It’s true that coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages. So popular that 64% of Americans have at least one cup of joe a day—and we can’t prove this, but we’re willing to bet that a number of coffee lovers enjoy a little weed along with it.
Reason being, coffee is known to provide a burst of energy that can leave many consumers jittery with an uncomfortable crash. Combine it with cannabis and, theoretically, it evens out those buzzed feelings and softens the crash for a smooth ride. However, this is all just anectdotal evidence from stoners who swear by this combination so how do we separate fact from fiction?
Well, that’s where we come in. If you’ve ever wondered, “how do coffee and cannabis interact?’, you’re in the right place.
How Coffee Affects the Endocannabinoid System
As you may know, each of our bodies has what’s known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that impacts many important functions like our immune system, mood, pain, appetite, and more. And both coffee and cannabis have been shown to interact with this system to produce a certain range of results.
Ingesting cannabis, for example, may be able to bust stress, reduce pain, or encourage sleep based on how it interacts with the ECS. So to understand how coffee and cannabis affect each other, let’s take a closer look at coffee may impact the ECS.
A 2018 study in the Journal of Internal Medicine examined different metabolites (substances created when the body metabolizes food, drugs, and other substances) in the urine of coffee drinkers. Then, subjects did not drink coffee for an entire month, followed by consuming four cups daily the next month, and then consumed eight cups daily for one month after that—a lot of coffee, we know.
That being said, the study seemed to conclude that there was a reduction in metabolites of the ECS with increased coffee consumption, illustrating that the ECS began metabolizing less and less as study participants upped their coffee intake.
In simpler terms, the study results seem to suggest that coffee (or caffeine in general) may actually prevent the ECS from metabolizing at the rate it normally would, making it harder for you to chill out—hence, the jittery or “on edge” feeling you might get from one too many cups of coffee. This feeling is usually the opposite of what people expect to experience after consuming cannabis so we’re beginning to notice a purely circumstantial connection.
Ingesting vs. Inhaling Cannabis
Another thing to keep in mind is that how you choose to consume cannabis may also play a role in how coffee interacts with cannabis.
When cannabis is inhaled, it quickly enters the bloodstream through the lungs, with peak effects felt in about 10 to 15 minutes. Because it metabolizes so rapidly, the effects also disappear quicker, usually around the 75-minute mark.
On the other hand, ingested cannabis is mostly metabolized by the liver and therefore takes longer to kick in but also a much more drawn-out high. Some say that their high can last into the next day after consuming a powerful edible.
While either option will likely get the job done, both THC and caffeine are metabolized by the same liver enzyme so there is potentially a higher chance to experience combined effects with these two compounds when you ingest cannabis—either intensifying or diminishing certain effects.
A Quick Look at How Coffee and Cannabis May Interact
Although there is very little research to either support or disprove how weed and coffee interact with each other, let’s take a quick look at what a handful of studies do have to say about this magical combo.
Caffeine may increase weed-linked memory loss.
It might seem logical to try and mix cannabis with caffeine to counteract THC effects like memory loss since coffee may make you more alert, but one study says otherwise.
Published in 2012 in the British Journal of Pharmacology, this study found that combining coffee and weed can potentially worsen memory problems. Though researchers focused on brain chemistry in rats, they speculated that the memory loss associated with weed might be particularly harmful when young people (whose brains are still forming) drink coffee and light up at the same time.
Low Levels of Caffeine May Prolong Your High
In a 2011 study conducted on monkeys, scientists gave subjects a small amount (about 1 mg) of caffeine and unlimited access to cannabis. Yes, it’s true—small monkeys were self-administering cannabis via a lever whenever they wanted.
However, researchers began to notice that when the monkeys were given the low amount of caffeine they were less likely go for the weed. This led them to believe that perhaps just a little bit of coffee can make a small amount of weed go a longer way.
Lots of Caffeine May Counteract The Effects of Weed
A 2014 study in squirrel monkeys published in the Journal of Neuroscience, may illustrate that combining coffee and weed can actually bring down your high.
In this study, the monkeys were given THC, then a hit of a caffeine-like substance. When they received low doses of the caffeine substitute, the monkeys reached for less cannabis. Conversely, with high doses, they wanted more THC. Thus potentially showing that while a small amount of caffeine may increase your buzz, several cups of coffee may actually block your high.
Weed and Coffee Both Offer a Euphoric Boost
A recent study found that both caffeine and cannabis increase levels of dopamine, aka the happiness hormone in the brain. Individually, both weed and coffee give you a sense of euphoria, but the study concluded that the effects magnify when you combine the drink and some green at the same time. The reason being, both chemicals increase dopamine levels, but through different mechanisms. Thus, the combined effect is potentially a newfound level of bliss.
The Final Word
While more research is needed for any conclusive evidence linking cannabis and coffee (especially in humans), it seems that one mantra may stand true: Moderation is key. Until you know exactly how each substance affects your body, it’s best to take things easy instead of guzzling down eight cold brews in one sitting alongside a few bong rips.