If you don’t already know, cannabis contains hundreds of compounds called cannabinoids. Scientists are getting a solid grasp on how some of these affect the body via the human endocannabinoid system. Especially the two biggest – THC and CBD.
But as more states legalize cannabis across the country, there’s emerging information about mixing it with other medications. THC appears to change how drugs affect us, while CBD can alter how other medication is broken down.
For our purposes, we’ll look at the effects of mixing cannabis with stimulants or depressants specifically. After all, taking a gummy at night after a glass of wine or enjoying a morning toke with a cup of coffee has become increasingly commonplace.
Cannabis Interaction with Stimulants
If you’re someone who claims you can’t start the morning until you’ve had at least two cups of coffee, then you’re already familiar with the power of stimulants. You, like so much of population, turn to caffeine to feel awake, alert, and energetic. You may even toss in a morning cigarette (nicotine) to get the heart pumping even more.
Stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine speed up the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in your central nervous system. They can leave you feeling ready to take on the world.
Certain prescription medications that contain amphetamine (Ritalin and Adderall, for instance) are also stimulants. And, of course, cocaine and methamphetamine fall into the illegal stimulants category.
One of the ways that stimulants work is by elevating your heart rate and blood pressure. For those prone to anxiety or paranoia, too much in the way of any stimulant can increase these. So what happens if you add THC?
It appears there’s a clear overlap in how stimulants affect the brain and THC reacts with the endocannabinoid system. Since each of these increases heart rate, racing thoughts, and anxiety on their own, using them together can elevate and worsen those symptoms. Yet, as is always the case, the impact of combining THC with stimulants will depend on the dose and each individual.
Using Cannabis With Depressants
At the other end of the spectrum, if you find it difficult to ease into the evening without an alcoholic beverage, then you’re bowing at the altar of depressants. Similar to stimulants, depressants increase the activity of a neurotransmitter. But in this case, it’s in the GABA system.
When GABA activity increases, the central nervous system counters by slowing down. This results in easing anxiety, relaxing muscles, and delivering calmness.
Given that it’s legal and doesn’t require a prescription, alcohol is among the most commonly used depressants. But the whole benzodiazepine family (including Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, and Halcyon) fall into this category as well.
At higher doses, THC acts as a mild depressant. When combined with known depressants such as benzodiazepines, there’s an increased risk of sedation. Its interaction with alcohol is different though. THC more easily enters the brain when accompanied by alcohol. This can lead to increased impairment. In fact, research suggests the combination is often involved in traffic accidents. CBD consumed with alcohol, however, doesn’t appear to be problematic.
Where CBD is problematic is in conjunction with benzodiazepines. Since CBD can prevent medications from breaking down, elevated levels of a taken drug can stay in the blood stream and circulate. For the most part, this just means an increase in the side effects such as drowsiness, confusion, and dizziness. While potentially unpleasant, it’s not life-threatening.
Research on Mixing Cannabis with Stimulants and Depressants Is Ongoing
Current research shows that mixing cannabis with stimulants and depressants should be done so mindfully. But that’s just common sense.
For now, you may be better off just using one or the other.
And for more informative articles about incorporating cannabis into your everyday life keep checking back with our blog.