If you talk to a cannabis connoisseur, they will most likely have a strong opinion on the mixing of cannabis and caffeine. Many people swear by the combination, citing that it enhances their high and makes them feel incredibly productive. Others, however, will state that the mixture of caffeine and cannabis cancels out the high.
So which is which? Does it help or hinder? The answer is not as straightforward as you might think.
Caffeine and the Endocannabinoid System
If you’re a regular reader of our blogs, you should be well-educated on the body’s endocannabinoid system, or ECS. If you’re not familiar with the ECS, in short, our body has receptors that cannabinoids bind to, producing a number of effects, including pain relief and euphoria.
Other substances react to the body’s ECS, including caffeine. In a 2018 study on how the endocannabinoid system responds to caffeine, researchers found that there were less metabolites (substances created as the body metabolizes food and/or drugs) in the participants’ endocannabinoid systems when they consumed more coffee.
Their findings match a 2014 study that examined the combination of THC and MSX-3—a compound with similar effects to caffeine—in squirrel monkeys. When the monkeys consumed low doses of MSX-3, they wanted less THC. When they had more caffeine, they wanted more THC.
Basically, existing research shows that increased caffeine consumption inhibits the body’s ability to metabolize cannabis, making it harder to feel the effects of cannabis. But, when used in appropriate ratios, can help produce a satisfactory feeling.
Mixing Caffeine and Cannabis
To begin, it’s important to understand two things: first, caffeine is classified as a stimulant, meaning it induces feelings of happiness and makes you more alert; second, marijuana is classified as both a stimulant or depressant, depending on the strain (i.e. indica or sativa). The second point is the important bit to think about when mixing cannabis with your proverbial cup of joe.
The Strain Matters
Many people enjoy the feelings of relaxation they get from using marijuana—it is a great way to fend off anxiety, after all. But others you know may tell stories about how cannabis made them feel more anxious. Usually, this comes down to whether they consumed an indica or sativa strain.
Indica strains are what many people who suffer from anxiety or insomnia reach for. They can be incredibly calming and produce a body high that relaxes the muscles after a long day. Sativas, on the other hand, produce a head high and act as more of a stimulant. People who report feeling more productive and energetic while using marijuana are usually consuming sativa strains.
This is important when considering the reaction between caffeine and cannabis. If you’re using an indica to promote relaxation and calm anxiety, adding caffeine to the mix may negate the calming effects of cannabis. If you want a productive high, sipping on caffeine will enhance the effects of the weed.
The Ratio Also Matters
With the above said, it’s also important to note that the effects of caffeine and cannabis will vary, of course, depending on the ratios of consumption.
You may find that you enjoy mixing an indica strain with a small amount of caffeine. The indica strain will help calm anxiety, and a small amount of caffeine can help alleviate the sleepiness indica strains often produce allowing you to feel more awake and productive. This also applies to mixing the more stimulating sativa with caffeine. Too much of both may cause anxiety to peak, producing a racing heartbeat and an inability to focus.
Experiment with Delivery Methods
Inhalation is one of the fastest ways to feel the effects of marijuana since it enters the bloodstream quickly through the lungs. Ingestion can take longer to take effect since it’s metabolized in the liver. What’s more, when inhaling THC, its effects peak after about 10-15 minutes and disappear around 75 minutes after initial consumption.
Adversely, when cannabis is ingested, it takes nearly six hours to peak in the bloodstream and produces a more prolonged and intense high—this is why ingesting cannabis is recommended for those managing chronic pain.
With this in mind, ingesting cannabis alongside caffeine, since they are both processed by the same enzyme in the liver, will produce a more intense reaction, whether that is a positive or negative interaction depends on, in part, the considerations above.
The Bottom Line
All in all, finding how the combination of caffeine and cannabis affects you may be a matter of trial and error. If you regularly experience anxiety after drinking coffee or caffeinated drinks, it might be unwise to mix it with a sativa strain, but helpful to mix with indica. Listen to your body to figure out the magic mix!
Do note that those with impaired liver function, a history of addiction, or memory impairment should be cautious when using cannabis and coffee alone or mixed as they can worsen condition-related symptoms.