Products containing cannabidiol (CBD) seem to be all the rage these days, promising relief from a wide range of maladies, from insomnia and hot flashes to chronic pain and seizures. Some of these claims have merit to them, while some of them are just hype. But it won’t hurt to try, right? Well, not so fast. CBD is a biologically active compound, and as such, it may also have unintended consequences. These include known side effects of CBD, but also unintended interactions with supplements, herbal products, and over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications.
Doubling up on side effects
While generally considered safe, CBD may cause drowsiness, lightheadedness, nausea, diarrhea, dry mouth, and, in rare instances, damage to the liver. Taking CBD with other medications that have similar side effects may increase the risk of unwanted symptoms or toxicity. In other words, taking CBD at the same time with OTC or prescription medications and substances that cause sleepiness, such as opioids, benzodiazepines (such as Xanax or Ativan), antipsychotics, antidepressants, antihistamines (such as Benadryl), or alcohol may lead to increased sleepiness, fatigue, and possibly accidental falls and accidents when driving. Increased sedation and tiredness may also happen when using certain herbal supplements, such as kava, melatonin, and St. John’s wort. Taking CBD with stimulants (such as Adderall) may lead to decreased appetite, while taking it with the diabetes drug metformin or certain heartburn drugs (such as Prilosec) may increase the risk of diarrhea.
CBD can alter the effects of other drugs
Researchers from Penn State College of Medicine evaluated existing information on five prescription CBD and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cannabinoid medications: antinausea medications used during cancer treatment (Marinol, Syndros, Cesamet); a medication used primarily for muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis (Sativex, which is not currently available in the US, but available in other countries); and an antiseizure medication (Epidiolex). Overall, the researchers identified 139 medications that may be affected by cannabinoids. This list was further narrowed to 57 medications, for which altered concentration can be dangerous. The list contains a variety of drugs from heart medications to antibiotics, although not all the drugs on the list may be affected by CBD-only products (some are only affected by THC). Potentially serious drug interactions with CBD included
Cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating phytocannabinoid, has potential therapeutic effects over a broad range of disorders. Recently, there has been increased interest in CBD, as several studies showed promising anticonvulsant efficacy with few side effects. In 2018, a CBD-based oral solution, Epidiolex®, was approved by the FDA to treat two severe forms of pediatric epilepsy, Dravet syndrome, and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Although only these two syndromes are recognized indications for CBD, it has been consumed in an unregulated fashion for a variety of indications including chronic pain, muscle stiffness, inflammation, anxiety, smoking cessation, and even cancer. While CBD legislation in the USA is confusing due to the differences in state and federal laws, CBD has proliferated in the US market in several forms such as CBD oil or capsules, hemp oil/extract, and also as an ingredient in several dietary supplements, syrups, teas, and creams. With the ever-increasing use of CBD and its widespread availability to the general public, it is important to examine and report on possible drug-drug interactions between CBD and other therapeutic agents as well as addictive substances such as alcohol and tobacco. A detailed literature search for CBD’s possible interactions was conducted using online databases. As expected, CBD has been reported to interact with anti-epileptic drugs, antidepressants, opioid analgesics, and THC, but surprisingly, it interacts with several other common medications, e.g. acetaminophen, and substances including alcohol. This review provides a comprehensive list of interacting drugs. The possible mechanisms for these drug-drug interactions are presented in table format. Given the growing popularity of CBD as a medication and the dearth of available information on CBD drug-drug interactions, it is critical to be aware of current drug-drug interactions and it will be important to investigate the impact of CBD upon concomitant medication use in future randomized, controlled trials.
Keywords: cannabidiol; cannabinoids; cytochrome P450; drug–drug interactions; mechanism.