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.
Why Coffee Could Be the Opposite of Cannabis
What does coffee have to do with cannabis? According to a new study, your morning joe causes a drop in the levels of certain substances that are linked to the body’s system for responding to marijuana.
The levels of these substances — metabolites found in what’s known as the endocannabinoid system — decrease in people who drink between four and eight cups of coffee a day, according to the study, published today (March 15) in the Journal of Internal Medicine. Endocannabinoids are molecules that bind to cannabinoid receptors, which are found all over the nervous system, as well as in immune and endocrine tissue. The body makes its own endocannabinoids, but it also responds to foreign cannabinoids, like the ones found in the leaves of plants of the Cannabis genus.
Coffee suppresses the endocannabinoid chemicals that smoking marijuana boosts, said Marilyn Cornelis, an assistant professor of preventative medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, who led the new research. [25 Odd Facts About Marijuana]
That would suggest that coffee might generate the opposite effects as cannabis on the endocannabinoid system, Cornelis told Live Science.
Your blood on coffee
The research didn’t look at the sensations or behaviors that coffee produces compared to cannabis, only at the rise and fall of chemicals in the blood after coffee consumption. Endocannabinoids were just one set of the chemicals — or metabolites — that changed, the researchers found. All told, coffee altered 115 different metabolites in the blood. Thirty-four of those metabolites don’t even have names or known roles in the body. The other 82 known metabolites play roles in 33 different biological processes.
Cornelis and her team focused on five of these specific biological processes where numerous metabolites seemed to cluster. Two of the processes were expected: One was xanthine metabolism — a set of processes that includes caffeine metabolism, which made sense, because the body naturally has to metabolize the caffeine in coffee once it is consumed. The other pathway, benzoate metabolism, in involved in breaking down other compounds in coffee called polyphenols. The compounds are broken down by microbes that live in the gut, Cornelis said. The gut microbiome is under increased scrutiny for its role in health, so the finding is intriguing, she said.
But the real surprises were three other metabolic processes never before linked with coffee. Endocannabinoids were clustered in one of those processes.
“What we’re seeing here is that the systems that are impacted by coffee and cannabis overlap,” Cornelis said. That could mean that drinking coffee with marijuana in your system could create interacting effects, she said, though the nature of those interactions isn’t yet clear. Typically, she said, the same endocannabinoids that declined with coffee also decrease when the body is under stress. It’s possible that the amount of coffee that participants were drinking (four to eight cups a day) caused stress, which led to a drop of endocannabinoid levels as some kind of protective measure.
Cornelis and her team also found that coffee consumption increased the concentration of steroid metabolites in the blood, possibly because coffee contains plant steroids called phytosterols. In particular, the metabolites that increased are linked to steroid excretion, Cornelis said, so it’s possible that coffee could boost steroid breakdown in the body. (Greater steroid breakdown would lead to greater steroid excretion.)
What this finding means for human health remains a mystery. Some steroid processes have links to certain cancers, Cornelis said, and the link between coffee itself and cancer is fuzzy, so the steroid finding could provide a new place to look to understand whether coffee consumption affects the likelihood of a person developing cancer.
The final grouping of metabolites changed by coffee consumption consisted of fatty acid acylcholines, which may be linked with the endocannabinoid pathway, Cornelis said. But the changes there are the most mysterious of all.
“That’s a novel set of metabolites that we don’t really know how to explain,” she said.
Coffee and health
That the study raised more questions than answers is no surprise: Cornelis went into the research hunting for new links between coffee and health. Plenty of research has associated coffee drinking with health effects, she said — so much so that Coffee Is Good For You/Coffee Is Bad For You headlines are almost a cliche. [10 Things You Need to Know About Coffee]
But those are just statistical associations, Cornelis said. “The goal of my research is to understand the causal reasons that link coffee to those outcomes.”
The current study is based on a years-old clinical trial conducted in Finland, where 47 coffee drinkers were asked to abstain from the brew for one month, then drink four cups a day for a month, then escalate to eight cups a day for the final month of the study. All participants drank the same medium-roast arabica blend, which is also the most popular type of coffee in the United States, Cornelis said. Cornelis and her team used the blood of these participants to test 733 metabolites.
The same people were also tested for changes in their levels of lipids and proteins, which is what Cornelis is studying next. She also hopes to use other data from large, population-based studies that included data on coffee consumption to see if the same metabolites change in broader populations.
“It would be interesting to see if there were some genetic differences in the response to coffee as well,” she said.
Coffee acts on the same system in the body as marijuana does.