Popping Pills, Smoking Weed… Yikes!

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leafpluscapsuleA recent article in Pharmacy Times examined the effect of prescription drug and marijuana use on the body.  The findings mostly emphasize drug interactions that result in higher concentrations of marijuana or its metabolites, resulting in stronger effects of marijuana.  There are at least two instances where marijuana use may reduce the effectiveness of a concurrent medication.  Theophylline (used to help breathing) and chlorpromazine (an anti-psychotic) may drop as much as 50% in activity in users who smoke 2 joints per week.

An intriguing distinction between the two species of marijuana plant, Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa, is explained in the article.  Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical in marijuana responsible for producing its psychoactive effects, is broken down to form a metabolite called cannabidiol (CBD).  CBD tends to cause feelings of relaxation, and it appears in higher concentrations in users of Cannabis indica.  This difference between the two plants is the reason popular cannabis culture promotes indica as a “sedating high” and sativa as a “happy high.”

marinol

Oral formulations of THC are commercially available in every pharmacy, regardless of the state’s marijuana legalization status. Dronabinol (Marinol) and nabilone (Cesamet) are man-made forms of marijuana used to increase appetite or to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy.  In spite of these advances in pharmaceutics, the trend toward less restricted access to raw forms of marijuana seems to be gaining momentum.