Cannabis Concerns: Marijuana, Prescription Medicine and Other Risks

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Shanti Ryle - Content Writer

Aug 15 2020 - 3 min read

If you are considering using medical cannabis but you are already taking medication, this article is for you. Below, we explore what you need to know about how cannabis may interact with prescription drugs and some common concerns people may have. Remember, don’t believe everything you hear or you’ve seen in movies – cannabis has undergone decades of misinformation and government propaganda. Much of this can be traced back to the “Reefer Madness” era of the 1930s and the Nixon administration’s “War on Drugs.”

Thankfully in the last few years, attitudes are beginning to change, and the perception of marijuana is becoming more holistic, returning to its natural roots. As part of this shift, people are calling out for more information on cannabis than ever. In this article, we’ll answer questions around cannabis’ effects on medical conditions and prescription drugs.

How does cannabis interact with medication?

The way cannabis interacts with medication will depend on the medicine. The main interactions observed are with some types of opioids, although there are other, more moderate interactions with some over-the-counter medications. Benzodiazepines are another drug class with which cannabis may interfere. Cannabidiol (CBD) in particular seems to interact with the processing of many drugs, as it desensitizes liver enzymes and makes drugs’ effects last much longer. However, some people have used cannabis in order to stop or reduce their intake of antidepressants, painkillers, amphetamine-based ADHD medications, and other potentially addictive pharmaceuticals.

Unfortunately, little information currently exists showing whether cannabis will negatively react with life-saving medications such as, for example, anti-rejection pills for organs. However, due to the effect cannabinoids have on downregulating the immune system, it is theoretically possible that cannabinoids may lessen the need for anti-rejection medicine. So far, there isn’t any evidence for such an interaction. Still, we can only truly determine this by lifting archaic legal restrictions and allowing scientists to research cannabis properly.

What about cannabis and mental health?

While the advantages of cannabis for physical conditions are more defined, mental health is an area that is still under deeper investigation. However, we already see the positive results of cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabis compound that has shown significant benefits for mental health.

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In studies, CBD has shown neuroprotective and neurogenic effects, making it appealing for patients seeking relief from inflammation, pain, anxiety, psychosis, seizures and other conditions without getting that ‘stoned’ feeling some patients would rather avoid.

There is a lot of conflicting information surrounding cannabis and mental health issues. High tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) strains may not be the right choice for people struggling with mental health but as everyone is different: it is hard to say definitively. Some strains may increase anxiety, where others may beat it. Those who have a history of mental health problems (especially psychosis) – whether familial or otherwise – might want to avoid cannabis. For depression and anxiety, though, cannabis may prove to be helpful where antidepressants and anxiolytic medications don’t work. Remember, you can talk about this with your doctor during your consultation with Leafwell.

Is there a link between cannabis and strokes and heart attacks?

This area is hugely conflicted, and as such more research is needed to provide certain answers. Here is what we know so far. Some studies have shown that cannabis may be beneficial for stroke victims by acting as a neuroprotectant. Others state that cannabis can decrease hypertension and therefore the risk of a heart attack. However, for every positive study, there is another suggesting the opposite.

Is there a link between cannabis and addiction?

Cannabis isn’t “addictive” in the same way alcohol or opiates are (i.e., physically addictive, when going cold turkey may endanger a person’s life). The ECS (endocannabinoid system) tends to start making endocannabinoids soon after use stops, meaning there are rarely any major withdrawal symptoms. Most people who use cannabis – even heavy users – tend to find cannabis relatively simple to quit.

There is such a thing as “Cannabis Dependence Disorder” or “Cannabis Use Disorder,” where people carry on using cannabis despite the negative impact it has on their lives. This affliction affects approximately 9% of cannabis users – a far greater margin of safety than many legal medications.

Those who are worried about their cannabis intake ought to ask themselves why. Is your tolerance increasing rapidly? Is cannabis not having the medical effects you are seeking anymore? Is use interfering with your life in any way? Some of these issues can be solved by switching strains, whereas others can be helped by healthy diet, exercise and simply keeping occupied.

If we are to treat cannabis as a medicine, we must also realize that it has negatives as well as positives – just like any medicine. Some people may be allergic, others may find that using cannabis affects their other medications (even if it doesn’t do so for others), and some people may just plain not like cannabis or find it effective. However, we will not know the answer to these questions until we freely allow research.

Written by
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Shanti Ryle

Shanti Ryle is a content marketer with more than half a decades’ experience writing about cannabis science and culture. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Weedmaps News/Marijuana.com, Wall Street Journal, and other publications.

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