Marijuana, CBD products can alter effects of prescription drugs, study warns

Researchers advise people who use CBD oils and other marijuana products to share such habits with their doctors, particularly when using prescription drugs.

HERSHEY, Pa. — Products containing cannabinoids (the chemicals found in marijuana) have never been more popular and accepted by society. Now, though, a new study from Penn State finds that CBD- and THC-infused goods may affect how certain prescription medicines interact with the body.

The team at Penn State says doctors should take these findings into account while handing out prescriptions, especially if the patient in question acknowledges the use of any type of marijuana product (illegal, prescribed, or OTC). Similarly, any doctor who recommends or prescribes cannabinoid products to their patients should be aware of these findings.

In all, researchers put together a list of 57 different prescription drugs that may be influenced when combined with cannabinoids (medical marijuana, CBD oil, or even recreational marijuana).

All of the drugs on the list have a “narrow therapeutic index.” This means they are usually prescribed in very specific doses. Even slight changes in how the prescription drugs operate could have a big effect on patients, researchers warn.

How was this list put together? To start, the research team examined the prescribing data for four prescription cannabinoid medications. For each medication, this information includes a list of enzymes in the human body responsible for “processing” the ingredients (THC, CBD) in those cannabinoid medications. That info was then compared to the prescribing data for various prescription medications. More specifically, researchers were looking for any overlap between the enzymes, otherwise known as a drug to drug interaction.

The types of drugs included on the list vary greatly, from heart drugs to antibiotics or anti-fungals. For instance, warfarin, a popular anticoagulant used to prevent blood clots, appears to have a possible drug-drug interaction with cannabinoids.

The dangers of unregulated products

Researchers also warn that many cannabinoid products, especially CBD oils, are unregulated. Consequently, they don’t offer any drug-drug interaction information or prescription medication warnings on their labeling.

“Unregulated products often contain the same active ingredients as medical cannabinoids, though they may be present in different concentrations,” study author Kent Vrana, professor and chair of pharmacology at the College of Medicine, says in a release. “The drug-drug interaction information from medical cannabinoids may be useful as medical professionals consider the potential impact of over-the-counter or illicit cannabinoid products.”

The study’s authors also have a message for anyone using cannabinoid products: be honest with your doctor. People are often hesitant to disclose a marijuana habit to a physician, but failing to do so could lead to unforeseen health complications.

The study is published in Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids.

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