There are many ways to start a day, with a good ol’ wake and bake being one of the best. For those who need a hit of caffeine to get the day started, however, the prospect of combining a toke of green with a cup of the black stuff can be a little worrying. After all, cannabis and coffee are famously contrasting in their effects, yet research has revealed some surprising synergies.
How Coffee And Cannabis Complement Each Other
Cannabis and coffee interact with different neurotransmitter systems to generate their various effects, with a fair degree of crossover. Most notably, both caffeine and THC stimulate dopamine release in the brain, resulting in pleasurable feelings.
Therefore, mixing coffee with cannabis can be likened to double-dipping when it comes to dopamine, resulting in a greater hit of the feel-good hormone than either ingredient would be able to produce on its own. Studies on rats have highlighted this effect, with significantly higher levels of dopamine identified in the brains of those dosed with coffee and THC in combination[i].
However, while a little extra dopamine may enhance one’s mood, too much of this neurotransmitter can lead to anxiety and even paranoia, so if you’re planning on mixing cannabis and coffee for the first time, then it’s probably wise to go easy, to begin with, and only increase your dose once you’re familiar and comfortable with the effects.
There’s also some evidence that coffee may exacerbate the memory deficits associated with cannabis. In one study on rats, tiny doses of THC combined with caffeine inhibited working memory to the same degree as large doses of THC without caffeine.
All of these provide another reason to proceed with caution when mixing weed with coffee[ii].
How Coffee And Weed Work Against Each Other
An interesting study on regular coffee drinkers found that cannabinoid signalling in the brain decreases when large amounts of caffeine are ingested[iii]. This effect increased with each additional cup of coffee and was most pronounced after eight cups, implying that your high may be severely diminished if you smoke a joint while caning a load of espressos. It’s worth noting that the participants in this study didn’t actually mix coffee with cannabis. Yet, the results do still provide some rationale to suggest that large amounts of one may weaken the effects of the other.
This finding is strengthened by a separate study on THC-addicted squirrel monkeys, who tended to self-administer less of the cannabinoid when treated with small amounts of caffeine but ingested more THC when dosed with large amounts of caffeine. This behaviour would imply that low quantities of coffee enhance the effects of cannabis, thus reducing the amount of THC needed to feel high. In contrast, large quantities dampen the impact of weed and result in a desire for more THC[iv].
Overall, it’s clear that there is a need for much more research on the consequences of mixing cannabis and coffee. Studies on humans are particularly necessary.
So, can you mix coffee and cannabis?
From the existing data, it seems that the effects of this combination are greatly influenced by the amount of caffeine ingested. That is why it’s advisable to start off with a small amount of coffee and take things from there. That being said, with all things cannabis, it’s on you to know your tolerance.
It goes without saying, mixing a strong brew with a sticky indica may seem a bit counter-productive. If you’re looking for a strain with energy, stick to sativa-dominant strains.
[i] 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/
[ii] Panlilio LV, Ferré S, Yasar S, Thorndike EB, Schindler CW, Goldberg SR. Combined effects of THC and caffeine on working memory in rats. British journal of pharmacology. 2012 Apr;165(8):2529-38. – https://bpspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01554.x
[iii] Cornelis, M.C. (2018) Metabolomic response to coffee consumption: application to a three‐stage clinical trial. Journal of Internal Medicine, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/joim.12737
[iv] Justinová Z, Redhi GH, Goldberg SR, Ferré S. Differential effects of presynaptic versus postsynaptic adenosine A2A receptor blockade on Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) self-administration in squirrel monkeys. Journal of Neuroscience. 2014 May 7;34(19):6480-4. – https://www.jneurosci.org/content/34/19/6480