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Your Favorite Relaxation Habit Might Be Secretly Screwing With Your Meds

Yep, even OTC cold meds.

Considering that Martha Stewart now co-hosts a stoner-friendly TV show with Snoop Dogg (thank you, Potluck Dinner Party), it’s pretty safe to say that smoking weed is no longer a habit you need to hide from your mom. (Or your doctor, for that matter.)

But as medical marijuana (and, let’s be real, casual marijuana) use continues to rise, have you ever considered the fact that your weed pen might actually be screwing with some of the other medications you take? Yep, kind of scary.

“There are literally hundreds of of chemicals in the cannabis plant, including the psychoactive chemicals that give us a traditional marijuana high and chemicals that just happen to be in the plant,” says Timothy Brennan, M.D., director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai West and Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospitals. “All of those, of course, are free to interact with prescription, over-the-counter, or any other medications one might be using.”

In fact, some of the compounds in cannabis can trigger certain enzymes that impact the way your body processes medications, Brennan explains. (This isn’t limited to cannabis; if you’ve ever seen a note to avoid grapefruit on your pill bottles, that’s because grapefruit can have the same effect.)

Related: 5 Women Who Use Pot In Their Everyday Lives Share How They Do It

“The problem is that cannabis is still listed as a Schedule I drug through the Drug Enforcement Agency,” he says, which effectively means that researchers aren’t supposed to study it. “That makes it’s very challenging for physicians and medical scientists to do any research on cannabis.”

So, where does that leave you? If you’re going to use marijuana (prescribed or otherwise) while you’re taking other drugs, “being truthful and open with your physician about your medication use is the most important thing, because you could be setting yourself up for potential marijuana drug interactions,” says Brennan. “It could at least plant the seed in a doctor’s mind that if you are suffering from certain side effects related to your other drugs the doctor can investigate if cannabis might be causing that.”

That said, there are a few types of drugs to watch out for if you’re planning on smoking pot.

Antidepressant Medications, or SSRIs and SNRIs

“The key point here is that cannabis is fundamentally a psychoactive compound,” says Brennan. “People use it because it exerts its action on the brain, on the central nervous system receptors.” But antidepressant medications—the most common of which are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), like Zoloft (or sertraline) or Celexa (or ditalopram), and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), like Cymbalta (or duloxetine)—also exert psychoactive effects on some of the same receptors.

“The challenge for people who have mood disorder or depression is that every time they’re using cannabis, they’re taking another psychoactive drug,” says Brennan. “And that can make it very challenging for a patient or physician to figure out what drug is actually having an effect on what.” Plus, he adds, the cannabis could actually negate the positive effects of prescription medication.

This is what it’s like to suffer from depression:

Anti-Anxiety Medications, or Benzodiazepines

Anti-anxiety medications like Ativan (Lorazepam), Klonopin (Clonazepam), or Xanax (Alprazolam) are all part of a class of medications called benzodiazepines, says Brennan. “Again, you have two psychoactive compounds interacting with each other in the brain,” he says. “If somebody’s really struggling with anxiety, I’d like to know what products are going in their brain so I can better understand how I’m medicating them. But if they’re smoking cannabis at the same time as using Ativan or Klonopin, it’s really hard to figure out what’s going on.”

A lot of people will smoke marijuana and say, “This is the only thing that helps my anxiety!” Other people will say they’re never more paranoid than when they smoke pot. That’s true for prescription drugs, too—people have different reactions to different products. “The challenge with cannabis is there’s no scientific data out there to say it tested against Ativan or Klonopin—the data doesn’t exist,” says Brennan.

Related: ‘How I Told My Partner That I’m HIV-Positive’

Sleeping Pills

You’re already aware that mixing alcohol with sleeping pills is a bad idea. Same goes for pot. “This depends on how much cannabis someone is using and what effect cannabis has on them, but mixing any product that with the opportunity to sedate someone or alter their consciousness is potentially dangerous,” says Brennan. “When you combine cannabis with a sedative hypnotic like Zolpidem or Ambien, I think people could perhaps find themselves in a very usual psychological state.”

If you’ve been prescribed sleeping medication, whether you use it regularly or just to get through those tough red-eye flights, you’re better off sticking to just the prescription medication for the duration of the dose, versus mixing it with cannabis or any other drugs.

Related: 5 Signs Your Exhaustion Is A Symptom Of A Much Bigger Problem

Allergy and Cold Meds

You might think that allergy and cold medicines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) or Mucinex (guaifenesin) are NBD because you can grab them straight off the drugstore shelves—but if you take them with marijuana, they could have unanticipated effects.

“Benadryl, or allergy and cold meds, are sedative products,” says Brennan. “Some people can take them and go about their day, others take one dose and they’re on the couch for the rest of the day. I think it’s really important for people to remember that cannabis is not a harmless product, and we don’t know how it might interact with even over-the-counter drugs.”

So if you’re sick, stick to just one drug (the cold meds, please) if you want it to work its magic as fast as possible.

Smoking pot can mess with cold medicines, anti-depressants, and more. Experts share potential marijuana drug interactions and how to avoid them.

What Can Happen When You Mix Zolpidem (Ambien) with Other Drugs or Alcohol?

On This Page:

  • Mixing with Alcohol
  • Mixing with Other Drugs

Ambien is a brand name version of zolpidem tartrate. Zolpidem is similar to benzodiazepine tranquilizers like Valium, Ativan and Xanax.

These drugs can make you feel drowsy and tranquil by activating the brain cells that bind with GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps with sleep. Doctors prescribe Ambien and other hypnotic drugs to help patients fall asleep.

Ambien is meant for short-term use. Long-term use comes with increasing numbers of possible side effects including overdose and addiction. Zolpidem is considered less addictive than benzodiazepines, barbiturates and other prescription sleep aids. However, this medication can still cause harmful side effects, especially when you take it in combination with other drugs or alcohol.

Many people mix zolpidem or other sleep aid medications with other drugs or alcohol. Some people do this intentionally to increase or change the effects of the drugs involved. Others don’t stop to think about how their painkiller prescriptions or glass of wine may interact with Ambien. No matter why you take other drugs, mixing substances is dangerous.

The Drug Abuse Warning Network found that about 50 percent of patients who sought emergency treatment related to zolpidem use also had additional drugs in their systems. These drugs included prescription pain relievers, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medications. Mixing zolpidem with other substances that suppress the activity of the brain and nerves can slow down your vital functions to a dangerous rate.

Mixing Zolpidem (Ambien) with Alcohol

Even when taken by itself, zolpidem has serious negative side effects on mental and physical functioning.

  • Unsteady gait
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Memory impairment
  • Psychomotor slowing
  • Reduced attention capacity
  • Visual disturbances
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Impaired balance
  • Impaired time judgment
  • Impaired coordination
  • Impaired reaction time

Like Ambien, alcohol is a depressant that can make you feel sleepy, uncoordinated, confused and disoriented. Mixing alcohol with Ambien increases both drugs’ sedative effects on the central nervous system. Alcohol and zolpidem cause severe physical and cognitive impairment. The NHTSA warns, “Alcohol increases the sedation and decreases psychomotor performance produced by zolpidem. Other CNS depressant drugs may potentiate the effects of zolpidem.” 1 Drivers who consume alcohol while taking zolpidem show decreased psychomotor coordination and a high risk of motor vehicle accidents. The risk of accidental falls, drowning, and other injury also increases.

Both alcohol and zolpidem harm the liver, an organ that plays a major role in detoxifying the body. Over time zolpidem and alcohol abuse can contribute to liver disease, a condition linked to many alcohol-related deaths.

Mixing Ambien with Other Drugs

Ambien users may combine drugs for a variety of reasons.

Ambien combinations result in unknown reactions. Taking drugs together isn’t as simple as taking an upper to cancel a sedative or taking a sedative to cancel an upper. Effects are unpredictable and unexpected. They can result in escalating side effects or entirely new effects. Combining Ambien with benzodiazepines, opioid painkillers, marijuana, alcohol or other addictive substances leaves individuals vulnerable to cognitive and psychological side effects such as the following:

  • Memory loss
  • Learning problems
  • Psychological dependence
  • Delusional thinking
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dependence
  • Addiction

Using multiple drugs damages mental and physical health. Ending drug use restores health. It may even leave individuals feeling better than before drug use began. Contact Black Bear Lodge to learn more about finding support for complete recovery. A rehab program must engage the body, mind and spirit in order to be effective over the long term. Black Bear Lodge provides comprehensive zolpidem addiction treatment in a secluded, tranquil setting in the mountains of Georgia. If you’re searching for recovery services for yourself or a loved one, we’re here to help. Call our toll-free number, 706-914-2327 to speak with one of our admissions coordinators today.

Discover the dangers of mixing Zolpidem with alcohol and other drugs in this article. If you need help with an addiction, contact Black Bear Lodge today.