What Medications Can CBD Interact With?

Reading time - 8 minutes - February 8, 2023

It is no exaggeration to call CBD the most popular health supplement of the last decade. Research shows that at least six million people in the UK have now tried a CBD product! Whether you prefer a gummy, tea, or sparkling drink, or a more traditional tincture or capsule, there is sure to be a CBD product out there for you to try (if you haven’t already – that is). But there are more considerations than simply the best product for you. 

For example, did you know that CBD has been found to interact with some medications? Therefore, it is vital that, if you are currently taking any medications, you are aware of these potential interactions and what they could mean. But don’t worry, in this article, we’re going to be going through the common medications that CBD can interact with to give you peace of mind the next time you reach for the CBD oil.

What is CBD?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of drug-drug interactions, it is important to understand what CBD actually is and how it interacts with our bodies. As you may know, CBD – or to use its full name, cannabidiol – is a compound produced by the cannabis plant. The category of compounds to which CBD belongs is known as “cannabinoids”. Now, this is where things get interesting. You see, our bodies also create their own kind of cannabinoids – known as “endo”-cannabinoids. Actually, we have a whole receptor system dedicated to these compounds – the endocannabinoid system, or ECS.

The ECS has been found to play a key role in many important functions, including mood, temperature, fertility, and pain signalling. It consists of cannabinoid receptors, enzymes, and – you guessed it – endocannabinoids. The system involves interactions between endocannabinoids and these receptors (known as CB1 and CB2 receptors) which trigger a number of physiological and biological processes. The thing is, phytocannabinoids (the type of cannabinoids found in cannabis plants) can also interact with this system. In fact, these are what the ECS is named after!

The Rising Popularity of CBD

As we have already mentioned, CBD has become a health staple for millions of people in the UK and all around the world. But what led to this popularity? Why are people buying CBD products by the bucket load? Well, an increasing body of research is starting to reveal some interesting and outright impressive facts about this humble cannabinoid.

First of all, it is important to know that clinical research is still in its infancy as access to cannabis (even for research purposes) remains tightly restricted in most countries. Nevertheless, the evidence that we do have so far – both from the lab and from anecdotal reports – suggests that CBD has a number of potential health benefits. Media coverage and the power of word-of-mouth have, therefore, led to a cannabis revolution, offering people from all walks of life the opportunity to discover cannabis-derived health without the fear of breaking the law or getting high. So, what are these benefits?

The reported benefits of CBD…

CBD is an extremely diverse and versatile compound – as demonstrated by the variety of products available, from CBD wax to CBD chocolate. Building on this, the compound has also attracted a diverse user base, all looking to benefit from various potential properties. These may include:

CBD as an anti-anxiety supplement…

One of the most talked-about uses for CBD is its potential for tackling anxiety. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions faced by people all over the world. In fact, recent studies show that around 4% of the population is affected by anxiety. The situation has left many looking for a solution, and with more people interested in natural remedies, CBD has taken centre stage.

Remember how we mentioned that the endocannabinoid system plays a role in our mood? Well, it is this process which makes CBD an interesting compound for tackling anxiety. CBD has been observed to interact with various receptors in the body, including cannabinoid receptors. While the exact science behind these interactions is still not fully understood, it is thought that they can trigger the release of natural chemicals, including serotonin and anandamide (AEA) – both of which impact our mood – including anxiety.

Find out more about CBD as an anti-anxiety remedy in our recent blog: ‘Understanding the Anti-Anxiety Potential of CBD’.

CBD for pain…

Another popular application for CBD is pain relief. This multifaceted compound can now be found in a huge number of pain relief products, such as CBD muscle balms, joint relief creams, and much more. What’s more, many consumers report taking daily CBD supplements to help manage minor aches and pains or even as an aid for more serious conditions. 

Again, though, clinical evidence remains somewhat underdeveloped. Various studies have suggested that CBD may be useful for reducing pain and inflammation. For example, a 2022 study concluded that, while CBD didn’t appear to reduce the volume of pain experienced by participants, its use appeared to make the pain less unpleasant. The potential mechanism behind CBD’s apparent analgesic effects may again lies with its ability to trigger the production of certain chemicals in our bodies.

CBD for better sleep…

For many of us, sleep is one thing that doesn’t seem to come naturally – at least when we want it to! Research suggests that around one in three people in the UK experience insomnia or other sleep difficulties. Understandably, then, a remedy is needed, and for many, that remedy is CBD. 

The theory behind CBD and improved sleep largely relates to the anti-anxiety potential of the compound as described above. You see, anxiety affects many aspects of life – including sleep. Growing evidence suggests that CBD could well help to improve sleep; for example, a recent study found that two-thirds of participants reported improved sleep scores while using CBD.

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CBD and Your Medications

So, if consumers are using CBD products, not only as a daily health supplement but also as a natural remedy for existing conditions, then there is a chance they may also be taking some medications. While in most cases, CBD is completely safe and well-tolerated (as declared by the World Health Organisation), evidence suggests that some drug interactions may cause unwanted side effects.

So, which medications interact with CBD? 

Many medications and other chemicals – including CBD – are broken down in the body by enzymes. In the case of CBD, the compatible enzyme is called CYP450. But this enzyme also breaks down a number of other compounds, including some that may be in your medication. When taken together, this may mean that CBD can affect the way in which your medication is broken down and processed in your body.

For example, CBD may inhibit certain enzymes in the liver which may result in your medication being broken down more slowly. However, in other cases, CBD may induce other enzymes, causing your medication to be processed more quickly. Depending on the specific interaction, this may mean that your medication is more, or less, effective when taken in combination with CBD. While this may not sound like much of a big deal, depending on the circumstances, this could be serious.

There remains a lot of uncertainty around which drugs may interact with CBD – and how. However, if you are taking any of the following medications, you should always speak to a doctor before using CBD:

It is important to have a proper understanding of CBD and what it does in our bodies before using it with other substances, including medications and other supplements. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has released detailed information on the potential drug-drug-interactions that should be considered.

Many of these potential interactions relate to CBD’s role as a Central Nervous System (CNS) depressant. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, CNS depressants are drugs or chemicals that “can slow brain activity, making them useful for treating anxiety, panic, acute stress reactions, and sleep disorders.” Other CNS depressants include alcohol, Amitriptyline, Codeine, and Diazepam.

All of these drugs – and CBD – have been found to cause drowsiness and various other side effects that can affect an individual’s ability to drive and/or conduct work using heavy machinery. If you are already taking medications that have similar side effects, it is possible that adding CBD into the mix could cause them to worsen – though there is little evidence to prove this outright. Nonetheless, it is important to always be aware of these potential interactions and be cautious when dosing both CBD and your other medications. 

Does the form of CBD used make a difference?

While little research has aimed to assess the effects of different CBD products on potential interactions with medications, it is fair to assume that some products will cause more of a problem than others. For example, inhaling CBD – such as with a vaporizer – results in the active compounds reaching the bloodstream much quicker than using edibles. 

On the other hand, topical products are designed to offer localised support (for example, to relieve joint pain). It is, therefore, much less likely that CBD absorbed from a topical product through the skin will have as much of an impact on your medication.

Talking to your Doctor about CBD

As we have already said, it is always recommended that you discuss CBD with your doctor if you are using – or considering using products. This is particularly important if you are also taking medications or have any underlying health conditions, including liver disease, kidney disease, epilepsy, heart disease, or a weakened immune system (or are on medication that can weaken the immune system). Your doctor will hopefully be able to guide and inform you about potential interactions with your existing medication. 

CBD remains an incredibly popular option when it comes to natural health and wellness ingredients – and this isn’t likely to change any time soon. Despite the potential medication interactions highlighted in this article, CBD is generally safe and well-tolerated when purchased from reliable sources. If you are interested to learn what CBD could do for you, always be sure to buy from a trusted and reputable brand, follow guidance on the correct dose for your needs and the best product for you and, most importantly, be aware of any medications that could be impacted by CBD use.

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