Why do some people mix weed with tobacco?
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In Europe, Australia, and many other parts of the world, mixing cannabis and weed in a joint or pipe is extremely common. But what's behind this surprisingly common trend? Does mixing the two have the potential to produce any unique effects?
We all have that one friend who rolls a joint with both cannabis and tobacco (also known as a “spliff” in some countries). While it might come as a surprise to many of our US readers, the act of mixing tobacco and weed is actually quite common in Europe, Australia, and other parts of the world.
The reason people choose to mix cannabis and tobacco vary greatly, but most people do so for the unique effects it produces. Most users who mix cannabis and tobacco report experiencing a mellow, relaxing and more controllable high than if they were to smoke pure cannabis.
Others, on the other hand, report contrary effects, arguing that mixing cannabis and tobacco produces more energetic effects and a slight “head rush.” Some users also report feeling really intense euphoria, which is probable, seeing as both cannabis and tobacco produce euphoria.
Other users mix cannabis and tobacco for more practical reasons. For example, many people find that adding a little touch of tobacco helps them achieve an even, stronger burn in a joint or blunt.
This makes sense, seeing that slightly moist weed can be difficult to burn evenly. Similarly, some users find a bowl containing both weed and cannabis burns more evenly and produces deeper, stronger hits.
User might also be tempted to mix cannabis and tobacco to use less weed at a time. Either way, it’s important to recognize that each and every cannabis user has his/her preferences about how they use the substance and why they choose to do it that way.
There is no particularly right or wrong way to go about using cannabis, unless you’re using it medicinally or for health reasons, in which case you should stay away from traditional smoking methods altogether and opt for a vaporizer or tincture.
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF MIXING WEED AND TOBACCO?
There is little scientific research into the topic of mixing cannabis and tobacco, and hence there is little real evidence documenting the different effects of mixing the two substances. One thing is clear though; the effects of cannabis and tobacco are altered when mixed rather than used in isolation.
Cannabis interacts with our body’s endocannabinoid system, which basically consist of a bunch of receptors (mainly CB1 and CB2) spread around our body and brain. Nicotine works similarly, interacting with nicotinic receptors found in the central and peripheral nervous systems of humans.
Both CB1/2 and nicotinic receptors are found in particularly high concentration in the hippocampus and amygdala, two parts of the brain which play important roles in memory, decision making, emotional response, addiction, and more.
One study showed that mixing cannabis and tobacco actually increase the THC content in a joint. The 2009 study, published in Inhalation Toxicology, captured and analyzed smoke from both a pure cannabis joint and a “spliff” containing only 25% cannabis.
The THC levels in the pure cannabis joint clocked in at roughly 32.70 milligrams per gram. In the spliff, however, these numbers jumped up to 58.90 milligrams per gram, leading researchers to conclude that tobacco seemed to increase the vaporization efficiency of THC by as much as 45%.
This contradicts the argument by some users that mixing cannabis and tobacco produces a more mellow and manageable “high.” If anything, this research shows that consuming cannabis and weed together should produce stronger effects, if anything. What this highlights is that we obviously need to conduct more clinical research into how cannabis and tobacco interact with our body, especially when consumed together.
So far, we only have evidence that the systems that are responsible for how our body processes antagonists found in tobacco, cannabis, and other substances are interlinked. For example, a study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology in 2007 showed that prolonged exposure to nicotine produced long-lasting effects on CB1 receptors, increasing the number of receptors in the hippocampus while simultaneously decreasing the number of receptors in other regions.
Again, this doesn’t allow us to form any real conclusions about the effects of mixing cannabis and tobacco. Until more research is conducted, we’ll likely have to rely on anecdotal evidence from users. Users who consume cannabis and tobacco together report these general effects:
- Increased euphoria.
- Increased relaxation.
- Increased adrenaline and a slight head rush.
- A generally stronger, more potent “high,” or a noticeably more mellow “high.”
- Increased energy and less risk of “couch lock.”
THE RISKS OF SMOKING WEED WITH TOBACCO
One of the major concerns surrounding the practice of mixing cannabis and weed surrounds the health risks associated with smoking tobacco. We all know that smoking tobacco is bad for you; countless studies have investigated the health risks associated with it and the results are well documented.
So smoking tobacco isn't healthy, but smoking cannabis isn't really that healthy either. It is important to realize that smoking, be it tobacco, cannabis, or some funky herbal mix from a headshop, involves combustion.
This combustion breaks chemical bonds in the organic compounds found in plants and transforms them into “free radicals” which can combine with each other or with other molecules to produce a wide variety of products, most of which are extremely toxic. This chemical forms in the smoke from a burnt product, and inhaling that smoke directly exposes you to these substances.
This is why vaporizers are so popular, as they allow you to heat cannabis (or any other dried herb, for that matter) to a temperature that still extracts the main compounds from the plant without actually combusting it. In fact, the vapor produced by a vaporizer has been shown to contain about 95% cannabinoids, where a joint only contained about 25%.
So, if you’re truly worried about the health effects of smoking, don’t waste your time lecturing someone who enjoys sprinkling a nice layer of tobacco on their weed about the benefits of smoking “pure.” Instead, buy a vaporizer.
- ^ NCBI, Cannabis smoke condensate II: influence of tobacco on tetrahydrocannabinol levels., retrieved November-19-2018
- ^ Science Direct, Subchronic nicotine exposure in adolescence induces long-term effects on hippocampal and striatal cannabinoid-CB1 and mu-opioid receptors in rats, retrieved November-19-2018