marijuana vs caffeine

Your Brain on Coffee, Wine, and Cannabis

A funny, but realistic, look at the mental effects of 3 of the world’s most talked about substances.

What You’re like on Coffee, Wine, and Cannabis

  • A coffee drinker will explain the profundity of getting things done.
  • A wine drinker will enthuse about the importance of health and longevity.
  • A cannabis user will extol the benefits of feeling happy on a regular basis.

Caffeine in coffee has a chemical structure very similar to a chemical in our brain called adenosine, which is what makes us sleepy. So, when we drink coffee, the caffeine binds to the adenosine (think of it like puzzle pieces fitting together) making it resist binding with the receptors in our brain. We feel awake! The more coffee we drink, however, the more adenosine our body builds up to normalize.
Half Life: about 6 hours

Alcohol in wine is a chemical that stimulates a part of your brain often referred to as the “primitive brain” (aka hypothalamus). This part of your brain controls our “simple” functions like hunger, body temperature, fear, mothering (in women), and the need for sex. So, if you suddenly find yourself starved, sweaty and fearlessly wanting physical attention… well, this might be why. Of course, if we drink too much, alcohol is poisonous and our bodies will shut down in order to metabolize it.
Half Life: 1 hour (for 1 drink)


THC in cannabis is a chemical that has an effect on all chemical messages (neurotransmitters) sent around in your brain. In short, it slows down your brain’s messaging system which has several effects. One of the benefits is that it leaves your reward and motivation system (the nuccleus accumbens) on, so you will feel euphoric and positive. On the other hand, we can become paranoid or overeat because THC slows our ability to give good information to the the fear/hunger center in our brain (hypothalamus).
Half life: 36 hours

What I Have Got In My Glass?

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Were you hoping to get something done?


Time for a roller-coaster ride!

“We all need something to help us unwind at the end of the day. You might have a glass of wine, or a joint, or a big delicious blob of heroin to silence your silly brainbox of its witterings but there has to be some form of punctuation, or life just seems utterly relentless.”


Did you look over your shoulder once while looking at this? Chances are you just drank some coffee.


Time to get an Uber.


This article was created under the influence of wine. So was this entire website, for that matter.

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  • Don’t take our word for it, do your own research. Here are the primary sources we used to create this article.
  • Your brain on caffeine. cnet
  • Science of marijuana. scholastic
  • Legalize it. psychology today
  • medical marijuana and the mind
  • Caffeine, mental health, and psychiatric disorders. pub med
  • Caffeine diet and memory. harvard health
  • Alcohol, the full story. harvard health
  • Can moderate drinking promote longevity. harvard health

About Madeline Puckette

James Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly

A funny, but realistic, look at the mental effects of 3 of the world's most talked about substances. Alcohol, Caffeine and THC face off.