Considering the amount of antidepressant prescriptions physicians give out every day and the growing availability and legality of smoking marijuana, there’s zero doubt that a vast number of folks are using both Lexapro and weed or other antidepressants at the same time.
Whether it’s safe to mix antidepressants and weed is a serious concern because both drugs can have long-term effects on brain chemistry, mood, and overall mental health.
Thirty-three states, plus the District of Columbia, have now passed laws generally legalizing pot in some form or fashion, from outright legal recreationally, to strictly medicinal. In some cases, states have even simply decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Nearly 17 percent of the U.S. population – about 55 million people – use marijuana on a regular basis, and 45 percent of adults admit to trying it at least once, according to data published by the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS).
Where antidepressants are concerned, the American Psychological Association (APA) reports that almost 13 percent of the population over the age of 12 has taken some form of antidepressant medication in the past month.
What is known about Mixing Antidepressants and Marijuana?
One huge problem with understanding some of the possible health risks is there’s simply not a lot of research on the interaction between marijuana and antidepressants, like Lexapro and others.
This is primarily due to the fact that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance, meaning the drug is considered to have little or no medical use and a high likelihood for abuse.
While many would argue the merits of these points, the fact remains the government hasn’t changed it’s Federal classification of marijuana for decades.
Because of the government’s classification, very few federal dollars have gone toward marijuana research of any kind. There is, however, some new information emerging.
A large international study conducted in Brazil and Europe in 2019, and published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal found that daily pot-smokers, especially those who use high-THC strains, are three times more likely to experience an episode of psychosis. This can include paranoia, hallucinations, delusions and intense anxiety.
“As the legal status of cannabis changes in many countries and states, and as we consider the medicinal properties of some types of cannabis, it is of vital public health importance that we also consider the potential adverse effects.” This advice was told to Reuters News by Marta di Forti, a co-author on the study at King’s College Institute of Psychiatry.
Can You Smoke Weed on Lexapro?
Even if there’s not a large trove of research on weed and Lexapro, or any other antidepressants for that matter, there are other obvious issues to consider. One of the most important is the fact that marijuana is known to cause anxiety in some users.
Obviously, this can worsen a person’s mental health and lead to other complications.
Chronic or even moderate marijuana use may also mask any improvement a patient is getting from taking an antidepressant because of how THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, interacts with neurotransmitters in the brain.
Dopamine and serotonin, which are neurotransmitters associated with mood, are impacted by marijuana use, as well as antidepressants.
Lexapro and marijuana both, independently, can lead to high levels of serotonin in the brain. Too much of this neurotransmitter is known to cause Serotonin Syndrome, a condition where one of the symptoms is seizure.
This is one reason why most physicians will not prescribe antidepressants to patients who continue to smoke weed.
Smoking Weed on Antidepressants
Finally, there is also the potential for substance abuse and addiction, which can cause or increase depression and anxiety. These are two of the main symptoms that people are prescribed antidepressants for in the first place.
A report by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that 2.5 percent of adults in the U.S., about 6 million people, struggled with marijuana use disorder in the past year.
Another 6.3 percent of people have been shown to battle marijuana use disorder at some point in their lives.
Long-term marijuana use can change the brain’s chemistry and may be, in fact, one reason why a person experiences depression. Even if it’s a not cannabis-induced condition, too much pot over long periods is very likely to make depressive symptoms worse.
The Irony of Lexapro and Weed For Depression
The irony about depression, Leaxapro and weed, is that many people use marijuana as a coping mechanism for dealing with certain mental health issues like stress, anxiety, PTSD, and even depression.
For some people, marijuana helps them relax and serves as a Band-Aid for helping them cope with their psychological stressors and issues. Unfortunately, this only temporarily masks the problem and doesn’t offer any tangible therapeutic benefit.
Over time, marijuana use will compound the problem because the user becomes addicted to it for coping with depression or anxiety on a daily basis, as the normal functioning of the brain stops working properly.
Once this happens, a person sometimes seeks professional help and requires dual diagnosis treatment to overcome both the addiction and the mental health issue.
If more people understood how the brain works, they would seek help before their depression or anxiety became too much to handle on their own through self-medication with marijuana or alcohol.
Fortunately, medications like Lexapro and other antidepressants can be extremely beneficial for overcoming depression when followed by the recommendation of a doctor and taken as prescribed.
The safe bet is to avoid using drugs, like weed or alcohol, while taking antidepressants, not only to avoid possible interactions, but also to allow time for the medication to be effective.
Some patients might find that they feel better than they ever have before.
Dr. Elena Kapustina found her true calling and completed her PsyD in Clinical Psychology after earning her MBA and spending years working as the CFO for major corporations. She founded Iris Healing to holistically work with dual diagnosis patients in order to create a more sustainable recovery. From managing 1,000 employees to creating a top of the line treatment center, Dr. Kapustina harnesses her passion to create positive experiences for others.