Practically all chemical compounds found in prescription medications, illegal drugs, and supplements interact with each other. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy for consumers to know exactly which medications or substances can interact in a harmful way. The way medications and substances work in the body is sometimes ambiguous, and everyone’s biochemical makeup and tolerance to substances and interactions are different.
The CBD industry is growing at a rapid rate, and with millions of Americans on one prescription drug or another, and a further 10% of U.S. adults addicted to illegal drugs, it’s important to understand how CBD interacts with other substances, legal or otherwise. The research on CBD is still new and ongoing, but so far, there are several medications and substances known to interact poorly with CBD.
Polydrug use is the act of combining different drugs and substances to get a specific effect, or to enhance the abilities of each drug. Polydrug abuse is especially concerning for several reasons. For one thing, abusing more than one substance exposes the user to harmful effects of each. Also, it can be even harder for a person to quit abusing drugs if they are addicted to more than one at the same time. They will experience prolonged, severe withdrawals when their body tries to detox from the substances.
Furthermore, polydrug abuse is incredibly dangerous because each drug typically interacts poorly with the other. Combining drugs from two different drug classes, say a sedative and an amphetamine, confuses the body and creates a powerful, dangerous high. More than half of all ER visits for alcohol-related overdoses involve illicit and prescription drugs, too.
Which drugs are the worst to combine?
Combining drugs or substances that slow respiratory rate is one of the most dangerous polydrug combinations. More people are sent to the ER for mixing prescription opiates with other sedative-like drugs than any other polydrug combination. The most dangerous drugs to combine are:
Both of these substances slow a person’s respiratory rate, which can lead to fatal overdoses.
A speedball is when a person combines a depressant with a stimulant, usually cocaine and heroin. At the start of the high, these two drugs cancel each other out. The depressant will lower central nervous system functioning, while the stimulant will increase it. However, the stimulant cocaine wears off very quickly, while a heroin high can last for several hours. Unfortunately, this leaves an increased opiate effect on the person, increasing the chances of respiratory failure. Plus, people are taking far more of a risk with the opiate drug to get an effect while the cocaine is still active, further increasing the risk of overdose.
People addicted to MDMA or ecstasy may take antidepressants to counteract the adverse side effects of MDMA, which can severely lower a person’s natural serotonin levels. Unfortunately, this masks the person’s addiction to psychedelics, and if a person takes an MAOI inhibitor instead of an SSRI or SNRI with MDMA, they may experience a fatal reaction if they have too much serotonin in their brain.
Combining marijuana with other drugs is incredibly common. Unfortunately, the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, which is what causes a high, can interact poorly with certain drugs. Marijuana can increase the effects of cocaine, reduce the effectiveness of prescription antipsychotics, or lead to heart irregularities when combined with antidepressants.
Is CBD safe when combined with other drugs?
CBD, although it derives from the cannabis plant, is not the same as marijuana. CBD is an isolated cannabinoid, and will not give the same effects that THC does, which is the active ingredient in marijuana that produces euphoria and other effects. Compared to many drugs and alcohol, CBD is incredibly safe. It is nonaddictive, and users won’t experience withdrawal symptoms from CBD. Also, CBD won’t inhibit a person’s mental or physical state. Millions of people use CBD to treat health issues, such as chronic inflammation, anxiety, and depression.
However, CBD can interact poorly with some prescription medications. One side effect of CBD is that it will cause a small drop in both active and resting blood pressure. CBD may also lower blood glucose levels, and it may also reduce the risk of blood clots. So, people who take prescriptions for blood pressure, insulin, or blood clots may have issues taking CBD. It’s critical that people who use these prescriptions talk to their doctor before they start taking CBD, so they don’t counteract the effects of their medication or increase the effects with CBD to potentially dangerous levels.
Where can someone go to get help for a drug or alcohol problem?
Trying to locate a treatment center that is tailored to an individual’s needs can be a challenging process. For concerned loved ones or people who want to get better, consider reaching out to the following organizations for information and assistance with addiction treatment:
SAMHSA has an extensive website database dedicated to listing residential, outpatient, and hospital inpatient treatment programs for drug and alcohol addiction. It’s possible to find a treatment center in any state in the U.S. People can also call 1-800-662-HELP for assistance over the phone.
Drug and alcohol abuse and addiction are incredibly common disorders. More than 23 million people in the U.S. are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and although addiction is a chronic illness, it is treatable with support and ongoing care.