Many people turn to marijuana or cannabidiol to ease their achy joints and help them sleep, but a new study suggests that could wreak havoc with any other medications they’re taking.
Why? Because the body uses the same set of enzymes to process them all, scientists report.
The chemicals in marijuana — THC, cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN) — are metabolized in the body by at least two families of enzymes that also help process and eliminate more than 70% of the most commonly used prescription drugs from the body, the researchers say.
That means there’s a risk that pot might dangerously amp up the effects of some prescription drugs, or cause other medications to flush through your system so quickly that they do you no good, lead researcher Philip Lazarus says. He’s a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at Washington State University, in Spokane.
“We saw some significant inhibitions,” Lazarus adds. “The concentrations we see in the lab are probably an indicator there is at least some inhibition of these enzymes in real-time.”
Which drugs are most affected by marijuana?
Some drugs that could be affected by pot use include the blood thinner warfarin, the breast cancer drug tamoxifen, and painkillers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin), Lazarus and Ed Bednarczyk, a clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice at the University at Buffalo, in New York say.
How does marijuana affect drugs?
In two lab reports published in the December issue of the journal Drug Metabolism and Disposition, Lazarus served as senior author. One study looked at a family of enzymes known as cytochrome P450s (CYPs), and the other analyzed the enzyme group UDP-glucuronosyltransferases (UGTs).
The CYPs are involved in the early stages of metabolizing THC and CBD, while the UGTs are involved in the later stages.
THC and CBD stay in your body for only about 30 minutes before the enzymes break them down, but the chemicals that result from the process can linger in your body for up to two weeks, the study authors said in background notes.
In the lab, the researchers tested how the pot chemicals might interfere with these enzymes’ ability to break down other drugs, using cultured human kidney cells to test a single enzyme at a time.
The investigators found that the major THC metabolites inhibited key CYP enzymes, including several that serve key roles in the liver.