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Tens of millions of people light up a cigarette as they sip their morning coffee. But what happens if they light up a doobie with their morning joe? Or if you use coffee infused with marijuana?

As marijuana becomes legal in more and more places, innovative marketers are finding more and more ways to add it to food and drink. One of this year's new pot products is coffee laced with marijuana extracts, or various forms of "marijuana oil" that may or may not be made the same way as other forms of marijuana oil.

What can users expect when they buy products at the marijuana dispensary that enable them rev up with caffeine and calm down with THC at the same time?

"Two drugs taken at the same time can always cause problems",

says Dr. Scott Krakower, assistant Chief of Psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in New Hyde Park, New York. Dr. Krakower comes to the issue of combining caffeine and marijuana's best known active ingredients tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) from the perspective of someone who treats schizophrenic teenagers in crisis. When Dr. Krakower sees teens who are already on stimulants, including drugs like methamphetamine and Ritalin, the medications he prescribes for the symptoms of schizophrenia don't act predictably. The recipients of the medications for serious psychiatric issues tend to go more out of control, not less.

And even when a non-schizophrenic person uses caffeine and marijuana at the same time, there can also be unpredictable effects. Why should this be?

All forms of pot are not created equal. And different usage forms of pot cause different reactions.

  • THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the marijuana chemical with which most of us are familiar. It's the chemical that makes you "high." There isn't actually any THC in "raw" marijuana. In the plant, even in the bud, there's only a precursor chemical called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid. This chemical is not psychoactive at all. However, when it is heated, cooked, or vaporized, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is transformed into tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. The longer you perk your coffee, or the hotter the water you use to make your caffeinated coffee-flavored liquid marijuana shot, the more potent its THC will be.
  • CBD, or cannabidiol, is a marijuana chemical that plays an important role in the sensations you get when you use any form of pot, but it's a chemical that's not as widely discussed (although that's changing rapidly). CBD doesn't have to be activated by heat, but it's not psychoactive in small doses. CBD acts as a kind of natural antidote to THC. If you get too much THC, you don't mellow out. You tend to get paranoid and anxious. You can have racing heart and queasy stomach. CBD counteracts these side effects of THC.
  • Different strains of marijuana provide different amounts of THC and CBD.
Caffeine increases the side effects of THC. If caffeine gives you jitters, consuming a high-THC liquid marijuana shot or high-THC marijuana edibles will make the problem even worse.

On the other hand, high-CBD pot products will allow you to enjoy both a gentle boost from caffeine and a calming effect from your marijuana-infused coffee. 

Continue reading after recommendations

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  • Vandrey R, Raber JC, Raber ME, Douglass B, Miller C, Bonn-Miller MO. Cannabinoid Dose and Label Accuracy in Edible Medical Cannabis Products. JAMA. 2015 Jun 23-30
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