Information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute as medical advice from a qualified physician. Always consult with your doctor before making any changes to prescribed medications.
Table of Contents
Understanding CBD Oil and Antidepressants
CBD oil is gaining popularity as laws continue to increase its access and new uses for these products are discovered. Antidepressants, on the other hand, have been around for decades and have established themselves as first-line treatment options for many mental health conditions. While their statuses differ drastically, some of their indications for the management of anxiety and depression overlap.
What is CBD Oil?
CBD oil is a product made from cannabidiol that has been diluted in some type of oil. Cannabidiol is a cannabinoid derived from cannabis plants like marijuana or hemp. CBD oil does not produce the psychoactive side effects seen with the use of marijuana because the CBD has been isolated from the many other cannabinoids in the plant. THC specifically, which is the cannabinoid responsible for the “high” feeling many people describe when using the plant product, is not present in CBD oil products. CBD oil has emerged as a potential treatment option for a variety of conditions, including anxiety, epilepsy, depression, and pain disorders.
What Are Antidepressants?
Antidepressants are medications used to treat mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. There are many different classes of antidepressants approved by the FDA. These include SSRIs, SNRIs, tricyclic antidepressants, and other miscellaneous antidepressants. These medications are thought to improve symptoms of depression by increasing certain chemicals in the brain, namely serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, to improve mood although their exact mechanism in depression is not clear. These medications have been developed and improved over many decades to optimize their effectiveness and reduce their side effects. However, some people still struggle to manage their anxiety and symptoms of depression using antidepressants alone.
Mixing CBD Oil and Antidepressants
With evidence suggesting CBD oil may benefit those who suffer from anxiety or depression, many people wonder if supplementing their antidepressant therapy with CBD oil is a safe and effective option.
CBD Oil and SSRIs
SSRIs are the first-line medications used for the treatment of depression. They are well researched and offer many people relief with fewer side effects than other treatment options. People have reported that the use of CBD oil in combination with their SSRIs resulted in improved symptoms of depression without additional side effects. That being said, this combination may not be for everyone. CBD has the potential to interact with SSRIs, and other antidepressants, resulting in increased amounts of antidepressant in the body and a higher risk of side effects.
The CYP450 Pathway
The CYP450 pathway is a metabolic pathway, located primarily in the liver, that is made up of many types of enzymes. These enzymes help break down or alter substances we have ingested, such as medications, to prepare them to be eliminated from the body. Each enzyme has a unique name. CYP3A4 and CYP2D6 are two examples of enzymes that are frequently responsible for the metabolism of medications in the body. These two enzymes are often responsible for the many reported drug interactions related to the CYP450 pathway.
CBD oil has been found to inhibit the CYP3A4 and CYP2D6 enzymes. This means it has the potential to interact with many medications by reducing their metabolism and increasing the amount of medication circulating in the body. Many antidepressants are metabolized by the CYP2D6 enzyme, so their clearance from the body could be reduced by the use of CBD oil. It is still unclear is how significant this interaction is; it is not completely understood if this interaction is related to the dose of CBD oil ingested or related to the route of ingestion of the product.
What The Research Says
The research for the use of CBD products in the treatment of depression and anxiety is expanding. A small study evaluated the use of CBD in patients with anxiety before a public speaking test. This study found that those who used CBD before their speech experienced less anxiety and discomfort than those who were given a placebo. This suggests CBD oil can benefit people who need help reducing anxiety levels before a particular event.
Much of the current research into the use of CBD in depression has been in animals. However, studies have evaluated the mechanism of CBD in the treatment of depression. CBD is known to act on the endocannabinoid system to reduce pain symptoms. Researchers have also begun to study the effect of antidepressants on this system to reduce symptoms of depression. This research has also discovered the impact of other receptors and areas of the brain that are affected by both antidepressants and CBD. This developing research suggests that CBD’s activity in the brain could improve depression, but more investigation into this indication is needed.
Can CBD Replace Antidepressants?
Instead of adding CBD to an antidepressant regimen, it may be more ideal for you to be able to stop using your antidepressants altogether. If you would like to try CBD oil in place of antidepressants, there are some important things you should consider.
How to Prepare the Switch
Preparation is important before deciding to stop taking antidepressants in favor of CBD oil. First, evaluate your current antidepressant regimen. If you are taking antidepressants, these are best stopped by titrating down the dose before quitting them all-together. If you have multiple antidepressants, talk to your physician about how to slowly decrease and remove these medications; it will be a better transition if you decrease one medication at a time. This process may be slow, but it will reduce withdrawal symptoms and improve your chance for a successful transition to CBD oil.
Dangers of Going Cold Turkey with SSRIs
Stopping any antidepressant “cold turkey” can put you at risk for withdrawal symptoms and worsening symptoms of depression or anxiety. This risk is increased if you have been taking antidepressants for a long time or are taking high doses. This is because your body is used to the effects of the medication; when you rip it away suddenly, your body is left scrambling to recover. Withdrawal symptoms of SSRIs can include sleep disturbances, flu-like symptoms, stomach upset, drowsiness, and mood disturbances. Some people also describe shock-like feelings in their brain for weeks after stopping SSRIs. These risks reinforce the importance of preparation when stopping SSRIs and working closely with your provider to do this safely.
Finding the Right Dosage
Using CBD oil may require some trial and error. You may find better luck with some products over others. Similarly, you may find that the original dose you use needs to be adjusted in order to see an effect. The dose may also need to be adjusted over time as the doses of antidepressant are reduced and your body adjusts to these changes. Finding a provider knowledgeable in the use of CBD products can help you find the right dose and product more efficiently.
Risks of Replacing Antidepressants with CBD Oil
While CBD is a more natural product, it carries certain risks that are not seen with antidepressants. One of the biggest risks with using these products is their current lack of regulation. Because CBD oil is sold online and in stores, there is little to no regulation controlling the quality of the products being marketed and sold. This lack of regulation and standardization makes these products harder to dose for different indications.
Research is improving for CBD oil and other cannabinoid products, but there is less quality evidence for the use of CBD oil in anxiety and depression at this time. This leaves uncertainty about its efficacy and most appropriate uses. With this lack of strong evidence available, it can be hard to find knowledgeable providers who understand CBD and the best way to take advantage of these products.
Finally, stopping antidepressants can be a challenging task. Reducing or stopping antidepressants cause withdrawal symptoms, such as those listed above, which may discourage some people from effectively making this transition. Stopping these medications too early or too quickly can also cause you to experience worsening anxiety or depression symptoms. To be safe, this process must be carefully executed and closely monitored by a physician or other qualified psychiatric care provider.
CBD May Be the Relief You’re Looking For
If you have been struggling with anxiety or depression symptoms despite antidepressant therapy options, CBD oil may be a good option for you. With the help of a knowledgeable provider, you may be able to improve your depression symptoms and potentially reduce or stop the use of your antidepressant medications. If you decide to use CBD oil to improve your depression and anxiety symptoms, develop a well-informed plan to introduce this supplement. You may find that this provides the relief you’ve been searching for.