Mental HealthScience

Is it safe to combine CBD and antidepressants?

While we appear to be living in the Age of Anxiety, more and more people are actually less likely to ask a doctor for help in dealing with their mental health, over fears that they will be over-prescribed strong medication to try and deal with it.

A recent study by Eos Scientific of over 2,000 UK adults found a growing distrust of traditional pharmaceuticals among all age groups, most prominently among millennials. Almost 50% of respondents aged between 18-34 said that they were hesitant to approach a doctor about their mental health concerns, as they didn’t want to be prescribed medication that might be too severe for their symptoms.

Mental health in young people

Despite the lack of definitive research around CBD and mood disorders, Eos research also showed that since CBD’s surge in mainstream popularity, more people are turning to the cannabinoid to reduce anxiety using cbd and lift their mood. The study showed that 50% of millennials aged 18-34 stated they would try CBD oil to help with their mental health concerns, with 38% of Brits overall saying they would use CBD oil to manage their mental health.

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According to the UK Mental Health Foundation, depression is the most predominant mental health concern worldwide, with almost 20% of people in the UK over the age of 16 suffering with anxiety or depression.

CBD as a possible antidepressant therapy

CBD oil and exercise

While there is some research around how CBD and cannabis can have possible antidepressant effects, there is unfortunately very little evidence on how CBD actually interacts with traditional antidepressant medication like SSRIs. Most research around CBD, the endocannabinoid system and depression revolves around how CBD can function on its own as possible antidepressant therapy, instead of how CBD functions alongside traditional antidepressants.

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Depression and the Endocannabinoid system

The idea of CBD as a possible treatment for depression is supported by some compelling research to show that depression is linked to endocannabinoid system function. Evidence from a 2009 paper showed that the endocannabinoid system plays an important role in anxiety and mood disorders, and suggests that the EC system may be an important pharmacological target for new antidepressant and cbd and anti-anxiety therapies.

Endocannabinoid system

This hypothesis was supported in 2011 paper, which showed that mood disorders like depression and schizophrenia are linked with endocannabinoid system dysfunction, however, researchers stressed that more research is needed.

Research around traditional antidepressants like SSRIs shows that traditional antidepressant therapies work by modulating the endocannabinoid system, which indicates that CBD could also be a novel therapy for mood disorders. So what is the effect of combining CBD and antidepressants?

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For anyone looking to experiment with combining CBD and traditional antidepressants like SSRIs, this can be difficult because CBD can actually change the way that the enzymes in our body metabolize medications like antidepressants.

In an interview with Bustle, Dr Peter Grinspoon M.D. – who is an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School – outlined how CBD works in a similar way to grapefruit juice, in that it can change the way that the enzymes in our body metabolize medications like antidepressants.

CBD and the grapefruit theory

“One system is the same one that grapefruit inhibits — the technical name is the CYP34A enzyme system. So, just like grapefruit juice, CBD can cause your body to have higher doses of benzodiazepines [anti-anxiety medications], or certain antipsychotic medications”.

CBD alters the enzyme system in our bodies that metabolizes antipsychotics and SSRIS, or serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which are a common treatment for depression. While there isn’t much research on how CBD alters these symptoms, how much CBD should I take while using traditional antidepressants like SSRIs could hypothetically interfere with how these drugs work.

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However, Grinspoon explains that while CBD could hypothetically throw off a very delicately balanced antidepressant regime, in actual clinical practice this problem doesn’t seem to be a huge cause for concern.

While the NHS website doesn’t contain any information about mixing CBD and antidepressants, they do state that using cannabis with tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) can lead to issues like tachycardia (a condition which makes your heartbeat over 100 beats per minute), even if you don’t already have any heart problems.

With all this information in mind, when experimenting with CBD and antidepressants you should proceed with extreme caution and consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment. Hopefully, the increasing interest around cannabis as a legitimate medical treatment will result in more urgently needed research around CBD and mood disorders.

Check out our full guide on Purchasing CBD Oil in the UK for more information.

Alex White

Alex is a writer and sustainable fashion enthusiast. When they aren't writing articles for The Extract, you can find them knee-deep in the vintage section of Oxfam.

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