There are millions of people all over the world who consume cannabis and tobacco simultaneously. This practice is popular especially among Europeans, but the studies examining the impact of mixing these substances on the brain simultaneously is greatly lacking.
Researchers at the Center of Brain Health in Dallas, Texas discovered that the use of cannabis and nicotine on separate occasions have a different effect on the brain compared to when these two substances are taken at the same time. Most of the research we have today regarding cannabis and tobacco’s impacts on the brain are studies that focus on exclusive use on separate occasions– not simultaneous. The studies say that consumption of cannabis and tobacco on separate occasions leads to shrinkage in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory. As a result, you are impairing your memory gradually over time.
This new study shows that there’s a surprising effect when you mix cannabis and tobacco simultaneously. The findings were published in Behavioral Brain Research, and it sheds new light on how this practice affects our brains.
“Approximately 70% of individuals who use marijuana also use tobacco. Our findings exemplify why the effects of marijuana on the brain may not generalize to the vast majority of the marijuana using population, because most studies do not account for tobacco use. This study is one of the first to tease apart the unique effects of each substance on the brain as well as their combined effects,” says Francesca Filbey, lead researcher and director of cognitive neuroscience of addictive behaviors at the Center of BrainHealth.
Filbey and her team conducted tests by scanning the brains of people who were divided into four test groups: people who smoke pot only, tobacco only, pot and tobacco together, and nonsmokers. The objective was to analyze how the neuro-connectivity activity of each group compared to one another. They found that people who used cannabis and tobacco alone suffered from decreased neuro-connectivity compared to people who didn’t smoke either substance. But what was interesting was that they found that the people who smoke both pot and tobacco at the same time had much higher neuro-connectivity, which means that it helps improve learning and memory function in the brain.
What Older Studies Say
A study conducted by the University College London found similar results – but they found that while mixing cannabis and tobacco could be good for the brain, it isn’t good for the heart.
The findings debunked what most people believe, which is that the presence of tobacco may enhance the high from cannabis. And since many people still believe that cannabis use leads to worse memory function, they believe that using tobacco with cannabis may actually offset this side effect. Although we need more research to explain these effects thoroughly, the fact that the scientists found that using both at the same time could increase heart rate and blood pressure may worth noting, especially for individuals who already have existing heart problems.
“There is a clear public health implication here, suggesting that smoking tobacco with cannabis does not improve the stoned feeling but is still worse for physical pain health,” says Val Curran, one of the co-authors of the study.
The researchers want people to know that even if there was some evidence that nicotine could help improve memory, mixing it with tobacco may offset the problem but it should not be used as a solution for people who want to improve their memory. Besides, neither nicotine nor tobacco have benefits for your health. In fact, this practice may have more detrimental impacts on the health than its actual benefits.
“Cannabis is less addictive than tobacco, but we show here that mixing tobacco with cannabis lowers the motivation to quit using these drugs,” says Chandni Hindocha, lead author of the study.
Although tobacco consumption is declining as awareness of its health risks continue to become more widespread, we still have much more to learn about how this practice affects people. There may be benefits as well as risks that we know nothing about. Doing so may also help people develop significant breakthroughs that may save lives in the future.