Whether or not you’re fan of combining cannabis and caffeine, you may be wondering exactly how these chemicals interact. You’d be right to wonder, since effects of the pair can be all over the map. For some, it’s a pleasing, tasty way to kick things up a notch, while others find it makes them far too jittery for a good time. In this scientific take, we’re talking about what’s really going on with caffeine and cannabis.
For the crowd who feels an elevated experience from the combination of caffeine and cannabis, science backs you up. Low levels of caffeine can actually amplify the effects of THC. Plus, there’s something to be said for the terpene pairing, which can enhance the flavors of your favorite latte or tea. But too much caffeine has a hindering effect on cannabis, because it interferes with your body’s ability to properly metabolize cannabinoids.
For the waking/baking/brewing crowd, it’s a sort of give and take experience. Caffeine delivers its signature energy boost, while the CBD in your favorite strain offers a mellow balancing effect. And there’s room for creativity, too. By adjusting amounts of one or the other, you can enjoy the energy burst/mellow focus or the reverse scenario.
But what’s really going on? Much of it has to do with dopamine, a hormone released in response to both caffeine and THC. When you enjoy them together, you’re doubling the dopamine—and you may even be prolonging its effect. Of course, there’s a catch. Dopamine isn’t one of those euphoria hormones, though it can have that effect. It can trigger intense emotions on both sides of the spectrum, which means, yes, feelings of anxiety, agitation, even paranoia. Caffeine and THC also accelerate heart rate, which can dovetail into anxiety. That’s also why those at risks of stroke or heart arrhythmia should avoid this particular pairing.
Another potential catch is that this double-dopamine thing may have a long-term impact on your body’s responsiveness to THC. One study found that the more coffee people drank, the less cannabis their bodies effectively metabolized. Something to keep in mind!
None of this is to definitively say that cannabis and caffeine shouldn’t be mixed. Like most things in the world of cannabis, it’s simply best to start slowly and assess effects so you strike the right balance.