Mixing Marijuana and Antidepressants: What You Need to Know
You don’t need a study to recognize that mood elevation is one of the prime reasons people consume marijuana. It is, after all, called “getting high.” Still, studies do exist, such as one in the journal Depression and Anxiety that notes that easing anxiety is among the top five symptoms for which people in North America use medical marijuana.
When a blue mood persists or anxiety is chronic, however, many people choose to take an antidepressant medication, such as fluoxetine (Prozac), citalopram (Celexa), or sertraline (Zoloft). According to the American Psychological Association , nearly 8% of people between the ages of 20 and 39 have taken prescription antidepressants in any given month.
If you’re already among this population, or you’re considering trying a prescription antidepressant and you’re a regular cannabis user, you’ll probably want to know how these meds and weeds interact. Do they enhance each other? Undermine the benefits? Are there any dangers to continuing weed use while you’re on an antidepressant?
Daniele Piomelli, Ph.D. , director of the University of California , Irvine, Center for the Study of Cannabis , said, “Truth be told, there is precious little work done” on this topic.
“There have been a few trials that looked at CBD or THC for anxiety and depression going back to the 1980s,” he said. “In general, the results have been positive, showing that cannabis has some effectiveness in countering mood disorders.” But, he added, the number of study participants was so small — just 25 in one case — “that it’s impossible to draw any medical conclusions.”
What we do know, he said, is that our built-in endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays an important role in mood regulation, including stress disorders and major depression. An endocannabinoid called anandamide, which has been dubbed “the bliss molecule,” is especially vital to our body’s ability to cope with stress in a healthy manner.
A study that Piomelli led in 2015 demonstrated that anandamide heightens motivation and happiness. Now, he’s looking at whether an anandamide deficiency might be linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Synergies for Weed and Antidepressants
This research raises the prospect of synergy between marijuana and antidepressants. Could a few hits of your favorite strain along with 10 or 20 milligrams of paroxetine (Paxil) or Prozac counter distress more effectively than either alone?
“That is very possible,” Piomelli said. “We’ve certainly heard anecdotally from a lot of people that cannabis helps them with stress and depression and I have no problem believing them. But, the endocannabinoid system is a very fine-tuned, delicate machine. It’s evolved over millennia to regulate our ability to deal with stress in a positive way and it can easily be thrown off balance.”
The challenge in self-medicating with marijuana for depression or anxiety is it’s difficult to find the right dose. Too little, and there’s no impact; too much, and especially for novice users, there’s a risk of experiencing a panic attack. Without professional oversight, self-medicators also may overlook some other underlying condition.
“When physicians prescribe antidepressants or antipsychotic drugs,” Piomelli said, “they’re very careful, typically starting out with a very low dose and if that’s insufficient, increasing the dose slowly until the response is satisfactory.
“Now imagine a plant, like cannabis, that comes in a thousand different shapes and forms. You go to a dispensary and you’re relying on budmasters to help you navigate everything.” Even the most astute budmaster can’t guarantee you’ll be able to repeat the experience you had a week ago.
“Reproducibility is complicated,” Piomelli said. “Because cannabis products aren’t regulated by the FDA, you can’t count on consistency. You might find a product that is useful to you but when you go back to the same dispensary and purchase it again, the amount of THC, cannabidiol (CBD) , or other cannabinoids it contains might be slightly different and you’ll have a different response.”
One challenge to researching how cannabis might interact with antidepressant medications has been the difficulty to reproduce conditions for clinical study, argues Daniele Piomelli, Ph.D., director of the University of California, Irvine, Center for the Study of Cannabis. Any variation in the THC, cannabidiol (CBD), or other cannabinoid levels in marijuana could produce different experiences and interactions. (Gina Coleman/Weedmaps News)
How Weed Impacts Potency of Meds
There’s another knotty issue: Namely, experts don’t know how weed affects what’s known as the “pharmacokinetics” properties of antidepressant medication. That term refers to how the body absorbs, processes, and disposes of a drug.
“If cannabis consumption inhibits the metabolization of an antidepressant drug that would essentially increase its potency because there’s more of the drug hanging around the body,” Piomelli said. “This is a very important element of which we really have no understanding.” The lack of data, he said, can put physicians in danger of prescribing an inappropriate dose of an antidepressant medication. And that, in turn, could mean a delay in relieving depression or even a worsening of the symptoms.
To safeguard against this, Piomelli recommended a few things. First, have a frank conversation with your physician about your cannabis use in the past, present, and future. If your doctor isn’t open to this conversation, you’ll probably want to find one who is.
“This is something we have to work on as a society,” Piomelli said. “As a physician, your job is to help your patients feel better. Cannabis is used by millions and millions of people in the U.S. It’s now a legal product in a majority of the states. There’s no excuse for doctors not knowing how it interacts with the body.”
Still, since there’s so much we don’t know about potential interactions between antidepressants and cannabis, Piomelli said that finding the right balance between both substances takes a lot of experimentation and has to be personalized to each patient. “That might not be what people want to hear,” Piomelli said, “but it’s where we are right now.”
The Case Against Quitting Cold Turkey
Whatever you do, Piomelli said, if you decide to start taking an antidepressant, don’t quit cannabis cold turkey, especially if you’ve been a heavy user.
“The effects of cannabis withdrawal include depression, irritability, anxiety, loss of sleep and appetite, even suicidal ideation,” he said. Plus, keep in mind that it takes several weeks for antidepressants to begin working, and even longer to find the optimal dose.
If you intend to cut down your cannabis use as you introduce antidepressants, or, conversely, if you’re currently taking an antidepressant and want to see if you can lower the dose by combining it with nightly vaping, go slow on titrating the dosages of both. As much as you can, try to be consistent in the cannabis products you use.
“If you shift to another kind of cannabis with a higher or lower level of THC, you might imbalance your endocannabinoid system and lose the ability to control your symptoms or precipitate a deeper depression or greater anxiety,” Piomelli said.
You might also want to throw non-psychoactive tools into the mix, like mindfulness meditation, yoga, or tai chi.
“There are lots of things,” Piomelli said, “that don’t come in a pill and can help lift your mood and counter stress.”
Feature image: With antidepressant medication and cannabis use prevalent in segments of the population, what happens when weed and meds are combined? Health experts cannot say for certain. (Gina Coleman/Weedmaps News)
Mixing Marijuana and Antidepressants: What You Need to Know You don’t need a study to recognize that mood elevation is one of the prime reasons people consume marijuana. It is, after all, called
Medical Marijuana vs Zoloft – Which is a Better?
Those who suffer from depression, panic attacks, anxiety, and OCD symptoms are familiar with this name. Also, those who have loved ones dealing with these conditions.
There’s scientific evidence that marijuana can help in alleviating symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. So, can medical cannabis replace Zoloft?
Let’s discuss how does medical marijuana and Zoloft work, their side-effects, cannabis legality, and more.
Zoloft (Sertraline) is a popular antidepressant drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It belongs to the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). Other medications in this class are— Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine), Lexapro (escitalopram). Doctors prefer prescribing SSRIs over other depressants because they have fewer risks.
Zoloft can be used for treating various mental health conditions-
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Depressive disorders
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
How Does Zoloft Work?
Zoloft is a popular treatment for depression. Past studies also show that the medication is effective for patients with panic disorder. It’s usually prescribed by doctors for depression, OCD, anxiety, and PTSD. Many reports that Zoloft is effective in promoting sleep, boosting mood, appetite, and increasing energy levels. But, some say that it helps them reduce anxiety and panic attacks.
Zoloft and other SSRIs increase serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for transferring signals between cells of the brain for various functions, such as controlling mood. Increasing serotonin means positive emotions, making the consumer feel good.
A 2009 research shows that Zoloft dosage of 50-175 mg of Zoloft per day can help in reducing panic attacks in terms of severity and frequency. It’s as effective as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is focused on understanding how the thought process works and replacing the negative thoughts with positive ones.
Major Side-Effects of Zoloft
Since Zoloft works directly with the brain, learning the side-effects associated with this antidepressant is important. However, Zoloft effects may vary from patient to patient.
Some of the common risks associated with it are-
- Dry mouth
- Sleep problems
Additionally, Zoloft use can lead to sexual problems including reduced sexual desire. Medical studies have found that Erectile Dysfunction (ED) occurs in about 25% of the men taking an SSRI.
If Zoloft use interferes with your sex life, you can consider Mayo Clinic’s advice-
- Adjust Zoloft dosage
- Replace Zoloft with another antidepressant
- Get treatment for sexual dysfunction
However, some people may experience severe side-effects by using Zoloft-
- Difficulty breathing
- High heart rate
- Irritability & Anxiety
Some people may also experience serotonin syndrome. This happens in very rare cases. It involves producing high levels of serotonin, which is usually associated with combining Zoloft with another medication. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include—agitation, anxiety, tremors, restlessness, lack of focus, and rapid heart rate.
If you experience any side-effects from Zoloft use, see a professional doctor immediately.
How Does Marijuana Work?
The effects of marijuana in treating depression can be understood by learning how it interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The endocannabinoid system is a biological system, which is responsible for regulating mood and other functions such as memory, sleep, and appetite.
When you consume marijuana, its cannabinoids bind to the receptors present in the endocannabinoid system. This helps in changing mood, memory and other functions, thus reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and various other mental illnesses.
In a marijuana plant, there are more than 100 cannabinoids, which possess amazing medicinal properties.
The two most important cannabinoids are-
- THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)- A psychoactive compound responsible for causing high-effects
- CBD (cannabidiol)- A non-psychoactive compound, which provides health effects without causing any high-effects.
In 2014, a study for highlighting pain management and other potential benefits of marijuana was published by the Hawaii Journal of Medicine & Public Health. Participants reported a 64% decrease in pain while many also confirmed reducing anxiety and sleep problems.
A recent study published by Scientists at Washington State University found that smoking marijuana can significantly reduce anxiety, depression, and stress . However, it’s true for the short-term. If used for long-term treatment, marijuana can worsen the condition, even increase depression over time.
Researchers at McGill University in Montreal found that low doses of THC can accelerate the production of serotonin in the body. Thus, it can be used as an antidepressant.
The University Medical Center Utrecht touted that marijuana is a treatment for depression and other mental health conditions. It was based on a study they conducted in 2013. Researchers found that THC can alter the response to negative images/emotions by activating the ECS in the brain.
Medical Cannabis as an Alternative to Zoloft
So, can Zoloft be replaced with medical marijuana?
Zoloft & other SSRIs can help in treating anxiety, depression & PTSC, but they can cause a wide range of unpleasant side-effects. These include low libido, headaches, vomiting, and nausea. Contrary to that, marijuana boosts mood and reduces anxiety without causing such risks. Moreover, it has a low potential for addiction and no risks of overdose.
It’s necessary to note that marijuana doesn’t provide the same effects to everyone. The herb’s effects depend on various factors-
- Your metabolism
- What strain you’re consuming
- How are you delivering cannabinoids to the body
Thus, before starting marijuana treatment, make sure you discuss your condition with a professional doctor and get professional advice.
Combining Marijuana Treatment With Zoloft
Can I combine Zoloft and other depressants with marijuana?
This is a common question people usually ask.
There has been a lot of research on how antidepressants and marijuana work done on the topic. Several studies show that mixing psychoactive drugs with psychotropic medications may cause adverse effects.
However, physicians say that learning how cannabinoids respond to the patients’ mood and behavior is important. Clearly, the more substances a patient uses, it will be difficult to analyze each one’s effects. For this reason, physicians usually prescribe one drug first and replace it with another later.
Daniele Piomelli, the Director of the University of California, said, “When physicians prescribe antidepressants or antipsychotic drugs, they are very careful, typically starting with a very low dose and if that’s insufficient, increasing the dose slowly until the response is satisfactory.”
He said that marijuana comes in a variety of forms, and you can’t guarantee if you can experience the same effects you had a few weeks ago.
Cannabis isn’t approved by the FDA. That’s why you can’t count on its consistency. It’s necessary to talk to a licensed doctor to seek professional advice for what’s right for your condition.
Marijuana Legality in The United States
As per federal regulations, marijuana in any form is illegal. The DEA has listed it as a Schedule 1 Drug along with Heroin and LSD. Still, 33 states have legalized its medical use. Each state has its own rules for purchasing, possessing and consuming medical cannabis.
To access cannabis legally, you need a medical marijuana card signed by a licensed doctor. To get a card, you must be diagnosed by one of the qualifying conditions in your state. Your doctor will examine your condition, and check your medical records to verify if you qualify to access medical marijuana.
How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card Online
With telemedicine services, you can apply for your medical marijuana card within a few minutes. You need not waste your valuable time waiting in the clinic. See a doctor online, and get your MMJ recommendation letter online.
The process involves three simple steps-
- Sign up your account
- Talk to a licensed doctor through HIPAA-compliant platform
- Receive your MMJ recommendation letter in PDF format
Anxiety, depression, PTSD, and OCD are common mental illnesses among Americans. Living with these conditions is quite difficult, and they can cause concentration problems, sleep disorders, relationship problems, etc.
Zoloft is a popular antidepressant medication that can help in alleviating symptoms of these conditions. It belongs to the SSRIs, which work by increasing serotonin levels. SSRIs are effective in promoting sleep, boosting mood, and increasing energy levels.
But, Zoloft and other SSRIs can cause various side-effects. Some of the common ones are—nausea, dry mouth, diarrhea, dizziness, nervousness, headaches, drowsiness, difficulty breathing, seizures, and swelling. Thus, always consult a licensed doctor to discuss your condition, and seek professional help for Zoloft dosage.
However, researchers have found that medical marijuana can also help in treating anxiety, depression, PTSD, and OCD. Unlike Zoloft, it doesn’t cause any side-effects. Thus, patients can use cannabis as an alternative to Zoloft.
But, before starting the medical marijuana treatment, it’s necessary to seek expert advice from an MMJ doctor for dosage, strains, and consumption methods.
Talk to a licensed medical marijuana doctor to apply for your MMJ recommendation letter today!
Medical Marijuana vs Zoloft – Which is a Better? Those who suffer from depression, panic attacks, anxiety, and OCD symptoms are familiar with this name. Also, those who have loved ones dealing