It’s no secret that Americans are the most over-prescribed population in the world.  A 2016 study conducted by the Federal Government found that about 45% (119 million) of Americans over the age of 12 are taking some sort of prescription pain reliever, tranquilizer, sedative or stimulant.  This is a staggering statistic.  Our population consumes a substantial amount of chemicals, many of which have interactions with the different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant.  Cannabis offers relief to many people facing a myriad of ailments.  Many of these people are leaving their prescriptions behind in favor of more holistic medicine.  While we agree that this is a good thing, we also believe that before quitting any prescriptions or using cannabis in conjunction with your prescriptions, you need to have a conversation with your doctor.

Talking to your doctor about using cannabis can be a difficult conversation to navigate.  Doctors, being trained medical professionals require true scientific research to back the drugs that they give to their patients.  Unfortunately for us, currently the cannabis industry lacks the necessary research needed for many medical professionals to get on board with cannabis healing.  Although we don’t have the clinical research with solid scientific evidence backing it, we do have substantial anecdotal evidence that cannabis and its compounds do have medical efficacy when dealing with many ailments that we all face throughout our lives.  In our work with City Sessions, we have worked with many companies like Mary’s Medicinals and Hello Ned that both make medically focused cannabis products.  These companies have many testimonials from satisfied customers about their experiences using their products and healing with cannabis.  It is clear that cannabis has medical efficacy, but convincing your doctor of this might be difficult to do.  Doctors are also not trained in the endocannabinoid system or how cannabinoids interact with your body.  The ECS is a fairly new medical discovery and has not yet made its way into Western medicine.  Even if your doctor was on board with you using cannabis as a medicine, they may not be able to advise on how to do so properly.

Apart from the lack of scientific evidence surrounding cannabis as a medicine, cannabis is also considered to be highly illegal by the Federal government.  Cannabis falls under a Schedule 1 drug classification which by definition means, a drug that has no medical benefit or uses in the United States and has a high potential for abuse.  So long as cannabis has this classification it will be very difficult to get doctors to suggest these products to their patients.  Doctors who do suggest these products are putting their reputation and medical license on the line and many doctors are not willing to take this risk.

Despite these factors, it is imperative that you talk to your doctor about your cannabis consumption.  Drug interactions with cannabis are not something that many people think about when they pair cannabis with the medications they are taking.  For the most part, many of the interactions cannabis has with prescription drugs are minor, but there are some drugs that cannabis can either compound the effects of or cause to not work at all.  THC and CBD are metabolized through the Cytochrome P450 pathways by CYP3A4 and CYP2C9 enzymes.  CBD, but not THC is also metabolized by the CYP2C19 enzyme.  This cytochrome pathway also metabolizes around 70 – 80% of drugs used clinically here in the United States.  If you are taking a prescription that is metabolized through the Cytochrome P450 pathway, there is a substantial chance that cannabis will have some type of interaction with that drug.  Your doctor will be able to tell you if the medications you are taking are metabolized through this cytochrome pathway, and if you should experience any adverse effects when mixed with cannabis.  If your doctor doesn’t know about the exact interactions your medications and cannabis might have, you can search your prescription here to see if there are any listed interactions with cannabis.  It is very important to err on the side of caution when combining substances.  If you are taking a medication that is crucial to the functionality of your body, it is very important to know if cannabis is going to inhibit that drug’s ability to work properly.  This is why it is important to discuss consuming cannabis along with other medications with your doctor.

Although it may be a difficult conversation to have, it’s important to be upfront with your doctor about your cannabis use.  Drug interactions are important to keep in mind as they can be dangerous to your health.  If you are wanting to use cannabis to replace a medication you are currently taking, talking with your doctor about your experience will help them learn about how cannabis is helping you deal with your condition or ailment.  The more knowledge they have about cannabis, the more likely they are to be open to suggesting it as a potential remedy.  An open dialogue works to benefit both parties and hopefully will begin to dissolve the stigma surrounding cannabis medicine. We are still a long way off from cannabis being integrated into western medicine, but cannabis has found its place as a holistic plant medicine.  With more people turning to cannabis as an alternative to traditional medication, it’s only a matter of time until we begin to fully research this plant and learn all about the incredible potential it has to heal humanity.

Continue your education on how to use cannabis as a treatment for pain in our next blog, Medical Cannabis and Pain Management