Combining an antidepressant and marijuana can have unpredictable results, and it could lead to negative consequences and side effects. You should never use marijuana while taking an antidepressant without first discussing the possible dangers with your doctor.
The psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), acts as both a sedative and a hallucinogenic. Antidepressants are mood-altering substances.
Both of these types of drugs interact with brain chemistry.
Marijuana is legalized for medicinal use in many states. It’s often used to help with nausea, appetite, pain, anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. In several states, it is legalized for recreational use too.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that it is the most regularly used illicit drug in the country. Nearly nine percent of American adults used marijuana in the month prior to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
Marijuana is a psychoactive drug that binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain. The bind is what causes the mellowing high that people feel when taking it. It can alter moods, distort the senses and perception of time, make it difficult to think clearly or make decisions, and impair muscle control and coordination.
Marijuana can impact people very differently. How it makes one person feel is often not the same way it will make another feel. While marijuana tends to have a relaxing and sedative effect, it can sometimes cause agitation, delusions, hallucinations, and psychosis in some people.
Marijuana varies in potency and purity. When purchased from illicit sources, it can also be laced with other materials or drugs without your knowledge. This increases the possibility of unwanted side effects.
Antidepressants are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes that nearly 13 percent of Americans took one between 2011 and 2013.
While they are prescribed to manage symptoms of depression, the Mayo Clinic warns that they can interact dangerously with other medications.
Antidepressant medications work on brain chemistry, changing the way that the chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, are sent, received, and reabsorbed.
There are several different types of antidepressants that work in different ways.
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): These medications change the way the mood-improving neurotransmitter serotonin and the energy-producing chemical messenger norepinephrine are absorbed back into the brain.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): These interact with serotonin levels in the brain.
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs): These interfere with the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine. However, they also interact with other brain chemicals and often have more side effects as a result.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): These inhibit the way that monoamine oxidase enzymes interact in the brain for antidepressant effects.
- Atypical antidepressants. These account for other medications prescribed to treat depression that doesn’t fall into the other categories.
The Combination of Marijuana with an Antidepressant
The manner in which an antidepressant medication works in the brain can determine the level of interaction between it and marijuana.
Medications that interact on similar brain functions and chemicals can have an additional impact when mixed. This can increase the odds for a potential adverse reaction.
Improper use of antidepressants and marijuana can raise the possible risk factors and the odds for an overdose.
Possible Side Effects
It is not completely clear how marijuana use may impact antidepressant medications or exactly what the possible reactions might be. There are different types of antidepressants and the reactions that could occur varies. The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) warns that marijuana can adversely react with TCAs, including dothiepin (Prothiaden), imipramine (Tofranil), and amitriptyline.
The Combination of Marijuana with a TCA May Cause the Following Negative Side Effects:
- Rapid and irregular heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Mood swings
Combining drugs can increase the possible side effects of each substance and raise the risk for a possible overdose or hazardous complications.
Using marijuana while taking an antidepressant may also decrease the effectiveness of your medication, encouraging you to take higher doses to manage symptoms of depression. This practice is dangerous, as you should never increase the dosage of any medication without a doctor’s direction.
There is not a lot of specific information on how marijuana might impact other medications like antidepressants. Since both of these types of medications work on brain chemistry and neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that affect mood, memory, learning, and sleep functions), it can be expected that using them in tandem can increase their possible effects.
Antidepressants work slowly and can remain active in the bloodstream for a day or more, depending on the type. They should not be stopped suddenly for risk of withdrawal symptoms. Generally, antidepressants will need to be tapered slowly over days, weeks, or even months to manage the onset of withdrawal and recurrence of depressive symptoms.
Talk to your doctor or medical professional before mixing marijuana with antidepressants. A medical professional can determine any level of risk involved in your situation.