Mixing Marijuana With Prescriptions Is Still Uncharted Territory
By Roger Malespin
One of the lesser known problems caused by the federal restrictions on marijuana is the limitations it puts on scientific research. There are studies on the short and long term effects of marijuana use, as well as its effect on people when driving or operating machinery, but there is much less data on how marijuana interacts with prescription and over the counter medications. With the growing number of states legalizing marijuana and the epidemic of prescription drug abuse in America today, it’s highly important that Bloomin community understand the current scientific landscape when it comes to marijuana use and its effects on other medications.
Marijuana use is well known to alleviate pain, and doctors are known to prescribe it where it is legal, and even recommend it where it is not for that purpose. However, doctors seem to avoid mixing it with other medications. Dr. Greg Carter, clinical professor of biomedical sciences at Washington State University, is one of the leading minds on medical uses of marijuana in the country, and says “There is not a lot of research in that area. “I think for any other drug that is potentially sedating or has some of the same effects as cannabis, it can enhance those effects. That’s not necessarily a drug-drug interaction in the way physicians think of it, but it can enhance the central nervous system depressing effect of other medications. So if a patient comes to me and they’re on something like Valium, I would try to get them off of Valium if I was going to recommend cannabis.”
Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed psychotropic group of drugs in the country, and are used as antidepressants, alone or in combination with others. There is potential danger in mixing any of these with marijuana use because of inadequate research. Studies show that a large number of people on antidepressants also smoke marijuana, so there is serious concern about exacerbating the already serious mental health problems we have.
Smoking marijuana is also known to speed up metabolism, which in turn can lessen the effects of antidepressants like Cymbalta or duloxetine. It is possible that mixing these can also have long term effects, requiring patients to need higher or more frequent doses than they normally would have. Again, these are all concerns and possibilities at this point, but doctors always recommend erring on the side of caution.
Instead, Dr. Carter aims to get more patients off of opioids by replacing it with marijuana. “Cannabis can help relieve pain. It can also relax muscles, help with sleep, improve appetite, reduce inflammation," he says. "So it does a lot of things that opioids don’t do. Plus, it’s safer. You cannot overdose on cannabis.”
Cannabis legalization is something that would be great for society, but it must also be coupled with responsibility. Until there is better scientific data on combining the two, it is highly recommended that anyone on prescription antidepressants consult their doctor on the potential risks before using cannabis.