CBD has the potential to interact with many other products, including over-the-counter medications, herbal products, and prescription medications. Some medications should never be taken with CBD; the use of other medications may need to be modified or reduced to prevent serious issues. The consequences of drug interactions also depend on many other factors, including the dose of CBD, the dose of another medication, and a person’s underlying health condition. Older adults are more susceptible to drug interactions because they often take multiple medications, and because of age-related physiological changes that affect how our bodies process medications.
Products containing cannabidiol (CBD) seem to be all the rage these days, promising relief from a wide range of maladies, from insomnia and hot flashes to chronic pain and seizures. Some of these claims have merit to them, while some of them are just hype. But it won’t hurt to try, right? Well, not so fast. CBD is a biologically active compound, and as such, it may also have unintended consequences. These include known side effects of CBD, but also unintended interactions with supplements, herbal products, and over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications.
The researchers further warned that while the list may be used as a starting point to identify potential drug interactions with marijuana or CBD oil, plant-derived cannabinoid products may deliver highly variable cannabinoid concentrations (unlike the FDA-regulated prescription cannabinoid medications previously mentioned), and may contain many other compounds that can increase the risk of unintended drug interactions.
The bottom line: Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if using or considering CBD
Many drugs are broken down by enzymes in the liver, and CBD may compete for or interfere with these enzymes, leading to too much or not enough of the drug in the body, called altered concentration. The altered concentration, in turn, may lead to the medication not working, or an increased risk of side effects. Such drug interactions are usually hard to predict but can cause unpleasant and sometimes serious problems.
Absolutely. Inhaled CBD gets into the blood the fastest, reaching high concentration within 30 minutes and increasing the risk of acute side effects. Edibles require longer time to absorb and are less likely to produce a high concentration peak, although they may eventually reach high enough levels to cause an issue or interact with other medications. Topical formulations, such as creams and lotions, may not absorb and get into the blood in sufficient amount to interact with other medications, although there is very little information on how much of CBD gets into the blood eventually. All of this is further complicated by the fact that none of these products are regulated or checked for purity, concentration, or safety.
Researchers from Penn State College of Medicine evaluated existing information on five prescription CBD and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cannabinoid medications: antinausea medications used during cancer treatment (Marinol, Syndros, Cesamet); a medication used primarily for muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis (Sativex, which is not currently available in the US, but available in other countries); and an antiseizure medication (Epidiolex). Overall, the researchers identified 139 medications that may be affected by cannabinoids. This list was further narrowed to 57 medications, for which altered concentration can be dangerous. The list contains a variety of drugs from heart medications to antibiotics, although not all the drugs on the list may be affected by CBD-only products (some are only affected by THC). Potentially serious drug interactions with CBD included
While generally considered safe, CBD may cause drowsiness, lightheadedness, nausea, diarrhea, dry mouth, and, in rare instances, damage to the liver. Taking CBD with other medications that have similar side effects may increase the risk of unwanted symptoms or toxicity. In other words, taking CBD at the same time with OTC or prescription medications and substances that cause sleepiness, such as opioids, benzodiazepines (such as Xanax or Ativan), antipsychotics, antidepressants, antihistamines (such as Benadryl), or alcohol may lead to increased sleepiness, fatigue, and possibly accidental falls and accidents when driving. Increased sedation and tiredness may also happen when using certain herbal supplements, such as kava, melatonin, and St. John’s wort. Taking CBD with stimulants (such as Adderall) may lead to decreased appetite, while taking it with the diabetes drug metformin or certain heartburn drugs (such as Prilosec) may increase the risk of diarrhea.
How intensely this all plays out in your body mainly depends on the dosage of both the medication and the CBD that you’re taking, Hurd said. “If the concentration of CBD is high enough, it could inhibit the activity of those enzymes, so you would get more of the other drug getting into your system,” she added.
The same goes for benzodiazepines (or benzos) like Xanax or Ativan, which are used to treat anxiety. If CBD is taken in conjunction with one of these drugs, it could increase the side effects and potentially cause you to feel more sedated or drowsy. In some rare cases, the drug combo may become toxic or even interfere with your respiratory system, according to Henry. Doctors suspect that certain antibiotics and even NSAIDs (think Aleve or Advil) are altered by CBD consumption as well, Hurd said.
Many people ― including medical experts ― say it’s beneficial in helping to manage different ailments like anxiety , sleeplessness and pain . But while CBD has been advertised as an effective way to treat a wide mix of maladies, the compound is still largely unregulated and unstudied.
Researchers suspect CBD could interact with most medications
According to the District of Columbia Department of Health , CBD can also increase the serum concentrations ― the amount of medication in your blood ― of a ton of other drugs, including antidepressants, antihistamines, antiretrovirals, calcium channel blockers and beta blockers.
“So, let’s say you’re on a medication like warfarin or Coumadin, a really common medication we give to a lot of patients to thin their blood,” Henry said. “If [CBD] is blocking the metabolism of warfarin, that warfarin is now higher and more active and can either become toxic or cause other problems.” In the case of a blood thinner like warfarin, “other problems” could entail a traumatic bleed or a dangerous hemorrhage, she added.
On the flip side, very low amounts of CBD don’t seem to have that much of an effect on how well your body processes other medications. But unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough research to determine how much CBD is considered safe.
“It’s the wild, wild West right now,” said Michelle Henry , a board-certified dermatologist and Harvard-trained Mohs surgeon.