There are plenty of people out there who will tell you marijuana is a drug that offers no positive benefit for humans. Fortunately, that’s not what we’re here to discuss. There aren’t nearly as many people who consider caffeine a drug, although it is by all official counts. Regardless of the potential benefits these products offer, marijuana and caffeine are drugs. Both substances can alter different parts of your brain to produce other effects and results.
That also leads to some concern about whether using these two substances together poses any real danger. It’s easy to forget that the caffeine in your morning cup of joe is a rather powerful substance. Mixing THC compounds and caffeine from coffee could lead to unwanted side effects that you may not be expecting.
Studies show up to 85% of adults consume coffee or caffeinated beverages daily. In 2019, the Canadian Cannabis Survey found roughly 20% of Canadians admitted to using cannabis regularly. That means there’s a good chance quite a few people are combining these two substances and possibly putting themselves at risk.
How Does Caffeine Affect the Brain?
Many people have started consuming caffeine during their teen years, if not earlier. Caffeine is a psychoactive compound that can impact your mood, emotions, and behavior. If you use too much of it or combine it with other substances, including THC from cannabis, you may experience heightened versions of those effects. Caffeine is a naturally occurring alkaloid found in coffee beans and tea leaves. It’s also added to many beverages, including sodas and foods such as chocolate.
Caffeine is a stimulant that has a direct impact on your central nervous system once consumed. It works by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain. When you block those receptors, people can experience excitability, nervousness, and hyperactivity.
It also helps the brain feel more alert and awake. Caffeine also directly impacts the neurotransmitter dopamine, also known as the brain’s reward zone or pleasure center. Researchers believe that’s the same part of the brain that THC affects when you ingest it in some way. But, a double boost of dopamine isn’t always a good thing.
Excessive caffeine use can cause irritability, anxiety, and sleep problems over time. That’s why, even if we easily forget that caffeine is a drug, we should limit how much we consume.
How Does THC Affect the Brain?
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive compound in cannabis plants. Aside from knowing that it can produce the feeling of being “high,” there isn’t much else we know for sure about the THC compound.
One of the most significant concerns surrounding THC is the lack of research into how it alters the brain. Research studies find that marijuana, and specifically THC, interact with the same pleasure center as caffeine. That’s where the concern comes in over mixing these two substances. When you ingest THC through smoking, vaping, or THC-infused edibles, it stimulates the dopamine receptors. That can cause feelings of happiness and euphoria, commonly referred to as the marijuana “high.” Some people who use THC say using cannabis helps them feel relaxed and calm, but others may feel paranoid or anxious. Those effects depend on which THC product you consume and how much THC you take at one time.
Some products, such as cannabis concentrates, are much more potent than cannabis flowers. Cannabis concentrates include products such as wax, budder, shatter, live resin, and kief. If marijuana flowers have a high THC concentration, that typically means it’s about 25%-30% concentrated. Some cannabis concentrates can have THC concentrations as high as 80% or more. If you enjoy dabbing cannabis concentrates, it’s best to leave the coffee and caffeine out of the equation.
Is Mixing Caffeine and THC Safe?
The short answer to whether it’s safe to mix caffeine and THC is not really. There simply isn’t enough research to give a definitive answer to whether THC on its own is safe for long-term use. When substances such as THC compounds and caffeine combine, people experience all types of reactions. The majority of cannabis research focuses on the dangers of the cannabinoids in cannabis plants and not the potential benefits they may provide. If you consume coffee or caffeine through other means and use cannabis regularly, you may want to step it back a bit. If you notice you’re starting to experience some of the symptoms mentioned above, you want to take a break from both substances.
Each person’s side effects may differ based on their weight, genetic makeup, tolerance level, and many other factors. If you’re sensitive to caffeine and THC already, combining these two substances will probably lead to intense effects. If you can down a pot of coffee and fall right asleep, you may be less sensitive to the effects of these substances. It’s still a good idea to take it easy on the caffeine and THC combo because there isn’t enough data to show whether this mix is safe or dangerous.
Scientists believe using caffeine and THC together can lead to overconsumption of at least one of those substances. As caffeine blocks specific receptors, THC works to unblock those same areas of the brain. Studies find that you may need more THC to feel the effects you typically experience with cannabis if you use caffeine at the same time. There is also growing concern about caffeine’s addictive properties and how those can increase when using other substances simultaneously. Until we see more research and more data, the safe option is to avoid this combination.
It’s easy to forget about the power of caffeine. This substance is commonplace and readily available, and many of us consume it without thinking twice. Make sure you pay attention to your own body anytime you consume caffeine, THC, or any other substance. If you feel jittery, irritable, or notice you’re starting to forget things often, it’s best to stop using caffeine and marijuana in order to give your brain a break.