CBD and Drug Interactions: What You Need to Know
Cannabidiol (CBD), has gained widespread attention for its potential to ease symptoms of insomnia, anxiety, chronic pain, and a host of other health conditions.
And while studies are ongoing as to how effective CBD is, many people are giving it a try.
Research to date shows that CBD is generally safe and has few, if any, minor side effects. But there’s one big caveat: CBD does have the potential to interact with some medications. The concern has to do with how the body metabolizes certain substances.
Before trying CBD, it’s crucial to talk to your doctor about all of the vitamins, supplements, and prescription and over-the-counter medications you’re taking. Here’s a deeper look at why having the conversation matters.
When you take a medication or other substance, your body has to metabolize it, or break it down. Drug metabolism happens throughout the body, such as in the gut, but the liver does a big part of the job, too.
A family of enzymes called cytochrome P450 (CYP450) does the important work of converting foreign substances so they can easily be eliminated from the body.
But some medications or substances affect CYP450, either by slowing or speeding up drug metabolism. That change in metabolism rate can alter how your body processes the medications or supplements you take — hence a drug interaction.
Why does CYP450 matter when it comes to CBD and medications?
The CYP450 family of enzymes is responsible for metabolizing several cannabinoids, including CBD, research shows. Specifically, CYP3A4, an important enzyme within the CYP450 family, does the task. But during this process, CBD also interferes with CYP3A4.
The CYP3A4 enzyme is in charge of metabolizing about 60 percent of clinically prescribed medications. But if CBD is inhibiting CYP3A4, it can’t work as effectively to break down the medications in your system.
The reverse can happen, too. Many medications inhibit CYP3A4. If you then take CBD while on these medications, your body can’t work to process the CBD as effectively.
If your body is metabolizing a medication too slowly, you may have more medication in your system at one time than intended — even if you’ve stuck to your normal dose. An increased level of a medication in your system could exaggerate its effects, including unwanted or harmful side effects.
Some substances also speed up the work of the CYP450 enzyme family. If your body is metabolizing a medication too fast because another substance is inducing the enzymes, you may not have enough of the medication in your system at one time to treat a health issue.
Trying CBD safely while taking medications
If you want to try CBD as an add-on therapy to ease symptoms of a certain condition, talk to your doctor about it first.
They may be able to help determine a CBD product, dosage, and schedule that’s safe with your medications. For some situations, your doctor may want to monitor blood plasma levels of certain medications you take.
Don’t stop any of your medications to try CBD, unless your doctor says it’s safe to do so.
Keep in mind that topical CBD, like lotions, creams, and salves, may also be an option. Unlike oils, edibles, and vaping solutions, topicals don’t typically enter the bloodstream — as long as they’re not a transdermal solution intended to do so.
CBD may interact with medications, altering their effects. Learn how and why, and get a list of types of medications that may interact.