How Do Cannabis & Caffeine Interact?
Published on 7/30/21
Ask any college student about their experience mixing uppers and downers and you will likely get plenty of interesting stories. While half a dozen Jager bombs rarely make for a good night, the mixture of a stimulant like caffeine with a depressant like cannabis can create a unique, pleasant experience for many fans. Fans of waking and baking may often follow up their morning toke with a cup of coffee or tea: after all, a whopping 85% of Americans have at least one caffeinated beverage each day. How do cannabis and caffeine affect your body and brain?
Cannabis, Caffeine & You
Cannabis use and caffeine use can have very different effects on the body. Not many people would do better at their job if they smoked a joint prior to work instead of having a cup of joe, since cannabis typically produces a lethargic state while caffeine helps to focus attention and motivation. Caffeine wakes you up while cannabis may be perfect for a good night's sleep; cannabis helps you relax while caffeine makes you sharper and more focused. What's more, the long-term use of cannabis and caffeine have different outcomes: cannabis use may affect psychoactive conditions like schizophrenia, while caffeine use has been suggested to reduce symptoms of conditions like dementia. Cannabis famously increases appetite while caffeine can deaden it.
The two substances do have some overlap in terms of their effects: both caffeine and THC can increase heart rate and both can create a sense of paranoia in high quantities. What's more, both caffeine and THC create tolerances that build up over time in heavy users. Most people probably remember the first time they drank a cup of coffee and felt like they could conquer the world, just like they probably remember the first time they took a puff of cannabis and spent an hour laughing at nothing. Careful usage will prevent such tolerances from building up in the first place, while overuse of either caffeine or cannabis to achieve a desired high may ultimately lead to substance abuse issues.
You may think that because marijuana and caffeine have such different impacts on our bodies that their effects might cancel each other out. That doesn't seem to be the case, however.
As with so many other aspects of cannabis research, there is a scarcity of information due to its federal status as an illegal substance. Yet we know that mixing caffeine and THC together can have consequences on body and mind. One of the most famous pieces of research was a preclinical study, meaning it was not in humans at all but in mice. Mice who had taken caffeine had better short-term memory, while those who had taken THC had worse short-term memory (surely no surprise to fans of either substance). The researchers found that mice who had had both small quantities of THC and caffeine performed even more poorly on short-term memory tasks than those with THC alone; mice who had caffeine with large quantities of THC saw no improvement in their cognitive abilities.
Since mice are not people, drinking coffee while high may demonstrate different outcomes for the average user than researchers concluded. Squirrel monkeys are closer relatives, however, and a 2014 study investigated these monkeys when they were given the chance to dose themselves with THC. The study found that monkeys dosed with both THC and MSX-3 (a compound similar to caffeine) wanted less THC at low doses of MSX-3, compared to a desire for more doses of THC when the stimulant compound was at higher doses. This suggests that mixing a stimulant like coffee and weed together in small doses might make a person feel the effects of cannabis more acutely, meaning they had less of a desire to get more high. However, perhaps higher doses of cannabis and caffeine in conjunction create a feeling like the two are canceled out:
The Final Say
Coffee and weed: is it safe to smoke weed and drink coffee? The answer to that question is an easy yes: both coffee and marijuana are safe at low doses and have no interactive effects that either one alone would not induce. That said, it remains unsafe to drive or operate machinery while high, just like it is unsafe to drive if you drank several cups of coffee and can't keep your hands on the steering wheel. As with all pleasures in life, too much of a good thing may be more than you can physically or mentally handle in one go. If you can go slow and watch your intake, however, the two substances can make for an enjoyable, lazy Saturday morning when you want nothing more than to spark a joint on your deck while drinking a good cup of joe. Spark up, drink down, make sure you have some good munchies on hand, and enjoy the buzz created by marijuana and coffee.
What has your experience with marijuana and caffeine? Do you enjoy the two together or do they make you particularly forgetful? Let us know in the comments below how these two affected you!