Research, Treatment

Research Explores if Cannabis and Psilocybin Will Interact with Antidepressants

March 3, 2021 10:51 am ET
Research Explores if Cannabis and Psilocybin Will Interact with Antidepressants

Note: Veriheal does not support illegally consuming therapeutic substances like cannabis and psilocybin but acknowledges that it transpires because of the current illicit status of both, which we strive to change by advocating for research, legal access, and responsible consumption. Always consult a physician before attempting alternative therapies. 

Cannabis and psilocybin have both been, and still are, used to alleviate depression and as a means to help regulate anxiety, despite not having much knowledge on their mechanisms of function and therapeutic benefits. Researchers from a study looking at cannabis and antidepressant drugs explained that “a better understanding of these possible interactions could contribute to the development of therapeutic alternatives to mood and anxiety disorder” which is especially significant considering the effects of consuming antidepressants. 

Antidepressants Explained

Antidepressants are a type of medication that helps relieve the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Antidepressants do not cure one of depression and may require experimenting with different types until you find one that effectively treats symptoms while having minimum side-effects. 

Types of Antidepressants:

The type of antidepressant one is prescribed depends on the symptoms presented, possible side effects of the medication, whether it has worked for a blood relative, whether another medication is being consumed and their interactions along with considering any other health conditions. With that being said, these are the different types of antidepressants available:

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) – such as Prozac
  • Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)-such as Pristiq
  • Atypical Antidepressants- such as Trintellix
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants- such as Norpramin
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)- such as Nardil
  • A Combination- such as taking an MAOIs with SSRIs, which is a common pairing. 

Potential Side Effects

Antidepressants have the power to help boost mood and help provide patients the ability to overcome the symptoms of depression. This also allows them to get back into the groove of participating in the activities they love and improve their overall quality of life. Individuals suffering from depression would need to take the medication daily in order to increase their chances of working, however, there are common side-effects of antidepressants that one should be aware of. 

These side effects of consuming antidepressants include the following, but may vary among types and individual experience:

  • Nausea
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of sexual desire or arousal. 
  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Insomnia
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Increased Anxiety
  • Caring less about others
  • Feeling suicidal
  • Feeling emotionally numb or not like oneself. 

Psilocybin Interaction with Antidepressants

Although psilocybin shows promise of treating depression, including those normally deemed hard-to-treat, the biggest concern is that of the possible risks associated with the interaction between antidepressants and psilocybin. Neuroscientist, Camile Bahi, explains that when looking at the safety of consuming psilocybin, it has been found to be relatively safe during clinical trials with the only reports including mild headaches, small increases in blood pressure, and nothing else which would require medical intervention. Unfortunately, there is still scarce research available on the interactions between psilocybin and antidepressants, mostly due to the illegal drug status of psilocybin in most locations. 

Bahi continues to explain that while psilocybin may be effective as an alternative for antidepressants, the interactions between psilocybin and antidepressant medications include risks of serotonin syndrome and a decrease in the psychedelic effects of psilocybin. While a decrease in the psychedelic effects of “magic mushrooms” may make recreational users who are also on antidepressants a bit sad, the focus here is on medical interactions. The most significant concern being that regular use of psilocybin combined with antidepressants could potentially leave patients at risk of serotonin syndrome. 

Serotonin Syndrome Explained

According to Bahi, serotonin syndrome is a “potentially lethal adverse drug reaction that is most likely to occur when two compounds are able to raise serotonin neurotransmission” and when these two compounds are taken at the same time. Unfortunately, it was reported that 85% of physicians were not aware that this condition even existed. This problem, along with that of the syndrome’s lack of symptom specificity, makes it hard to diagnose and treat. 

Bahi explains that the symptoms of this condition are often described as “a clinical triad” which includes neuromuscular abnormalities such as tremors, automatic nervous system hyperactivity such as increased heart rates, and changes in mental state such as becoming agitated. The pathophysiology of this syndrome is not fully understood yet but appears to present as a result of producing excess serotonin neurotransmission- which would happen if one is regularly consuming psilocybin and an antidepressant, both of which boost serotonin levels. Bahi concludes by stating that,

It is impossible to state with certainty what the relationship is between serotonin syndrome and the pharmacology of psychedelics. Current knowledge is insufficient for formulating an accurate assessment of the risk, or a model of the modulation of both subjective and physiological effects arising from the combination of antidepressants and psychedelic (i.e psilocybin) substances”. 

Cannabis Interaction with Antidepressants

The implications of using cannabis regularly with antidepressant medication are no less serious than psilocybin use and should still be taken with extreme precaution as the research has not come to a solid conclusion. Both cannabis and antidepressants work to boost the “happy chemicals” in the brain such as dopamine. This may make consuming both seem appealing, however, the consensus of most studies implies that some antidepressants and cannabinoids may mix okay while others will not. Research suggests that cannabis and tricyclic antidepressants are not a great combo as TCAs become elevated leading to a domino effect of symptoms such as tachycardia, dry mouth, and constipation. MAOI medications are also not recommended to use in conjunction with cannabis given the already long list of negative interactions the medication has when combined with certain foods and drugs. Essentially, the interaction between cannabis and antidepressants depends on the type of antidepressant and on the individual too. Anecdotal evidence will suggest that there isn’t much risk but until research suggests otherwise, there isn’t a definite answer. This is why patients should always discuss using cannabis with their provider before attempting cannabis therapy to get a professional assessment on how it can impact the success of their current medications. 

Antidepressant Properties of Cannabis and Psilocybin

While consuming psilocybin and antidepressants together may cause an increase in serotonin neurotransmission, it can put patients at risk for developing serotonin syndrome, thus making it best avoided. The same can not be said for replacing antidepressants with psilocybin and cannabis. Anecdotal reports suggest that psilocybin and cannabis can be used synergistically, or in isolation, for effective antidepressant effects when taken properly

Cannabis has been shown to assist with mood regulation and alleviation of depression. In fact, a study found that 95% of their participants experienced significant relief from their depression symptoms. The cannabinoids in cannabis are said to regulate anxiety and depressive symptoms, much like those of antidepressants. This is said to be due to the fact that both interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Chronic antidepressants modify the expression of CB1 receptors in the ECS to regulate mood and anxiety through the brain, while cannabinoids bind to the same receptor and thus also impact its expression. The CB1 receptors are located throughout the brain and assist with the functioning of emotion as well as response to stimuli. Cannabinoids also have the ability to encourage homeostasis in the body through regulating the ECS, which is similar to antidepressant treatments modulating the ECS system. It is also important to note that the cannabinoid called cannabidiol (CBD) was not linked to symptom relief but instead it was tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which showed the most promise. So ensure that your product is full-or broad-spectrum cannabis products

While more is known of the mood-elevating and anxiety-reduction properties of cannabis, many do not know that psilocybin may actually be even more effective as an organic antidepressant than cannabis. In fact, a study found that psilocybin may be four times more effective than antidepressants. Alan Davis, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and an author on the study, explained that,

The magnitude of the effect we saw was about four times larger than what clinical trials have shown for traditional antidepressants on the market” and that “because most other depression treatments take weeks or months to work and may have undesirable effects, this could be a game-changer if these findings hold up in future ‘gold standard’ placebo-controlled clinical trials”. 

When combined as a synergetic duo, patients can expect to experience improvements in mood balancing, reduction in anxiety and stress, calm and perceptive dispositions, creativity, boosted memory and focus as well as a boosted immune system. This combination seems to be the only pairing worth using to alleviate depression and its symptoms- as opposed to regularly combining antidepressants with cannabis and/or psilocybin. 

Despite little being known about the interactions between consuming cannabis and psilocybin in combination with antidepressants, what is known suggests that it is better to avoid a regimen of combined consumption of the organic solutions with the man-made ones. However, combining cannabis and psilocybin as a replacement for antidepressants may be worth considering if you want to steer clear of pharmaceutical medication. In order to do this successfully, always consult with your physician before weaning off of antidepressants or combining them with other therapies to ensure that there is minimal impact on your mental and emotional health. 

Post Your Comments

William Campfield says:

March 3, 2021 at 11:21 pm

I have ptsd and insomnia.

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