Disclaimer: AspenRidge North does NOT endorse the use of any mind-altering substances, including cannabis. We know that weed is an addictive drug that can cause significant problems in the lives of those who use the stuff.
Mixing Marijuana with Other Drugs: What You Need to Know
Our advice to those who struggle with addiction is always to abstain from the use of habit-forming substances. However, because pot is readily available to residents of Colorado and other states, we believe it is our duty to provide relevant health considerations and educate you about marijuana drug interactions.
Weed – America’s Favorite Illegal Substance
Without question, the United States has seen a profound shift in drug policy in the past decade. Colorado was the first to legalize green in the U.S. in 2014. Since then, a number of other states have followed suit, making the stuff legal and accessible for recreational and medicinal use. It is safe to say that it’s only a matter of time before the federal government makes weed legal across the land.
Nevertheless, pot is still illegal in most states. Users caught in possession of the drug can be ordered to pay hefty fines or spend time in jail. However, this has never stopped stoners from getting high.
In fact, millions of Americans are daily users and rely on this substance to get through the day – even though they could get thrown in the slammer if they get caught with it. There is absolutely no doubt about it. Cannabis is – BY FAR – the most popular illegal drug.
If You’re Going To Get High, You Should Have All The Facts
Although most people would probably rank weed pretty low on the totem pole in terms of danger (you can’t technically overdose on it, so it’s not going to kill you), combining it with other substances can have some pretty negative consequences.
In this article, we will talk about what happens when you mix weed with alcohol, prescription drugs, and illegal substances. But, first – let’s answer some of the most commonly asked questions about cannabis. (To be clear, we will be talking about naturally grown bud – NOT dabbing or synthetic marijuana, which are different monsters entirely.)
Before we move forward, a friendly reminder: AspenRidge North DOES NOT endorse cannabis use in any way. Nevertheless, we know that – when it comes to drugs and alcohol – people are going to do use the stuff until they are ready to quit. If you think you have a problem with weed, we are here to help. If not, we want to make sure you have all the facts if you use pot regularly.
# 1 Can Marijuana Kill You?
If you use green on a regular basis, you may have been so buzzed that you thought you were going to die. The potency of the weed available for sale on both the black market and in legal dispensaries around the country will knock your socks off! But, you didn’t die, right? You lived to tell the tale and went on to smoke more weed.
This experience of impending death while stoned is almost always caused by a weed-induced panic attack. When cannabis contains high levels of THC (the active ingredient in pot that gives you the buzz), it can cause a feeling of overwhelming anxiety, which can generate a feeling of extreme panic. In this frenzied state, many people will think, “Uh-oh. Can marijuana kill you?” The answer is no.
While ingesting high levels of THC can cause a user to FEEL like they are going to die, the feeling quickly passes. Interestingly enough, having a stoned panic attack almost never deters people from sparking up a joint later that same day. By the time the high wears off, someone who loves pot will have forgotten about the incident completely, since it’s no secret that marijuana causes memory loss.
So, it is true that ingesting high levels of THC can make you feel like death is imminent during a panic attack. This can be a terrifying experience, for sure. But, you should know that there has never been one single reported case of a lethal cannabis overdose. Weed cannot kill you. However, prolonged use can lead to some significant long-term health issues.
# 2 Is Marijuana a Depressant?
Many people who come to us for addiction treatment ask us, “Is weed a depressant?” The answer is….. kinda. The drug actually falls into three categories. Weed can be classified as a depressant, stimulant, or hallucinogen. This is because cannabis affects everybody in unique ways and various types of pot generate different kinds of effects.
When some people get stoned, they feel relaxed and sleepy. In fact, many users say that when they smoke pot, the entire world seems to be going in slow motion. They experience a loss of motor skills, poor coordination, lowered blood pressure, and short-term memory loss. In this way, cannabis is a depressant for many users.
However, you might be surprised to learn that for many, weed is a stimulant. When most people think of stimulants, they think of cocaine or methamphetamines. These drugs make the user feel super “speedy.” Pot doesn’t deliver this type of extreme mental or physical stimulation. Nevertheless, it can cause someone to experience an increase in heart rate, raised blood pressure, anxiety, paranoia, amped energy, and a jolt of motivation.
Finally, weed can be hallucinogenic. While a user won’t experience extreme hallucinations like they would if they took LSD or DMT, they can have auditory, visual, or sensory hallucinations. (For example, someone who is high on weed might think their cat is telepathically communicating with them).
So, there you have it. Clear as mud, right? Whether weed is a depressant, stimulant, or hallucinogen depends on your own body chemistry and the type of cannabis you are using.
# 3 Is Marijuana An Antidepressant?
Because pot is now legal for medicinal use in a number of states across the country, it is now being used for a variety of medical conditions. This includes depression. Some believe weed is an antidepressant and swear by the stuff as legitimate medicinal solution for chronic, situational, or bipolar depression.
When answering the question, “Is marijuana an antidepressant?,” let’s get literal. Medically speaking, healthcare professionals define “antidepressant” as anything that is used to prevent or treat depression. Specifically, antidepressants are designed to correct chemical imbalances in the brain that can lead to negative changes in mood and behavior.
Because weed has a reputation for making people laugh and causing a temporary boost of contentment, many turn to the drug as a way to beat the blues. However, just because someone considers marijuana an antidepressant doesn’t make it so.
There is currently no research available that proves weed is an antidepressant with the power to prevent or treat depression. In fact, some research studies have shown that continued, prolonged use of pot can actually lead to depression. Furthermore, cannabis is not FDA approved for the prevention or treatment of depression.
So, as far as we are concerned, weed is literally NOT an antidepressant. Yes, it may bring about a fleeting drug-induced sensation of happiness. But, you can be sure this feeling quickly fades.
Here are five reasons you shouldn’t use marijuana as an antidepressant.
# 4 How Does Marijuana Affect The Brain?
In order to understand why pot might not mix so well with other drugs, it helps to first understand how cannabis affects your brain. A comprehension of how the drug works when you eat or smoke it will help you get an idea of what might happen when you combine it with other substances in your body.
Essentially, when you use cannabis in any form, the drug activates tiny little spots on the cells in your brain. These are called “cannabinoid receptors.” Those little receptors are there to receive endocannabinoids, which are neurotransmitters that our system produces naturally to help our body and brain communicate with each other.
When someone uses weed, however, the drug generates “phytocannabinoids” (THC, CBD, and others) in their body that jump in and take the place of the naturally-produced cannabinoids. Some effects of the drug, like euphoria or decreased pain, can be attributed to the fact that these new cannabinoids alter the way the body and brain are communicating with each other.
Combining green with other drugs, however, can alter this process, making things a bit more complicated. Marijuana drug interactions can cause phytocannabinoid production to increase at an unsafe rate, making it difficult for the user to function properly.
(Sorry, we didn’t mean to go all nerd on you and give you a complicated biology lesson. To simplify, let’s just say that cannabis is a powerful substance that profoundly affects the way the brain functions!)
# 5 Can You Become Addicted to Weed?
Without a doubt, absolutely, no question about it – you CAN become addicted to marijuana. Most regular pot users will laugh at this assertion.
They will say they can quit anytime, but they don’t want to. They will say they enjoy the way green makes them feel and that they have no intention of stopping. They will say weed is a natural substance that grows from the earth and that it completely harmless. Most people who use bud regularly refuse to even consider the possibility that they might be addicted.
Here’s the thing. Heroin is also a natural substance that grows from the earth. Those who chase the dragon offer up the same explanations for their habit – they can quit anytime they want, they don’t want to quit, they like the way the drug makes them feel, etc. No one questions if heroin is addictive, yet users will insist they aren’t hooked! The same is true for regular cannabis users.
# 6 Can You Go Through Withdrawal When You Quit Smoking Weed?
If you are a chronic weed user, and you try to quit, you will be in for quite a surprise. You will experience very uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. These include extreme cravings for more pot, anxiety, depression, insomnia, a change in appetite, loss of focus and motivation, agitation, and irritability. When a substance produces withdrawal symptoms when you suddenly stop using it, the substance is considered addictive.
You might be surprised to learn that many people go to rehab for cannabis addiction alone. FACT! Hundreds of thousands of regular weed users check themselves in for treatment in America every year because they can’t stop using the stuff on their own. Why? Because pot is addictive and it causes withdrawal. Period.
Of course, marijuana withdrawal isn’t going to kill you. In most cases, you won’t need to go through a detox program to quit using the stuff, but you will be one unhappy camper for awhile once you stop using.
The Straight Scoop On Marijuana Drug Interactions
Okay. Now that we have answered some of the most commonly asked questions about weed, let’s talk about drug interactions. Many people want information about mixing marijuana with alcohol, prescription medications, and other substances.
Most pot users completely downplay the powerful affect this drug has on the brain and body. In recent years especially, we have been taught that weed is relatively safe – especially when compared to alcohol, cocaine, heroin, crystal meth, and other addictive drugs. We’re not here to tell you about the evils of cannabis (although we have already told you it is addictive). We just want you to have all the facts if you are using the drug regularly – especially if you are taking other drugs.
Like any psychoactive drug, pot can interact with other psychoactive chemicals in a way that produces less than desirable results. As weed becomes increasingly more accessible, it is helpful to know about marijuana drug interactions. That way, if you or someone you care about chooses to partake of this substance, you’ll be able to do so in the safest and most responsible manner possible.
Mixing Marijuana and Depressants – Not a Great Idea
Many people mix marijuana with depressant drugs like alcohol, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines (like Xanax) because they like the way it makes them feel. This can be dangerous.
Here is a quick study in pharmacology. Depressants are drugs that inhibit central nervous system (CNS) functioning and cause breathing and blood pressure to slow down. Many depressants also increase the production of the neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA carries messages between cells. Increased GABA activity reduces brain function. This leads to drowsiness, increased relaxation, and deep sleep.
Mixing marijuana with other depressants can cause the heart rate to decrease to a very low rate. It can also inhibit the user’s basic motor skills, making it difficult for them to think clearly, speak, or react appropriately to things around them.
More importantly, mixing weed with depressants can be fatal or cause serious health complications. This may sound extreme, but many people who have gone to the emergency room because they have stopped breathing tested positive for marijuana and depressants. This is not a coincidence.
Drinking Too Much Alcohol And Using Too Much Weed Can Lead To A Major Buzzkill
Let’s talk about mixing marijuana and alcohol for a minute. These are the two most commonly used drugs in America. (Yes, alcohol IS a drug!) Getting “cross faded” is very common among pot users. People say they like the buzz caused by the effects of booze and bud. But, WATCH OUT! Alcohol + Weed = Risky Business.
For starters, the combination of weed and alcohol is known to increase the effects of each drug. Users who mix the two become drunk and stoned much quicker and with greater intensity. For many who combine these two substances, the party is over before it begins.
Exaggerated effects of THC can cause those terrifying weed-induced panic attacks we talked about earlier. It can also cause extreme paranoia, frightening hallucinations, disorienting short-term memory loss, and a complete disconnection from reality. NOT FUN.
Exaggerated effects of alcohol can lead to blurred vision, complete loss of motor skills, slurred speech, nausea, vomiting, and other unpleasant consequences. Put these two together – and it’s a recipe for disaster. If your goal is to get high and drunk at the same time by mixing alcohol and marijuana, just know going in that you might be in over your head.
Marijuana and Alcohol—Is it a Dangerous Combination?
Aside from the fact that mixing weed and alcohol might not deliver the fun time you are looking for, you need to know that combining these two drugs can be deadly. In no uncertain terms, drinking alcohol and using bud can quickly take you from turnt up to face down in the toilet to riding in the back of an ambulance.
It’s no secret that consuming too much alcohol too fast can cause you to get nauseous and throw up. Vomiting is an indicator of alcohol poisoning. It is the body’s way of getting rid of excess alcohol in an attempt to reorient itself to a place of wellness. It is very unpleasant, but it is actually a good thing.
Excessive drinking becomes problematic when done in combination with cannabis because weed prevents you from vomiting. While you might become nauseous, you may not be able to throw up. Usually, when someone drinks too much, they throw up, which helps flush all the alcohol out of the system. However; pot can prevent this from happening.
As a result, drinking alcohol and using cannabis at the same time leads to an increased risk of alcohol poisoning – which almost guarantees a hospital visit. At least 2,200 people die every year from alcohol poisoning. Many of them were drunk AND stoned.
Also, It should go without saying that no one should ever drive or operate heavy machinery while they are under the influence of green and alcohol. It is particularly important for those who use a combination of marijuana and alcohol to stay far away from the driver’s seat of a car. Loss of motor skills, slowed reaction time, and altered perception can lead to a serious car accident.
If You Combine Benzos and Weed, You’re Putting Your Life on the Line
Millions of Americans are prescribed benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin for anxiety, insomnia and other health conditions. By themselves, these anti-anxiety medications are dangerous. They are not only highly addictive, they deliver a powerful sedative effect that can knock you out for days.
If you combine benzos and weed, you are looking for trouble. Remember, we told you that Xanax and other benzos are depressants. You should never mix depressants and cannabis. They can significantly reduce heart rate and blood pressure and lead to coma or death.
Another thing you should know about mixing marijuana and benzos is that you are likely to wake up in the morning (if you are lucky enough to make it home safe) with absolutely no recollection of how you got there.
Benzodiazepines are notorious for affecting memory and causing blackouts. Bud is also associated with short-term memory loss. When you mix these two substances, you are likely to walk around in a mental fog that will prevent your brain from creating new memories. This increases the likelihood that you will put yourself in dangerous situations that could result in you getting robbed, assaulted, or something much worse.
Mixing Marijuana And Suboxone – Don’t Do It
Another combination should be avoided is cannabis and buprenorphine. This synthetic compound, which can be found in many opioid replacement therapy drugs like Suboxone and Subutex, has a sedating effect much like weed.
Buprenorphine is often prescribed to those who are dependent on opioid drugs like heroin, Oxycodone, or Fentanyl. It helps fight off cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, it is likely that someone who is prescribed the drug would not want to mix it with an addictive substance like cannabis in the first place. However, those who are considering using bud while on Suboxone, Subutex or another drug containing buprenorphine should seriously consider the safety risks.
The problems with mixing marijuana and buprenorphine stem from the fact that the opioid replacement drug has strong depressant effects. Upon taking a prescribed dose of drugs like Suboxone, the user’s central nervous system will begin to slow down. Because marijuana can also act like a depressant, using the two drugs in combination can lead to respiratory depression and death.
Also, it is important to note that combining marijuana and Suboxone or other opioid replacement therapies can render buprenorphine ineffective. This means that cravings for opioid and withdrawal symptoms will eventually kick in, which can lead to a relapse.
Can You Mix Marijuana And Antidepressants?
Most drugs don’t mix with antidepressants. Pot is no exception.
Antidepressants are prescribed to treat psychiatric conditions like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental disorders. Many people use green while taking their antidepressants to self-medicate in an attempt to find relief from their mental health issues. This is not the solution. In fact, mixing marijuana and antidepressants can actually make things much worse.
For example, cannabis causes many people to experience anxiety. Those who have Generalized Anxiety Disorder or other similar conditions can actually feel more anxiety when they use pot. Medications like Prozac, Lexapro, and Zoloft are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety. Combining these antidepressants with marijuana can counteract the meds and enhance anxious thoughts and feelings.
Some studies have shown that chronic cannabis use can lead to depression. This is ironic because many people think getting high makes their condition better. The problem is, the drug wears off and feelings of despair return. Then, the user uses more pot to feel better. It can become a vicious cycle. Wellbutrin, Celexa, and Paxil are often prescribed for the treatment of depression. Mixing weed and these antidepressants prevents the medications from working properly.
Some Doctors Won’t Prescribe Antidepressants to Marijuana Users
It is important to mention that taking antidepressants and weed together makes it almost impossible for your doctor to help you get better. When you are under the care of a psychiatrist, they monitor your progress and determine if the medication you have been prescribed is working.
If you are using marijuana and antidepressants at the same time, there is no way to figure out which substance is causing what specific effect. Medication adjustments and changes are basically out of the question because they are completely counterproductive. Many doctors won’t even treat you if you are mixing these two substances.
Different Types of Antidepressants and Marijuana Drug Interactions
There are three different types of antidepressants that may interact with cannabis in negative ways – SSRIs, SNRIs, and MAOIs. Mixing different antidepressants with weed can produce varied side effects and problems. Let’s talk about these.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, also known as SSRIs, are the most commonly prescribed type of antidepressant. Drugs like Lexapro, Zoloft, Prozac, Wellbutrin and Paxil are examples. These help to treat depression other mental health conditions by increasing the amount of serotonin released in the body. Serotonin is a natural feel-good neurotransmitter. It promotes feelings of wellness and contentment.
Studies have shown that weed also helps release serotonin in the brain. For this reason, mixing marijuana and Prozac, combining weed and Wellbutrin, or doing pot with other antidepressants can have dire consequences.
Specifically, too much serotonin can lead to Serotonin Syndrome. This occurs when the brain can’t handle the quantity of the chemical it’s been tasked to process. People who have Serotonin Syndrome will experience a variety of symptoms that range from mild to severe. These include agitation, restlessness, mental confusion, rapid heartrate, high blood pressure, sweats, vomiting, and diarrhea. Also, be warned: using marijuana and SSRIs can lead to life-threatening conditions like high fever, seizures, shock, irregular heartbeat, and unconsciousness.
On another note, many people take the antidepressant Wellbutrin to help fight cravings for harmful substances. It is sometimes prescribed to people who are quitting smoking or in recovery from heroin addiction. Mixing marijuana and Wellbutrin, like other SSRIs, is not a good idea for the reasons we have explained.
Effexor is a Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor (SNRI). Other SNRIs include Cymbalta and Pristiq. These antidepressants work in very much the same way that SSRIs do.
People who are prescribed SNRIs should not mix them with cannabis. THC and CBD (two of the major compounds in pot) and SNRIs can have an effect on the way serotonin is regulated in the brain. The combination of them can produce unpredictable results. Those who are prescribed to an SNRI and throw cannabis into the mix might find themselves feeling extremely disoriented. They are also subject to developing Serotonin Syndrome.
MAOIs: Although Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) like Nardil are not prescribed very much these days (most patients who would have been prescribed them receive SSRIs or SNRIs instead), those who do take these drugs shouldn’t smoke pot. MAOIs interact with marijuana in a way that heightens the sedative qualities of cannabis to an unsafe level.
Be Aware of Cannabis Drug Interactions and Stay Safe
Truth be told, we think it’s a good idea to stay away from weed altogether. The stuff is addictive and it can cause some significant health problems. If you want to be healthy and avoid many of the problems that can come from getting high, your best bet is to find other pleasurable activities to engage in. But, like we have said – you are going to use the stuff until you are ready to quit. We respect that.
Nevertheless, as cannabis becomes more commonly used in Colorado and elsewhere, we can all benefit from increased awareness of marijuana drug interactions. The effects of weed do not pose the kind of immediate health threats that other drugs do. However, when combined with incompatible substances, pot can be quite dangerous.
Those who do choose to use weed should carefully take inventory of what else they put into their bodies. If you’re going to get high, please be safe. Think twice about mixing marijuana with alcohol and other drugs.