It is always important to be aware and cautious of what you’re mixing with any sort of medication, since certain medicines will have a negative or more enhanced reaction when taken with another substance. When you’re fighting off a bacterial infection, doctors generally prescribe antibiotics, which come along with some strict rules. But almost never addressed is an important question: can you smoke weed while taking those antibiotics?
We decided to ask Terry Roycroft, the president of the Medicinal Cannabis Resource Centre Inc. (MCRCI), who has studied marijuana and its effects for over ten years and is passionate about advancing public knowledge of the plant. Thankfully, according to him, taking antibiotics and smoking marijuana may not be as harmful to an individual as one would assume.
How Harmful Are Drug Interactions?
“There’s a number of drug interactions for numerous everyday things. For example, even with caffeine, there are 82 drug interactions out there and some of them are moderately severe to severe,” Roycroft explains.
Even something as harmless as grapefruit can have a negative interaction with antibiotics. This piece of fruit can interfere with the metabolism of a number of medications, including some antibiotics used to treat certain respiratory, stomach and other infections. In fact, Roycroft says that they began using grapefruit as a guide for cannabis.
“The reality is that there [are] very little interactions with cannabis. In fact, the antibiotics are not on the contraindicator list [the list of symptoms or conditions that makes a procedure inadvisable] with cannabis,” Roycroft says.
Any interactions that have been identified are very mild — and, in fact, doctors are currently testing to see if some antibiotics work more favorably mixed with marijuana.
“For instance, when we’re treating someone that’s on pain medication and we introduce cannabis, we will cut their [antibiotic] dose in half immediately and they get the same benefits as they would, and the same reactions as if they were taking the full amount.”
Although there may be very mild interactions, effects may still be felt by those who mix the two. According to Jessie Gill, a medical nurse who specializes in medical marijuana, using some macrolide antibiotics, such as troleandomycin, could potentially interact with marijuana.
“Marijuana inhibits a specific enzyme in the liver, cytochrome p450. This enzyme is used by many medications – including some antibiotics,” Gill wrote on Quora.
“What this means is that the effect of the medications will be increased. That also means you’d be at a higher risk of experiencing side effects and adverse reactions from the antibiotics.”
Will Cannabis Reduce the Effectiveness of my Antibiotics?
You don’t want to see the effects of the antibiotics you’ve been given neutralized. If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, he wants you to take the full course of medication to make sure your infection is killed completely. So the idea of antibiotics’ effectiveness being lessened should absolutely be a dealbreaker.
Fortunately, the evidence so far seems to suggest that cannabis will not interfere with antibiotics. In fact, cannabis has shown in studies to have antibacterial properties itself, proving effective against the difficult-to-treat MRSA bacterium. It may be only a matter of time before doctors are ready to add cannabis to the regimen of antibiotics they prescribe for patients who are having trouble kicking a nasty infection.
On that front, then, there is probably little to worry about. Likely, you can still use cannabis while on antibiotics and the antibiotics should still do their job just fine.
What are the Risks of Using Cannabis While on Antibiotics?
Your antibiotics will probably still be effective, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t without risk. It’s important to understand that different drugs use different metabolic pathways in the liver. The metabolic pathway that processes cannabinoids is the same one used by many prescription drugs, including some antibiotics.
Is that a problem?
The short answer is likely not. Despite using some of the same metabolic pathways, most medications don’t interact negatively with cannabis. And if they do, the interactions are non-life threatening.
The somewhat longer answer is that we can’t be sure since satisfactory testing has not yet been done on cannabis and its full effects on the body. And it’s important to remember that every person is different. If you have a friend or family member who used cannabis while taking a certain antibiotic and reported no ill effects, that’s a good sign. But it’s not an absolute guarantee. Your experience might be different from your friend’s, just as everyone has a slightly different experience when getting high.
There are essentially no clinical studies that offer data on the safety of cannabis when mixed with antibiotics. That said (and as supplemented by Dr. Solomon’s statement above), there are also no medical reports (that we’re aware of) of anyone suffering adverse-effects from using marijuana while taking antibiotics. Of course, this is an ongoing concern for medical cannabis use in general; we are still suffering from a shocking lack of research.