Your Favorite Relaxation Habit Might Be Secretly Screwing With Your Meds
Yep, even OTC cold meds.
Considering that Martha Stewart now co-hosts a stoner-friendly TV show with Snoop Dogg (thank you, Potluck Dinner Party), it’s pretty safe to say that smoking weed is no longer a habit you need to hide from your mom. (Or your doctor, for that matter.)
But as medical marijuana (and, let’s be real, casual marijuana) use continues to rise, have you ever considered the fact that your weed pen might actually be screwing with some of the other medications you take? Yep, kind of scary.
“There are literally hundreds of of chemicals in the cannabis plant, including the psychoactive chemicals that give us a traditional marijuana high and chemicals that just happen to be in the plant,” says Timothy Brennan, M.D., director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai West and Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospitals. “All of those, of course, are free to interact with prescription, over-the-counter, or any other medications one might be using.”
In fact, some of the compounds in cannabis can trigger certain enzymes that impact the way your body processes medications, Brennan explains. (This isn’t limited to cannabis; if you’ve ever seen a note to avoid grapefruit on your pill bottles, that’s because grapefruit can have the same effect.)
Related: 5 Women Who Use Pot In Their Everyday Lives Share How They Do It
“The problem is that cannabis is still listed as a Schedule I drug through the Drug Enforcement Agency,” he says, which effectively means that researchers aren’t supposed to study it. “That makes it’s very challenging for physicians and medical scientists to do any research on cannabis.”
So, where does that leave you? If you’re going to use marijuana (prescribed or otherwise) while you’re taking other drugs, “being truthful and open with your physician about your medication use is the most important thing, because you could be setting yourself up for potential marijuana drug interactions,” says Brennan. “It could at least plant the seed in a doctor’s mind that if you are suffering from certain side effects related to your other drugs the doctor can investigate if cannabis might be causing that.”
That said, there are a few types of drugs to watch out for if you’re planning on smoking pot.
Antidepressant Medications, or SSRIs and SNRIs
“The key point here is that cannabis is fundamentally a psychoactive compound,” says Brennan. “People use it because it exerts its action on the brain, on the central nervous system receptors.” But antidepressant medications—the most common of which are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), like Zoloft (or sertraline) or Celexa (or ditalopram), and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), like Cymbalta (or duloxetine)—also exert psychoactive effects on some of the same receptors.
“The challenge for people who have mood disorder or depression is that every time they’re using cannabis, they’re taking another psychoactive drug,” says Brennan. “And that can make it very challenging for a patient or physician to figure out what drug is actually having an effect on what.” Plus, he adds, the cannabis could actually negate the positive effects of prescription medication.
This is what it’s like to suffer from depression:
Anti-Anxiety Medications, or Benzodiazepines
Anti-anxiety medications like Ativan (Lorazepam), Klonopin (Clonazepam), or Xanax (Alprazolam) are all part of a class of medications called benzodiazepines, says Brennan. “Again, you have two psychoactive compounds interacting with each other in the brain,” he says. “If somebody’s really struggling with anxiety, I’d like to know what products are going in their brain so I can better understand how I’m medicating them. But if they’re smoking cannabis at the same time as using Ativan or Klonopin, it’s really hard to figure out what’s going on.”
A lot of people will smoke marijuana and say, “This is the only thing that helps my anxiety!” Other people will say they’re never more paranoid than when they smoke pot. That’s true for prescription drugs, too—people have different reactions to different products. “The challenge with cannabis is there’s no scientific data out there to say it tested against Ativan or Klonopin—the data doesn’t exist,” says Brennan.
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You’re already aware that mixing alcohol with sleeping pills is a bad idea. Same goes for pot. “This depends on how much cannabis someone is using and what effect cannabis has on them, but mixing any product that with the opportunity to sedate someone or alter their consciousness is potentially dangerous,” says Brennan. “When you combine cannabis with a sedative hypnotic like Zolpidem or Ambien, I think people could perhaps find themselves in a very usual psychological state.”
If you’ve been prescribed sleeping medication, whether you use it regularly or just to get through those tough red-eye flights, you’re better off sticking to just the prescription medication for the duration of the dose, versus mixing it with cannabis or any other drugs.
Related: 5 Signs Your Exhaustion Is A Symptom Of A Much Bigger Problem
Allergy and Cold Meds
You might think that allergy and cold medicines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) or Mucinex (guaifenesin) are NBD because you can grab them straight off the drugstore shelves—but if you take them with marijuana, they could have unanticipated effects.
“Benadryl, or allergy and cold meds, are sedative products,” says Brennan. “Some people can take them and go about their day, others take one dose and they’re on the couch for the rest of the day. I think it’s really important for people to remember that cannabis is not a harmless product, and we don’t know how it might interact with even over-the-counter drugs.”
So if you’re sick, stick to just one drug (the cold meds, please) if you want it to work its magic as fast as possible.Smoking pot can mess with cold medicines, anti-depressants, and more. Experts share potential marijuana drug interactions and how to avoid them.
Can You Smoke Weed While on Antibiotics?
Some things don’t mix. With this in mind, it is always important to be aware and cautious of what you’re taking when on any sort of medication, since certain medicines will have a negative or more enhanced reaction when taken with another substance. Case in point: When you’re fighting off a bacterial infection, doctors generally prescribe antibiotics, which come along with some strict rules. But almost never addressed is an important question: can you smoke weed while taking those antibiotics?
High Times decided to ask Terry Roycroft, the president of Canada’s Medicinal Cannabis Resource Centre Inc. (MCRCI), which works with doctors who have a special understanding of the medical applications of cannabis. Roycroft has studied marijuana and its effects for over a decade and is highly passionate about advancing public knowledge of the plant. Thankfully, according to him, taking antibiotics and smoking marijuana may not be as harmful to an individual as one would initially think.
How Harmful Are Interactions?
“There’s a number of drug interactions for numerous everyday things. For example, even with caffeine, there are 82 drug interactions out there and some of them are moderately severe to severe,” Roycroft explains.
According to the UK’s National Health Service, it’s “sensible” to stay away from drinking when taking antibiotics, although only two medications call for completely avoiding alcohol altogether: metronidazole and tinidazole. Even something as harmless as grapefruit can have a negative interaction with antibiotics. This piece of fruit can interfere with the metabolism of a number of medications, including some antibiotics used to treat certain respiratory, stomach and other infections. In fact, Roycroft says that they began using grapefruit as a guide for cannabis.
“The reality is that there [are] very little interactions with cannabis. In fact, the antibiotics are not on the contraindicator list [the list of symptoms or conditions that makes a procedure inadvisable] with cannabis,” Roycroft says.
Any interactions that have been identified are very mild — and, in fact, doctors are currently testing to see if some antibiotics work more favorably mixed with marijuana.
“For instance, when we’re treating someone that’s on pain medication and we introduce cannabis, we will cut their [antibiotic] dose in half immediately and they get the same benefits as they would, and the same reactions as if they were taking the full amount.”
Although there may be very mild interactions, effects may still be felt by those who mix the two. According to Jessie Gill, a medical nurse who specializes in medical marijuana, using some macrolide antibiotics, such as troleandomycin, could potentially interact with marijuana.
“Marijuana inhibits a specific enzyme in the liver, cytochrome p450. This enzyme is used by many medications – including some antibiotics,” Gill wrote on Quora.
“What this means is that the effect of the medications will be increased. That also means you’d be at a higher risk of experiencing side effects and adverse reactions from the antibiotics.”
What About Taking CBD?
Interestingly, studies have shown that CBD may, in fact, actually have antibiotic properties. Newsweek reports that Australian scientists have discovered that cannabidiol killed numerous strains of bacteria, including some that have been notoriously resistant to traditional antibiotics. But so far, it still seems like CBD has a long way to go, in terms of replacing antibiotics altogether.
“We still don’t know how it works, and it may have a unique mechanism of action given it works against bacteria that have become resistant to other antibiotics, but we still don’t know how,” Mark Blaskovich, senior research chemist at the Centre for Superbug Solutions, told Newsweek.
“So far, we have only shown it works topically, on the skin surface. To be really useful, it would be good if we could show that it treated systemic infections e.g. pneumonia, or complicated tissue infections, where you have to give it orally or by intravenous dosing. A very preliminary study didn’t show that it works in these more difficult models.”
So, Should You Consume Cannabis on Antibiotics?
All in all, Roycroft says there’s really no issue with mixing cannabis and antibiotics. You may just experience increased side effects of the medication.
“At the Medicinal Cannabis Resource Centre Inc., we have patients on antibiotics and we would not tell them to stop their cannabis use,” Roycroft says.
As for other doctors, they will sometimes use grapefruit as a guide for cannabis. If there is a contraindication with grapefruit, then you may not want to mix cannabis with the medication.
If it is still an issue you’re concerned about, ask your doctor what they recommend — after all, there’s nothing wrong with receiving additional medical advice from a professional.We know we're not supposed to drink alcohol while taking antibiotics. But what about consuming cannabis? Here's what the experts say. ]]>