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Your Favorite Relaxation Habit Might Be Secretly Screwing With Your Meds

Yep, even OTC cold meds.

Considering that Martha Stewart now co-hosts a stoner-friendly TV show with Snoop Dogg (thank you, Potluck Dinner Party), it’s pretty safe to say that smoking weed is no longer a habit you need to hide from your mom. (Or your doctor, for that matter.)

But as medical marijuana (and, let’s be real, casual marijuana) use continues to rise, have you ever considered the fact that your weed pen might actually be screwing with some of the other medications you take? Yep, kind of scary.

“There are literally hundreds of of chemicals in the cannabis plant, including the psychoactive chemicals that give us a traditional marijuana high and chemicals that just happen to be in the plant,” says Timothy Brennan, M.D., director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai West and Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospitals. “All of those, of course, are free to interact with prescription, over-the-counter, or any other medications one might be using.”

In fact, some of the compounds in cannabis can trigger certain enzymes that impact the way your body processes medications, Brennan explains. (This isn’t limited to cannabis; if you’ve ever seen a note to avoid grapefruit on your pill bottles, that’s because grapefruit can have the same effect.)

Related: 5 Women Who Use Pot In Their Everyday Lives Share How They Do It

“The problem is that cannabis is still listed as a Schedule I drug through the Drug Enforcement Agency,” he says, which effectively means that researchers aren’t supposed to study it. “That makes it’s very challenging for physicians and medical scientists to do any research on cannabis.”

So, where does that leave you? If you’re going to use marijuana (prescribed or otherwise) while you’re taking other drugs, “being truthful and open with your physician about your medication use is the most important thing, because you could be setting yourself up for potential marijuana drug interactions,” says Brennan. “It could at least plant the seed in a doctor’s mind that if you are suffering from certain side effects related to your other drugs the doctor can investigate if cannabis might be causing that.”

That said, there are a few types of drugs to watch out for if you’re planning on smoking pot.

Antidepressant Medications, or SSRIs and SNRIs

“The key point here is that cannabis is fundamentally a psychoactive compound,” says Brennan. “People use it because it exerts its action on the brain, on the central nervous system receptors.” But antidepressant medications—the most common of which are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), like Zoloft (or sertraline) or Celexa (or ditalopram), and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), like Cymbalta (or duloxetine)—also exert psychoactive effects on some of the same receptors.

“The challenge for people who have mood disorder or depression is that every time they’re using cannabis, they’re taking another psychoactive drug,” says Brennan. “And that can make it very challenging for a patient or physician to figure out what drug is actually having an effect on what.” Plus, he adds, the cannabis could actually negate the positive effects of prescription medication.

This is what it’s like to suffer from depression:

Anti-Anxiety Medications, or Benzodiazepines

Anti-anxiety medications like Ativan (Lorazepam), Klonopin (Clonazepam), or Xanax (Alprazolam) are all part of a class of medications called benzodiazepines, says Brennan. “Again, you have two psychoactive compounds interacting with each other in the brain,” he says. “If somebody’s really struggling with anxiety, I’d like to know what products are going in their brain so I can better understand how I’m medicating them. But if they’re smoking cannabis at the same time as using Ativan or Klonopin, it’s really hard to figure out what’s going on.”

A lot of people will smoke marijuana and say, “This is the only thing that helps my anxiety!” Other people will say they’re never more paranoid than when they smoke pot. That’s true for prescription drugs, too—people have different reactions to different products. “The challenge with cannabis is there’s no scientific data out there to say it tested against Ativan or Klonopin—the data doesn’t exist,” says Brennan.

Related: ‘How I Told My Partner That I’m HIV-Positive’

Sleeping Pills

You’re already aware that mixing alcohol with sleeping pills is a bad idea. Same goes for pot. “This depends on how much cannabis someone is using and what effect cannabis has on them, but mixing any product that with the opportunity to sedate someone or alter their consciousness is potentially dangerous,” says Brennan. “When you combine cannabis with a sedative hypnotic like Zolpidem or Ambien, I think people could perhaps find themselves in a very usual psychological state.”

If you’ve been prescribed sleeping medication, whether you use it regularly or just to get through those tough red-eye flights, you’re better off sticking to just the prescription medication for the duration of the dose, versus mixing it with cannabis or any other drugs.

Related: 5 Signs Your Exhaustion Is A Symptom Of A Much Bigger Problem

Allergy and Cold Meds

You might think that allergy and cold medicines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) or Mucinex (guaifenesin) are NBD because you can grab them straight off the drugstore shelves—but if you take them with marijuana, they could have unanticipated effects.

“Benadryl, or allergy and cold meds, are sedative products,” says Brennan. “Some people can take them and go about their day, others take one dose and they’re on the couch for the rest of the day. I think it’s really important for people to remember that cannabis is not a harmless product, and we don’t know how it might interact with even over-the-counter drugs.”

So if you’re sick, stick to just one drug (the cold meds, please) if you want it to work its magic as fast as possible.

Smoking pot can mess with cold medicines, anti-depressants, and more. Experts share potential marijuana drug interactions and how to avoid them.

Buspirone Treatment for Marijuana Dependence

The safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators. Listing a study does not mean it has been evaluated by the U.S. Federal Government. Read our disclaimer for details.
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Condition or disease Intervention/treatment Phase
Marijuana Dependence Drug: Buspirone Drug: Placebo Phase 4

Layout table for study information

Study Type : Interventional (Clinical Trial)
Actual Enrollment : 175 participants
Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: Triple (Participant, Investigator, Outcomes Assessor)
Primary Purpose: Treatment
Official Title: Buspirone Treatment for Marijuana Dependence
Study Start Date : September 2009
Actual Primary Completion Date : June 2014
Actual Study Completion Date : March 2016

Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contacts provided below. For general information, Learn About Clinical Studies.

Layout table for eligibility information

Ages Eligible for Study: 18 Years to 65 Years (Adult, Older Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study: All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers: No
  • Must meet DSM-IV criteria for marijuana dependence.
  • Must be between the ages of 18 and 65 years.
  • If female and of childbearing potential, must agree to use acceptable methods of birth control for the duration of the trial.
  • Must consent to random assignment, and be willing to commit to psychosocial behavioral and medication treatment.
  • Must be able to read and provide informed consent.
  • Women who are pregnant, nursing, or plan to become pregnant during the course of the study.
  • Must not have a history of or current psychotic disorder, bipolar disorder, or eating disorder.
  • Must not pose a current suicidal or homicidal risk.
  • Must not meet current criteria for major depression.
  • Must not have evidence or history of serious hematologic, endocrine, cardiovascular, pulmonary, renal, gastrointestinal or neurologic disease.
  • Must not require concomitant therapy with psychotropic medication.
  • Must not be currently dependent on other substances, with the exception of nicotine or caffeine.
  • Hypersensitivity to buspirone or any other product component.
  • Patients who, in the investigator’s opinion, would be unable to comply with study procedures or assessments, or would be unacceptable study candidates (e.g., poses threat to staff).

To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contact information provided by the sponsor.

Buspirone Treatment for Marijuana Dependence The safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators. Listing a study does not mean it