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Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
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Scientists haven’t extensively researched mixing ibuprofen and weed. However, there’s no evidence indicating these drugs are unsafe to combine when dosed properly. Additionally, preliminary animal research indicates anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen could actually mitigate marijuana’s adverse effects on memory and cognition. Cannabis’s anti-inflammatory effects may also help reduce the need for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen in some instances.
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What Is Ibuprofen?
Ibuprofen is a commonly-used medication sold under many brand names, including Motrin, Advil, and Midol. It belongs to a class of drugs known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
In general, NSAIDs work by reducing inflammation and pain. Ibuprofen specifically works by inhibiting the body’s production of certain inflammatory enzymes known as cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2).
Uses and How It Works
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory effects, ibuprofen can help with a variety of everyday aches and pains, including:
- Muscle aches
- Soreness from dental procedures
- Menstrual cramps
- Pain following an injury
- Inflammatory conditions such as tendinitis and bursitis
If you have a medical condition that causes chronic pain and want to try ibuprofen to treat it, work with your doctor to determine a safe, ongoing treatment regimen. Stick with the recommended dose on the label unless your doctor advises otherwise.
Potential Benefits and Risks of Mixing Cannabis and Ibuprofen
Scientists have extensively studied drug interactions between prescription medications and cannabis. However, researchers haven’t focused on over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen.
Currently, there is no evidence that marijuana and ibuprofen have any harmful effects when combined. Ibuprofen is so widely used in the United States that anecdotal evidence would likely have surfaced if people experienced adverse effects from smoking and taking Advil.
Many people find medical marijuana helpful for inflammatory pain relief. But cannabis can also cause headaches, especially during THC withdrawal. In cases like this, an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen might come in handy.
Researchers have also discovered other possible benefits from combining ibuprofen and marijuana in humans. Animal studies on mixing NSAIDs and weed found modest evidence that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (including ibuprofen) could offset marijuana’s adverse effects on memory and cognition by inhibiting the inflammatory enzyme COX-2.
Interestingly, cannabidiol (CBD) also inhibits inflammatory enzymes COX-1 and COX-2, and unlike ibuprofen does not have the number of potential adverse effects that ibuprofen has (e.g., gastrointestinal discomfort and damage when taken in high doses). This suggests that medical cannabis may be used to reduce the need for ibuprofen.
Ibuprofen is on shelves at every pharmacy and corner grocery, so it’s easy to assume the drug is perfectly safe. But ibuprofen can cause serious health risks without warning.
While healthy individuals rarely experience adverse side effects from ibuprofen, processing the drug can put a strain on enzymes in the liver and kidneys. As such, taking too much over a long period can be damaging. Experts say you should never take ibuprofen for more than three days in a row without consulting your doctor. Exceeding the recommended dosage of ibuprofen can cause:
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Stomach ulcers
- Kidney damage
- Increased risk of heart attack or stroke
As far as combining marijuana with ibuprofen, no clinical studies on humans have been done. However, the journal Drug Metabolism and Disposition recently published a new study on how marijuana affects metabolizing enzymes in the liver and kidneys.
Researchers found that marijuana blocks these enzymes, making it harder for them to break down drugs like ibuprofen. This study tested the effect on lab-grown kidney cells. Hence, scientists need to conduct human trials to determine the extent of the impact,
Still, it’s possible that marijuana use could make medications like ibuprofen stay in your system longer. A slower digestive process could increase your chance of accidentally taking too much.
What to Do If You Need to Use Both Ibuprofen and Marijuana
The research on interactions between cannabis and OTC pain relievers like ibuprofen is limited. Preclinical research indicates ibuprofen could mitigate cannabis-related cognitive impairment. Some people may also use cannabis and cannabinoids like THC and CBD to reduce intake of NSAIDs like ibuprofen.
Still, other evidence suggests cannabis slows down the action of liver and kidney enzymes in the body. Because these enzymes are involved in flushing out medications, marijuana might make ibuprofen stay in the bloodstream longer, increasing the chances of certain health complications.
Research is still developing, so you may want to talk to your doctor before combining ibuprofen with marijuana. To minimize the possibility of side effects, always follow the dosage directions on the label.
The Bottom Line
Ibuprofen and cannabis can be effective at treating pain. Additionally, there’s no strong evidence that they are unsafe to combine. The most serious risks come from high doses of ibuprofen, which can cause kidney and liver damage.
While ibuprofen is not a prescription drug, it’s best to speak with a healthcare professional first if you need to use ibuprofen and weed for ongoing pain relief. Cannabis practitioners can help you decide on a pain relief regimen that includes cannabis and ibuprofen.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Does weed help with pain?
Can I take ibuprofen if I smoke?
Whether you consume cannabis by vaping, smoking, or in edible form, there is no data to indicate that combining it with anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen is unsafe. Preclinical research even indicates ibuprofen can mitigate weed’s cognitive impairments. Some may use cannabis to reduce their intake of ibuprofen.
Can you smoke weed after taking paracetamol?
Paracetamol (also known as acetaminophen) is another OTC painkiller that blocks the production of certain pain-related chemicals in the body.
No research suggests that smoking marijuana after taking paracetamol is a safety concern. However, researchers are still studying whether THC affects the metabolism of common medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen. To be safe, follow the dosage directions on your OTC pain reliever, and don’t take more than the recommended amount.