Interact with Prescription Medication?
Written by, Michelle J.
Cannabidiol’s myriad of medical and health benefits are driving its popularity skyward. However, there is an important factor to consider when consuming CBD: how it interacts with other drugs in the human body.
CBD is a safe, non-toxic, non-intoxicating cannabis extract. Its medical applications range from the treatment of serious conditions such as epileptic seizures and chronic depression, all the way to everyday health and wellbeing. Whether that be relief from aches and pains, help with that post work out recovery, or a natural sleep aid, CBD has become a favoured natural alternative to pharmaceutical medicine. But as fantastic as cannabidiol is, it can’t treat every medical issue. Many people have conditions that do require them to take prescription drugs. And that’s important because mixing CBD and pharmaceuticals can inhibit the effectiveness of those medications.
How are Drugs Metabolized?
In order to understand what is happening, we have to look at how both CBD and most pharmaceutical drugs are metabolized by the human body. A group of enzymes known collectively as Cytochrome P450 or CYT P450 are responsible for this process. CYT P450 are found in the cells of all humans and play an important role in regulating hormone, cholesterol and vitamin synthesis. It’s a pivotal biological system, not only within the human body but in wider biology too. CYT P450 enzymes have been identified in every kingdom of life, with most animals, plants, fungi and even bacteria possessing these metabolic systems.
While it exists in every tissue of the human body, CYT P450 in the liver, specifically the role it plays in breaking down toxins, has become of critical importance to modern medicine. It’s so crucial because roughly 75 percent of the world’s pharmaceutical drugs are metabolized through this pathway, CBD included. With the vast majority of our available medicines competing for the same real estate inside your liver, successfully treating more than one medical condition becomes a very complex pharmacological task.
When more than one drug uses this CYT 450 pathway, they begin to interact with each other; one can inhibit or exacerbate the metabolism of the other. In simpler terms, one drug can prevent the other from working and this usually leads to an adjustment of dosage to compensate. In extreme cases, some drugs will stop others from metabolizing completely, causing them to bioaccumulate, or build up within the human body. Additionally, the more drugs you add to the equation, the more complex this set of interactions becomes, with multiple drugs jostling to be metabolized by the same system of enzymes.
Medical science has long studied these drug interactions because of how important it is that patients receive an “effective dose” that will treat their various conditions. If the dosage is too low, then the medicine simply won’t work. Conversely, if it is too high, then
overdose will occur and can cause serious harm. One of the principle jobs of a doctor when prescribing multiple medicines is to pay careful attention to how certain drugs will interact with one another. That is to ensure their patients’ ailments are treated effectively and any possible drug interactions are taken into consideration. To see a list of drugs and foods on that use these Cytochrome P450 pathways, click here.
Where Does CBD Come In?
CBD has been found to be a relatively potent inhibitor of other pharmaceuticals using the CYT P450 pathway. When taken alongside competing drugs, cannabidiol will muscle its way to the front of the metabolism queue, forcing weaker drugs to wait their turn and hence reducing their effectiveness. In this regard CBD has an unlikely similarity with grapefruit. When ingested, a number of bioactive compounds found within the citric fruit also prevent certain drugs from metabolizing. It’s a common example in medicine and it’s likely that your doctor will advise you to avoid grapefruit entirely if you are prescribed with a drug that will be negatively affected by it. Ultimately, CBD is just another factor to consider in the complex world of drug interactions. Which leads us to our final point.
Talking to Your Doctor About Cannabidiol
The importance of letting your doctor know that you are consuming CBD alongside other pharmaceutical drugs cannot be stressed enough. As we’ve covered, CBD’s strong inhibiting effect will most likely be interacting with other medications. The danger being that if your doctor is unaware of an important drug interaction taking place in your body, they could unknowingly prescribe an overdose. The other possibility is that they could prescribe too low a dose and your ailment will be ineffectively treated. It’s a balancing act to find that effective dose which your doctor may struggle to discover if they are unaware CBD is also present. For some people, it can be difficult to bring up the subject with their clinician. There is still a certain amount of stigma surrounding cannabis as a whole, the “Reefer Madness” attitude is still prevalent in many peoples’ imaginations.
But CBD’s use as a medicine is rapidly becoming accepted by the medical profession. If CBD works for you, treats your ailments and improves your quality of life, then there’s no need to be embarrassed about letting your doctor in on the secret. And even if you don’t have a condition that requires pharmaceutical medicine to be prescribed, then it’s still good to inform your doc that you’re consuming CBD in case that changes in the future.
When all is said and done, cannabidiol is a safe, effective treatment for a wide range of issues. However, it is not a cure all, so pharmaceutical medicine remains as important as ever. As medical science continues to lift the veil on what CBD can achieve as a medicine, we’re discovering more and more about where it belongs in this complex world of drug interactions.
Thanks for reading!