What’s the first thing you think of when you wake up in the mornings? Is it that first cup of coffee to get you going or is it a quick toke to get you rolling?
Like many would be able to relate, many opt for the ‘Wake and Bake’ scenario, which includes the two C’s: Coffee & Cannabis. Usually done almost simultaneously, one would wake up with a sip of coffee before a pull of a jointer rip of a bong. Cannabis consumers do this to both wake up and level the mind and body before a tough day gets going. However, should this be a standard morning routine?
Looking at Context & Science
Looking at how cannabis and coffee work on the brain, there isn’t a single straightforward answer as to whether combining the two is a healthy mix. The wake and bake can be both good and bad.
Caffeine and various cannabinoids, particularly THC, have quite the opposite effect on the body as well as mental states. Low doses of caffeine are most likely not going to affect CBD, but it may diminish properties such as the anti-inflammatory effects and sedation.
In opposition to this, a high intake of caffeine can intensify memory impairment because of interactions within the brain at the adenosine receptors where brain signalling, or transmission, occurs.
Seeing as caffeine is a stimulant that is weakly inhibited by cannabinoids, you would expect caffeine to overpower the effects of the cannabinoids. However, The interaction between these two substances isn’t that straightforward.
Caffeine activates the sympathetic nervous system, naturally linked to our bodies stress response systems. THC on the other hand, helps many manage the effects of stress. Combining the two thus confuses the brain with opposing signals from the two different substances.
Consuming stimulants like caffeine and nicotine can have a large impact on sleep – affecting the amount you receive and the quality of that sleep. These can cause sleep disturbances and dysregulated sleep rhythms.
According to Project CBD, caffeine also “amplifies memory impairment caused by THC. And this effect may be specific to short-term memory,”. They continue to say that “In cases where cannabis is used to ease trauma, caffeine drinkers may end up benefiting by combining the herb or its components with a cup of Joe. But this might not be the case with a stressed employee who drinks coffee to get through the day. A few preliminary studies have shown that drinking coffee occasionally or frequently had the same effect: both amplified THC’s ability to temporarily weaken memory.”
In contrast, mild or lower doses of THC offer mild sedative effects that appear as a decrease in sleep onset, or entering sleep earlier, and an earlier onset of REM sleep. In addition, THC has been observed to increase total sleep time and slow wave sleep.
In higher doses, THC can have a hallucinatory effect in a dream state as well as cause a decrease in REM sleep. Again we see earlier onset of sleep and an increase in total sleep time as well.
Similarly to caffeine, lower doses of THC have the potential to excite memory functioning and productivity. Meanwhile, high doses of caffeine and THC slow down and even inhibit neural synapses and neurotransmission in the hippocampus and frontal cortex – which are locations where our main memory centres are located.
Caffeine and cannabis have their own addictive properties in addition to memory impairment. In fact, cannabis abstinence has shown fewer withdrawal symptoms than refraining from caffeine. So what does this mean for the wake and bake?
Examining Context & Perception
Jacob Levine reminds us in his Cannabis Discourse that the world is at peace with the use and abuse of legal and regulated substances such as coffee, pharmaceuticals, sugar and coffee.
So the problem, rather, exists in the context of cannabis consumption.
“We need to rethink our perception of drugs and substances in general. We humans have always used drugs and will use drugs well into the foreseeable future, whether for medical, recreational, or spiritual purposes. The main issue we have with drugs is not the drugs in and of themselves, but the context of their uses.”
Our preconceived thoughts and ideas on drugs and how they’re used, whether they were shaped by society, culture or family, are skewed. We must make an individual shift in opinion, then we can start shifting collective perceptions of drug consumption in order to open a discussion.
Let’s consider some examples put forward by Levine:
- Having a 10mg edible before going to sleep every night is not the same as smoking weed every day and neglecting one’s children.
- Getting drunk at a wedding and having a blast without causing harm to oneself or others is not the same as getting drunk on a Tuesday morning and driving to work drunk.
- Getting morphine at a hospital as an analgesic for one’s broken bones is not the same as recreationally shooting up morphine with dirty needles.
“If we try to look outside the scope of our preconceived ideas about drugs’ physiological and societal effects, and instead scrutinize the context of where and how drugs can be used, we can begin to have a rational discussion which exists outside of the infamous binary split of whether we should or should not use drugs.”
A dramatic shift is required when it comes to perceptions of cannabis consumption, and a greater understanding of the impact context has on perception is needed. Individuals need to think for themselves in order to help the process of normalising and de-stigmatising cannabis consumption – as well as educate themselves first rather than accept the opinions of others.
After taking this all in, you might want to reconsider your wake and bake and try to understand more as to what the impact of these on your body and mind may be when used in conjunction.