Why do we do it?
The relationship between cannabis and tobacco is as long standing in cannabis culture as just about anything else. Leading researcher, Francesca Fibley, Ph. D., estimated in 2015 approximately 70% of individuals who use cannabis also use tobacco. (Either in conjunction with marijuana or separately.) THC and nicotine come together in common cannabis smoking methods such as spliffs or blunts. a spliff is a joint with tobacco in it. A blunt is cannabis flower rolled in a cigar wrap or tobacco leaf. What are the benefits, however? More importantly do they outweigh the well-known risks that tobacco brings? While more in-depth studies are just starting to release new data, there’s plenty known about the immediate effects of both substances.
The Effects of THC and Nicotine Together
Generally speaking, the idea of combining THC and nicotine is driven by getting the most out of your high. The additional rush of endorphins (feel good chemicals) and lightheaded sensation work in tandem with cannabis to deliver a stronger psychoactive and sedative effect in most people. Furthermore, studies have also shown that when THC and nicotine are mixed together in a “spliff”, the vaporization efficiency is increased by 45%. In the study tobacco was shown to increase the amount of THC inhaled per gram of cannabis from 32.70 ± 2.29 mg/g for a 100% cannabis cigarette to 58.90 ± 2.30 mg/g for a 25% cannabis cigarette. While I’m personally not a fan of spliffs in general, those numbers speak.
The health risks for using tobacco and nicotine products are well known and documented. There is much research that needs to be done before we can understand the relationship that all these substances have together in the brain. For instance, there is a direct correlation between the size of the hippocampus and memory performance in non-users of nicotine or cannabis. Now, cannabis has a known shrinking effect on the hippocampus, which unsurprisingly results in poor memory performance for users of cannabis. HOWEVER, nicotine and cannabis users have an inverse affect. Meaning, in tobacco and cannabis users, a smaller hippocampus resulted in better memory function. There was a direct correlation between the number of cigarettes smoked and an increase in memory performance. This is another point that suggests the combination of THC and nicotine deserves a deeper look at the effects when combined.
In summary, while we certainly don’t recommend anyone take up smoking tobacco, those who already do can take solace in this research which shows that it actually may make their cannabis more effective!
Written by: Jason Ardelean
Links to mentioned studies:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4567389/ (Memory Performance) https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08958370802187296?scroll=top&needAccess=true (Spliff Vaporization Efficiency) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150818142415.htm (Center for Brain Health study)
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