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We still lack much research on the interaction between caffeine and cannabis, but what we know so far suggests that consuming the two together may produce a different experience than using them individually. It may be possible that when taken simultaneously, the chill of smoking some marijuana may soothe the jitters of caffeine. But so far, there’s no solid evidence to support a counteraction.
That said, mixing caffeine pills with cannabis may have different effects than mixing cannabis with tea or coffee, which are also botanical preparations containing a complex array of compounds.
L-theanine, for example, is found in tea and can have calming effects that counteract the effects of caffeine to some extent. L-theanine may also reduce some negative impacts of THC on memory and cognitive function. Coffee, meanwhile, contains trigonelline, a compound with neuroprotective, anti-migraine, antimicrobial, and anti-tumor properties. Cannabis also has trigonelline, and concurrent use with coffee may enhance some of these properties.
What Is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant commonly used as a cognitive enhancer in populations across the globe. According to a 2014 study, about 85% of the U.S. population drinks at least one caffeinated beverage daily, such as coffee, energy drinks, and Guayana tea. And drinks aren’t caffeine’s only delivery method: chocolate, supplements, and even some flavoring plants can contain amounts of caffeine.
How Caffeine Affects the Body
Caffeine stimulates the human body’s central nervous system and makes people feel more alert and awake. It works by binding to receptors and preventing adenosine uptake, the chemical responsible for making you feel tired and want to sleep as it builds throughout the day.
Caffeine can also increase adrenaline levels in the blood and boost dopamine and norepinephrine activity, making you feel alert, focused, and happy. It hits the system quickly, with one cup of coffee able to take effect in as little as 20 minutes.
Regular consumption of caffeine can have beneficial long-term effects on concentration and memory. Research also shows links between chronic caffeine use and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. Some of these neuroprotective effects may also come from chlorogenic acid, which is found in tea and coffee and has neuroprotective and antioxidative properties.
Too much caffeine, however, can have a range of side effects, including:
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure (only in the short term)
- Nausea or heartburn
- Lack of sleep
Potential Benefits and Risks of Mixing Cannabis and Caffeine
Overall, little research covers the potential benefits of marijuana’s effects when combined with caffeine. Some evidence suggests that mixing the substances may have significant effects because of how adenosine and the endocannabinoid system interact.
It’s possible that caffeine may improve the cognitive impairment caused by the THC in cannabis, resulting in better focus while still enjoying the other medicinal benefits of consuming marijuana.
The dose of CBD in a cannabis product can impact the depressive or stimulant abilities of different strains (cultivars). Therefore cannabis may or may not increase or reduce the stimulant effects of caffeine.
One study on animals in 2011 researched how monkeys behave around accessing cannabis when given a small (one milligram) dose of caffeine. They found that though the monkeys had unrestricted access to marijuana, those with caffeine were less likely to consume the cannabis.
Another 2017 study discovered that caffeine and cannabis similarly increase dopamine levels in the brain, albeit via different mechanisms. The authors proposed that when taken together, cannabis and caffeine could produce an increased sense of euphoria and happiness.
CBD may also remove shakiness after consuming large high doses of caffeine. A 2020 animal study found that mice fed with caffeine experienced reduced locomotor sensitivity and moved more slowly when given CBD.
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An older study found that while THC worsens memory and caffeine enhances short-term memory, mixing the two in low doses caused the same memory deficits induced by high levels of THC.
Also, both caffeine and marijuana are known to increase heart rate, which could aggravate people with underlying heart disease or issues with arrhythmia.
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The Bottom Line
Science still doesn’t understand the full extent of how caffeine and marijuana interact in the body. The effects are most likely highly individualized, and your personal experience and tolerance to each substance will inform how they interact.
We have the same limited amount of insight into the risks of combining cannabis and caffeine as we do its benefits, so if you’re not sure, you may want to proceed with caution until you know how it affects your system.
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