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Strattera and Weed: Can You Mix the Two?

white/blue capsules (strattera) and weed chunk

Strattera (atomoxetine) is one of the medications used to treat some of the nearly eight million U.S. adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some with ADHD use cannabis, leading many to wonder if mixing ADHD medication with marijuana is safe.

Researchers haven’t extensively investigated how mixing Strattera and cannabis could affect the body. No research indicates that Strattera and weed are unsafe together. Additionally, surveys show some people who use weed and Strattera report improved symptom relief.

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What Is Strattera?

Strattera is a non-stimulant ADHD medication that belongs to a group of drugs called SNRIs, or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. SNRIs are effective medications for treating depression and anxiety. Strattera is also an ADHD treatment because it’s shown to help improve focus, reduce impulsive behaviors, increase energy, and improve short-term memory.

Drugs like Strattera affect neurotransmitters to balance brain chemistry by blocking the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine from returning to the nerve cells that released them. This process increases the number of active neurotransmitters in the brain.

Uses and How It Works

SNRIs were developed to improve depression and anxiety symptoms. Still, they’re effective for ADHD because they target the same neurotransmitters that affected individuals are often deficient in, including serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.

Serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine primarily exist in four distinct brain regions: the frontal cortex, the limbic system, the basal ganglia, and the reticular activating system.

Serotonin is critical because this neurotransmitter impacts sleep, mood, and appetite regulation. Norepinephrine plays a role in mental focus, memory, and attention. Dopamine is responsible for pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation. Deficiencies in these regions can cause impulsivity and emotional regulation difficulties, as well as memory, focus, and motor deficits.

Strattera’s ability to boost these neurotransmitters directly impacts all significant symptoms associated with ADHD.

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Potential Benefits and Risks of Mixing Cannabis and Strattera

Clinical research focusing specifically on Strattera and cannabis is limited. The available studies mainly examine how and if Strattera can decrease ADHD symptoms in chronic marijuana users. Surveys also anecdotally support cannabis use for symptom reduction.

For example, a 2010 study revealed that Strattera significantly decreased symptoms of ADHD for a small sample of 19 adult men who were also heavy cannabis users, compared to the placebo group. The results suggested that Strattera effectively resolved ADHD symptoms like hyperactivity and impulsivity. But these benefits did not inspire marijuana users to reduce their intake.

Potential Benefits

A self-reported survey published by the Journal of Attention Disorders found individuals with ADHD may be using cannabis to treat symptoms associated with the disorder. Some also reported using cannabis to treat ADHD prescription medication side effects. The results indicated people with ADHD may benefit from cannabis use for a broad set of reasons.

Potential Risks

A study analyzing whether atomoxetine could reduce marijuana dependence found that ADHD  medication reduced subjects’ cannabis use. Notably, the study also found that 10 of 13 subjects experienced gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and loose stools. These results indicate further research is needed to determine if mixing atomoxetine and weed causes gut health issues.

Why Mixing Cannabis with Strattera Can Help You Feel Better

There is limited research examining the effects of Strattera in conjunction with cannabis.

However, patients in the self-reported study reported that mixing cannabis with Strattera helped mitigate symptoms of executive dysfunction. Executive dysfunction is a primary symptom of ADHD that causes difficulties in working memory, inhibition control, and establishing goal-oriented behaviors.

Additionally, a 2016 qualitative study analyzing 401 online posts found that ADHD patients commonly utilize marijuana to mitigate symptoms with support from their doctors. This PloS One analysis found that a quarter of the posts suggest cannabis use improved ADHD conditions, compared to 8% implying cannabis made ADHD worse. Most posts indicated cannabis helped enhance attention and reduce hyperactivity.

The Bottom Line

There is no clinical evidence to suggest that combining Strattera with cannabis harms health. Benefits of using cannabis alongside Strattera include the potential to alleviate executive dysfunction symptoms, hyperactivity, and lack of focus. Potential risks include mild to moderate gastrointestinal agitations.

Overall, individuals with ADHD suffer from deficiencies in brain chemistry alleviated by SNRIs that target specific neurotransmitters. These drugs are non-habit forming, non-stimulant medications that help people with ADHD lead daily, functional lifestyles. Simultaneously, people with ADHD commonly use cannabis to resolve specific symptoms of ADHD, including anxiety, restlessness, mood issues, and lack of focus.

To be safe, patients should speak with their doctors before mixing weed with atomoxetine treatment. Additionally, ADHD patients should educate themselves about which marijuana cultivars and chemotypes (cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids) may work best for their symptoms.

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