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  • Writer's pictureKyle Holt

Cannabis and Caffeine; What’s the Beef with the Beans?

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

Wake and bake. Coffee and a bowl. All over the world, smokers, tokers, and coffee drinkers are starting off their day with this classic combo. But what’s the connection?

Cannabis and caffeine - in the form of tea and coffee - are two of the world’s most widely used social drugs. So, it’s no surprise that they’re one of the world’s most popular pairings. But the connection goes a little deeper than that. In fact, it goes really deep: all the way down to the molecular level.

Cannabis and Caffeine, The Science

Like cannabis, the effects of caffeine on the molecular level in the body are pretty complex. We do know that caffeine interacts with adenosine receptors in our central nervous systems, stimulating a number of systems in our bodies and releasing neurotransmitters like acetylcholine, endowing it with its stimulating effects.

While cannabis research, on the whole, is booming these days, there still aren’t a whole lot of great studies on the relationship between cannabis and caffeine in humans. With limited research funds and licensing issues to contend with, scientists just have more important priorities than figuring out exactly why your morning coffee tastes so good with a joint.

Nonetheless, some animal studies provide some interesting points to consider, like this one from 2012, in which researchers trained squirrel monkeys to self-administer THC. When the monkeys were given a low dose of a compound mimicking the effects of caffeine, researchers noted a decrease in the monkeys’ THC consumption.

On the other hand, when the dose of the caffeine-like compound was tripled, the monkeys used a lot more THC. They think that the difference comes down to the area of the brain most affected by different dose ranges.

It’s complicated but, in short, lower doses may cause an increased effect in an area of the brain which leads THC to produce more pleasurable effects. On the other hand, higher doses are believed to more strongly affect a different area of the brain and cause the opposite effect. So, monkeys who were given high doses consumed more and more THC to experience the same pleasurable effect.

The findings even led to more research in which scientists recommended further studies into compounds that work in the same way as caffeine to help people struggling to kick cannabis. Speaking of further studies, science has turned up a few other interesting tidbits about cannabis and caffeine.

Caffeinated Mice Can’t Get Enough THC

In this case, researchers found that long-term caffeine exposure increased mice’s sensitivity to “CB1 receptor stimulation”. In short, their cannabinoid receptors became more sensitive to THC.

So it seems that consuming a little caffeine alongside your cannabis just might make your high all the more enjoyable - at least if you’re a spider monkey or a mouse. On the other hand, if you’re a heavy coffee drinker, caffeine might actually decrease the pleasurable effects of cannabis.

The truth is that we can’t be certain if the effects observed in animals translate perfectly to humans. But the scientists’ findings will certainly ring true for the millions of people enjoying a cup of their favorite brew alongside their morning joint. More coffee always leads us to consume more cannabis, but is it because we need more to experience the effects, or because the combination is pleasurable?

How does mixing cannabis and caffeine affect you? Let us know in the comments below.

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