Prescription Drugs, Your Health & Wellness

Your Medications and Marijuana

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With the growing legalization of marijuana, which has been approved for recreational use in 10 states and for medical use in 33 states1, there’s naturally a lot of buzz around the medical benefits. Emerging research suggests it may be a safer substitute for opioids to treat pain. But what about potential drug interactions?

Limited Research

But as research continues into possible benefits of using marijuana for treatment, questions remain about how cannabis might interact with prescribed or over-the-counter (OTC) medications a person may also be taking.

Some states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes, as well as for recreation to varying degrees, however, the federal government has not. The tight federal restrictions create a challenge in researching how marijuana interacts with other products, either OTC or prescribed.

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Interactions With Medications or Lifestyles

Some examples of medication types and common interactions include:

Drug Type Lifestyle Interaction
Tricyclic antidepressants May result in adverse cardiovascular effects, such as tachycardia and cardiac arrhythmias.
Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) Administering nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) concurrently with marijuana may limit some of marijuana’s pharmacologic activities.
Benzodiazepines Using marijuana with benzodiazepines may result in an exaggerated sedative effect.
Amphetamines Using marijuana and amphetamines together may cause adverse cardiovascular effects, such as tachycardia and cardiac arrhythmias.
Beta-blockers Concurrent use may result in decreased beta-blocker efficacy, significantly increased heart rate and cardiac output lasting for 2-3 hours, myocardial infarction and cardiac arrhythmias.

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Synthetic Marijuana (Marinol)

In addition to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) is found in high concentrations in marijuana. CBD does not produce any of the psychoactive responses and appears to block some of the effects of THC by acting as an antagonist at the cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinol is weakly psychoactive and appears to be primarily formed from the metabolism of THC. Another metabolite of THC is thought to contribute to the tachycardia and appetite-stimulating effects of cannabis.2,3

An FDA-approved synthetic form of marijuana uses a chemical compound similar to those found in cannabis. Marinol (drobinol) is approved to help with nausea induced by chemotherapy as well as anorexia caused by AIDS.

The Takeaway

For most patients, cannabis:

  • Is relatively safe
  • Well-tolerated, and;
  • Carries fewer risks of adverse drug interactions than many commonly prescribed drugs.

Given its therapeutic versatility, one of the best arguments for cannabis is that it can actually reduce the need to combine multiple medications, therefore lowering the potential risk of adverse interactions.4

References:

  1. https://www.businessinsider.com/legal-marijuana-states-2018-1
  2. https://health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/articles/2018-03-08/how-does-marijuana-interact-with-medications
  3. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2014/december2014/drug-interactions-with-marijuana
  4. https://www.leafly.com/news/health/cannabis-cannabinoids-drug-interactions

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