There's no denying that coffee and cannabis are both popular. What may be less clear is how coffee and cannabis consumption overlap, but with the rise of infused coffee products, it's safe to say that combining coffee with cannabis is becoming more common.
How coffee affects the endocannabinoid system
A study from 2018 The Journal of Internal Medicine looked at various metabolites - substances created when the body metabolizes food, drugs, and other substances - in the urine of coffee drinkers. Subjects abstained from coffee for a month, consumed four cups a day for the following month, and then consumed eight cups for a month.
The study found that there was a decrease in endocannabinoid system (ECS) metabolites with increased coffee consumption, meaning that the ECS began to metabolize less and less as the study participants increased their coffee intake.
“We can infer from this finding that coffee, and I would speculate more specifically caffeine, can slow down the endocannabinoid system,” says Dr. Shawn Meirovici, ND, Naturopathic Physician and Cannabis Specialist.
'Caffeine stimulates nerve activity... and endocannabinoids inhibit nerve activity. It appears that coffee/caffeine can reduce this inhibitory activity and therefore alter the calming effect of our endocannabinoid system, making it harder for the body to relax,” said Dr. Meirovici.
In other words, according to Dr. Meirovici, the study results suggest that coffee or caffeine can actually prevent the ECS from metabolizing at the rate it normally would, making it more difficult for you to relax.
How interaction between coffee and cannabis takes place in the body
There aren't many studies on how cannabis and coffee interact in the human body, but a 2014 monkey study examines THC and MSX-3, a caffeine-like compound. When they consumed low doses of caffeine, the monkeys wanted less THC; but when they consumed high doses of caffeine, they wanted more THC.
“It is possible that low doses of caffeine may not affect the ECS as much and therefore the monkeys were satisfied with their“ high, ”but at high doses the monkeys may have slowed their endocannabinoid function, requiring more cannabinoids to achieve a satisfactory results of getting "high," said Dr. Meirovici.
According to Dr. Meirovici, the study results suggest that since the squirrel monkeys gave themselves larger doses of THC when they consumed larger doses of caffeine, large doses of caffeine could actually negatively affect the high, leading to the need for more THC.
In terms of memory, a 2012 study in rats examined how a combination of caffeine and THC affected working memory - also called short-term memory - more than when given THC alone.
The rats were given different combinations of THC and caffeine and were then subjected to memory tests to determine if they would respond to light patterns and delays preceded by the release of food pellets. At the end of the study, the rats performed better in memory after consuming caffeine or THC than after consuming caffeine and THC simultaneously.
Are there any immediate risks in mixing coffee & cannabis?
No cases of extreme risks or side effects from combining caffeine and marijuana have been reported so far. But that doesn't mean they don't exist.
In addition, people can have different reactions to both caffeine and marijuana. If you're trying to mix the two, make sure you understand how your body reacts to each one first. For example, if you are sensitive to marijuana, combining it with caffeine can result in an uncomfortably strong high.
If you decide to mix marijauna and caffeine, follow these tips to avoid a bad reaction:
- Start small. Start with small amounts of both, less than you would normally consume each.
- Go slow. Give your body enough time (at least 30 minutes) to adjust to the combination before you even consider taking more of both substances at all.
- Pay attention to the use. It may sound like an exaggeration, but it's easy to lose track of how much caffeine or marijuana you've had, especially when you mix the two together.
Serious side effects can occur if you consume very high doses of caffeine, from high blood pressure to a fast heart rate. There have also been deaths from ingesting large amounts of caffeine, although researchers noted that in such cases, the deceased took caffeine pills or powder, not caffeinated drinks.
Especially listen to your body and mind. If you experience any unusual symptoms after mixing the two, contact a health care provider for advice. You're probably not in great danger, but the combination of caffeine's heart-stimulating effects and marijuana's tendency to cause anxiety in some people could be a recipe for panic.
Intake versus inhalation of cannabis
When inhaled, cannabis quickly enters the bloodstream through the lungs, while ingested cannabis is largely metabolized by the liver.
“THC, also known as Delta-9-THC, enters the bloodstream and peaks after 10 to 15 minutes and is almost completely eliminated after 75 minutes. However, when we eat it as edible, most of the THC is metabolized by the liver and converted into a compound called 11-OH-THC, which is three to seven times more potent than Delta-9-THC, ”said Dr. Meirovici.
He also points out that edibles take nearly six hours to peak in the bloodstream, producing a much longer-lasting and potentially more intense high.
In addition, we know that caffeine is also metabolized by the liver. "It seems there is a lot more potential for interaction (wanted and unwanted) in the consumption of coffee and all edible forms of cannabis," said Dr. Meirovici.
Since both THC and caffeine are metabolized by the same liver enzyme, it is more likely that there will be a combined effect with these two compounds enhancing or reducing each other, said Dr. Meirovici.
A note on the safe consumption of coffee and cannabis
There is still a lot we don't know about the influence of cannabis and coffee on the human body, and of course no two bodies are exactly the same. But if you are healthy and have a good relationship with caffeine and cannabis, there is no reason why you should not enjoy them together. Always remember to 'start slow and go slow'.
Dr. Meirovici advises caution for people with impaired liver function, memory impairment or dementia, and anyone with a history of addiction, as these conditions can be made worse by coffee and cannabis.
Experts are still unsure of the full extent of the interaction between caffeine and marijuana in humans. But the effects are likely to differ from person to person. Your personal reaction and tolerance to each substance can also play a role in how the two interact.
Since existing research suggests that caffeine can enhance a marijuana high, care should be taken when combining caffeine and marijuana - be it coffee and weed or black tea and edible gummies - especially until you know how they affect your system.