Article written by
Dipak HemrajHead of Research and Education
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Effexor (venlafaxine) and cannabis can potentially produce an unwanted reaction if you use them together.
Using the two together may increase adverse effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, difficulty concentrating, impaired thinking, judgment, and motor coordination.
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What Is Effexor?
Effexor is the brand name for the drug venlafaxine.
Venlafaxine is an antidepressant medication of the serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) class. There is an extended-release version of Effexor called “Effexor XR.” Other brand names for venlafaxine include Vensir, Vencarm, and Venlablue.
Uses and How It Works
Effexor is an antidepressant used to treat major depressive disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and occasionally chronic pain.
We do not know precisely how antidepressants like venlafaxine work on depressive symptoms. From our understanding, venlafaxine acts on both serotonergic and adrenergic systems.
As such, venlafaxine is also used to reduce episodes of cataplexy, a form of muscle weakness, in patients with the sleep disorder narcolepsy.
SNRIs like Effexor work by blocking the transporter “reuptake” proteins for key neurotransmitters affecting mood, thereby leaving more active neurotransmitters in the synapse.
In Effexor’s case, the affected neurotransmitters are serotonin and norepinephrine. In high doses, Effexor weakly inhibits the reuptake of dopamine. Venlafaxine also indirectly affects opioid receptors and the alpha 2-adrenergic receptor, which is why it may help manage chronic pain.
Potential Benefits and Risks of Mixing Cannabis and Effexor
Although there may be some potential adverse interactions between cannabis and Effexor, some people may use medical marijuana to reduce or replace the intake of antidepressant prescription drugs.
- Cannabis contains a plethora of stress-busting, antidepressant, and anti-anxiety compounds that could help reduce the need for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and SNRIs, including cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
- Medical cannabis may help mitigate some side effects of antidepressant intake, including loss of appetite, insomnia, and headaches. Suddenly stopping venlafaxine may cause antidepressant withdrawal syndrome, which includes flu-like symptoms, nausea, and anxiety. Medical cannabis may help manage these symptoms as well.
- More severe side effects of venlafaxine include an increased risk of suicide, mania, and serotonin syndrome. Cannabis on its own has far fewer severe side effects, comparatively speaking.
- Combining Effexor and cannabis may increase the chance of facing negative side effects, including nausea, sedation, dizziness, loss of balance, and fatigue.
- Gradual dose reduction of Effexor is required to prevent antidepressant discontinuation syndrome and the chance of relapse.
- Those with heart disease and/or hypertension should be particularly careful with combining cannabis and venlafaxine, as it could increase heart rate to undesirable levels.
What to Do If You Need to Use Both Effexor and Marijuana
Those who need to use both Effexor and medical marijuana may need to reduce their Effexor intake slowly over time.
This is to reduce the chances of negative side effects, whether minor or severe. It is best to do this under medical supervision, so speak to a doctor before trying to quit cold turkey yourself.
The Bottom Line
It’s wise to reduce antidepressant intake of any class — whether SSRIs, SNRIs, tricyclic antidepressants, or monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) — when using medical cannabis.
Many people may feel few — if any — side effects if mixing cannabis with SNRIs like Effexor. Still, many others may suffer more side effects if combining prescription medication with marijuana use. Not everyone will react the same, so it is always best to consult your doctor and develop a proper intake reduction program before tapering antidepressants.
Learn how cannabis can potentially help improve your depression symptoms by visiting a licensed healthcare provider on our HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform to get approved for a medical marijuana card.