safe to combine weed and coffee.
“THC and caffeine are two of the most widely used psychotropic chemicals in the world, and they also both have a very long history of use by humans,” says Rubin Torf, co-founder and president of Scientia Labs, a CBD producer, and Canapa, Scientia’s lifestyle brand. “Caffeine in the brain results in reduced drowsiness or fatigue and improves reaction time,” he tells Bustle. “THC results in a range of physiological changes and psychoactivity.”
Everyone’s body reacts differently to substances, of course, but in general, there are some norms to expect. “Caffeine use tends to energize most people,” says Dr. Gary Starr, MD, medical director of FOCUS, an international non-profit working toward developing cannabis quality management standards. “The effects of marijuana can vary, but many people use it to feel more relaxed.”
Some of those varying effects from pot include short-term memory loss, while caffeine is associated with the opposite (sharpening your brain in the moment). Even though those effects seem to combat each other, Torf tells Bustle that the chemicals don’t necessarily cancel each other out. Taken together, he says, “you’re still going to have short-term memory problems from THC, and still feel awake from caffeine.”
If having pot and coffee at the same time doesn’t bring you to a limbo space between hyper-alert and hyper-chill, then what does the combo do? The next time you want to spend an afternoon kicking back with a joint in one hand and a cup of joe in the other, there are four things you should know about how caffeine and weed do interact.
1. Caffeine May Increase Pot-Associated Memory Loss
It might seem logical to try and mix pot with caffeine to counteract THC effects like memory loss, since you know coffee can make you more alert. However, “a combination of caffeine and THC may adversely affect memory,” Dr. Starr tells Bustle. “Some research shows that caffeine and low doses of THC seemed to impair working memoryВ more than THC would on its own.”
Some of this research was published in 2011 in the British Journal of Pharmacology. The study found that combining coffee and weed can worsen memory problems. Though researchers focused on brain chemistry in rats, they speculated that the memory loss associated with pot might be especially dangerous when young people (whose brains are still forming) drink coffee and light up at the same time.
2. Low Levels Of Caffeine Might Prolong Your High
In a 2011 study conducted on monkeys and published in the journal Addiction Biology, scientists gave subjects a small amount (just 1 mg) of caffeine. Then, they gave them unlimited access to weed. Yes, in the name of scientific discovery, small monkeys were self-administering cannabis at will (via a lever, because they’re monkeys). When the critters were given the low amount of caffeine, though, they were less likely go for the weed.
This may well result from the fact that just a little bit of coffee can make a small amount of pot go a longer way. “Low levels of caffeine may enhance the high and result in the need to use less marijuana to achieve the same result,” Dr. Starr tells Bustle.
But don’t light up and chug multiple cups of coffee just yet. “High levels of caffeine, however, could have the opposite effect,” he says. In a 2018 study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, researchers at Northwestern Medicine when you drink a lot of coffee (we’re talking four to eight cups a day), the level of neurotransmitters in your endocannabinoid system decreases вЂ” AKA, more coffee makes your brain do the opposite of what it does when you’re high. However, study participants were only drinking coffee (as opposed to having caffeine and weed together), so everything that happens chemically to human brains when the two interact has yet to be studied in detail.
3. Weed and Coffee Both Give Us Euphoria
A 2017 study published in the journal Annals of Neuroscience found that both caffeine and cannabis increase levels of dopamine (the happiness hormone) in the brain. On their own, both pot and coffee give you this euphoric boost, but the study concluded that the effects magnify when you combine the drink and the plant. “Since both chemicals increase dopamine levels, but through different mechanisms, the combined effect is an increased sense of euphoria,” Torf tells Bustle.
4. Both Pot And Coffee Can Increase Your Heart Rate
Before you leap into the dopamine-induced euphoria that can you can get from a coffee pot, make sure you’ve talked to your doctor about your heart health. “Both marijuana and caffeineВ are known to cause tachycardia вЂ” or an increased heart rate.В In people with underlying heart disease or problems with heart arrhythmias, consuming marijuana and caffeine вЂ” together or separately вЂ” could potentially put them at risk for heart complications,” Dr. Starr tells Bustle.
As with anything cannabis-related, there needs to be more research about how weed and caffeine interact, so be cautious. “It’s important to create your own dosing plan which works for your unique body and lifestyle,” says Valerie Sakota, co-founder of cannabis startup Babari. “If you’re new to testing out THC and caffeine, we recommend taking it for a spin on a morning when you’ve got a productivity goal but no meetings or deadlines. Start with a small dose вЂ” a few puffs of a joint or pipe, or a 2.5 mg of a tincture or edible with your morning joe.” Then, take the next few hours to be extra mindful of how you feel.
Readers should note that laws governing cannabis, hemp and CBD are evolving, as is information about the efficacy and safety of those substances. As such, the information contained in this post should not be construed as legal or medical advice. Always consult your physician prior to trying any substance or supplement.
Panlilio, L.V. (2011) Combined effects of THC and caffeine on working memory in rats. British Journal of Pharmacology, https://bpspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01554.x.
JustinovГЎ, Z. (2012) Reinforcing and neurochemical effects of cannabinoid CB1 receptor agonists, but not cocaine, are altered by an adenosine A2A receptor antagonist. Addiction Biology, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3115444/.
Owolabi, J.O. (2017) Caffeine and cannabis effects on vital neurotransmitters and enzymes in the brain tissue of juvenile experimental rats. Annals of Neuroscience, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5448447/.
Cornelis, M.C. (2018) Metabolomic response to coffee consumption: application to a threeвЂђstage clinical trial. Journal of Internal Medicine, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/joim.12737.
Rubin Torf, co-founder and president of Scientia Labs and Canapa
Dr. Gary Starr, MD, medical director of FOCUS
This article was originally published on Feb. 18, 2016
It’s a laid-back Saturday afternoon, and you want something extra to go with your coffee and 14th rewatch of The West Wing. If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the dozen or so states (plus Washington, D.C.) that have legalized recreationalвЂ¦
What Happens When You Mix Caffeine and Marijuana?
With marijuana legalized in an increasing number of states, experts continue to explore its potential benefits, side effects, and interactions with other substances.
The interactions between caffeine and marijuana aren’t totally clear yet. Still, you don’t have to look too hard to find products that already mix caffeine with two key compounds of marijuana, CBD and THC.
Read on to learn more about how caffeine can interact with marijuana and the potential side effects and risks of combining the two.
Research on the interaction between caffeine and marijuana is still in the early stages, but so far, it seems that consuming the two together may produce different effects than using them separately.
Caffeine generally acts as a stimulant, while marijuana can act as either a stimulant or a depressant. In other words, using caffeine tends to energize most people. The effects of marijuana can vary, but many people use it to feel more relaxed.
It may seem possible, then, that caffeine might cancel out the effects of marijuana, or vice versa. For example, maybe smoking a little weed could help counteract coffee jitters. But so far, there’s no evidence to support that the two counteract each other in any way.
While there’s no evidence to suggest that marijuana and caffeine simply cancel each other out, two animal studies suggest that mixing the two may enhance some of marijuana’s effects.
A different ‘high’
A 2014 study looked at squirrel monkeys who had been given THC, the compound in marijuana that produces the high. The monkeys had the option to keep receiving more THC.
Researchers then gave them different doses of MSX-3, which produces effects similar to those of caffeine. When given low doses of MSX-3, the monkeys gave themselves less THC. But at high doses, the monkeys gave themselves more THC.
This suggests that low levels of caffeine may enhance your high so you don’t use as much. But high levels of caffeine could affect your high in the opposite way, leading you to use more marijuana.
More research as needed, as this small study was conducted only on animals, not humans.
Caffeine helps many people feel more alert. You might drink coffee, tea, or energy drinks every morning to help you wake up, or just to help increase your concentration when you feel tired or less focused than usual.
Some people also find caffeine helps improve working memory. Marijuana, on the other hand, is known for its less desirable effect on memory. Again, you’d think the two would balance each other out, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
A 2012 study looking at how a combination of caffeine and THC affected memory in rats. The results suggest that a combination of caffeine and a low dose of THC seemed to impair working memory more than a higher dose of THC would on its own.
Remember, this study was only done using rats, so its unclear how these results translate in humans. Still, it does suggest that caffeine may increase the effects of THC.
So far, there haven’t been any reported cases of extreme risks or side effects of combining caffeine and marijuana. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Plus, people can have varying reactions to both caffeine and marijuana. If you do try mixing the two, make sure you first understand how your body reacts to each one individually. If you’re sensitive to marijuana, for example, combining it with caffeine might result in an unpleasantly strong high.
If you do decide to mix marijauna and caffeine, follow these tips to help you avoid a bad reaction:
- Start small. Start with small amounts of both, less than you would typically consume of each individually.
- Go slow. Give your body plenty of time (at least 30 minutes) to adjust to the combination before having more of either substance.
- Pay attention to usage. It might sound like overkill, but it’s easy to lose track of how much caffeine or marijuana you’ve had, especially when mixing the two.
There are serious side effects that can come from ingesting very high doses of caffeine, from high blood pressure to rapid heart rate. There have also been deaths related to ingesting large amounts of caffeine, though researchers noted that the deceased took caffeine pills or powder, not caffeinated drinks.
Above all, make sure to listen to your body and mind. If you experience unusual symptoms after mixing the two, reach out to a healthcare provider for guidance. You likely aren’t in any great danger, but the combination of caffeine’s heart-racing effects and marijuana’s tendency to cause anxiety in some people can be a recipe for panic.
Caffeine and marijuana are an increasingly popular combo, but there are some potential interactions to be aware of. Learn how to avoid a bad time and stay safe.