Does Marijuana Affect Birth Control?
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Recreational marijuana is legal in 11 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., but there are still many gray areas when it comes to the health effects of using cannabis. Research is still being done on marijuana secondhand smoke as well as the benefits and risks of trendy products like CBD. However, there have been many studies that have shown marijuana can interfere with some medications.
Almost 13% of women age 15-49 are currently using birth control pills for contraception, while more than 10% use long-acting reversible contraception like intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s no surprise, therefore, that many women would be concerned about the risks associated with mixing marijuana with birth control.
While there have been studies on marijuana use and fertility, there is limited research on the interaction of marijuana and birth control. Despite this, many birth control brands come with warnings that there could be adverse effects when their pill or patch is combined with marijuana.
Marijuana may have effects that counteract estrogen, potentially making estrogen-based birth control pills — as well as patches, injections and rings — less effective. However, there’s no data to suggest that marijuana decreases the effectiveness of birth control.
Certain hormone-based contraception also comes with a warning that it can theoretically decrease the elimination of marijuana from the body, meaning the effects of marijuana could be more severe or last longer.
Cardiovascular issues are also a concern for combining marijuana and contraceptives. Cigarette smoking already increases the risk of serious cardiovascular side effects from oral contraceptive use, and smoking marijuana could have a similar effect.
Researchers are also investigating the effect of marijuana on blood pressure, with some linking cannabis to higher blood pressure but others finding CBD decreases blood pressure. Birth control pills, patches and IUDs can all increase blood pressure, risk of blood-clotting problems and other heart issues.
The lack of research on how marijuana affects the health of women, in particular, is one reason more and more women are being inspired to dive into the fields of marijuana research and law as well as becoming pioneers in the marijuana industry.
Marijuana may make birth control pills less effective, but there are other factors to consider before using birth control and marijuana at the same time.
Cannabis and Birth Control: What You Need to Know
Cannabis is a plant with enormous health potential. We know that the cannabinoids that give cannabis its amazing effects are very safe. We also know that one of those cannabinoids, CBD (Cannabidiol), has the potential to reduce the effectiveness of certain medications. One of those medications is contraceptives.
When you take birth control to prevent pregnancy, you put your trust in their consistent effectiveness. Knowing how CBD can possibly affect your birth control can help you to continue to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.
The Geekery Behind the Caution
CBD is a safe, non-impairing component of cannabis with numerous health benefits. Many patients take daily CBD in edible oils or through dry bud vaporization.
So why the concern? CBD, especially in higher doses, has the potential to interact with certain medications by inhibiting (slowing down) the activity of a liver enzyme called cytochrome P450.
Wait a minute… Cyto-P-what-the-what?
CP450 is responsible for helping our bodies to process more than 60 percent of medications. In fact, it is more potent in blocking and slowing down your body’s use of these medications than grapefruit. Have a look at the print-out that came from your pharmacy — does it advise you to avoid grapefruit while on this medication? If so, then CBD probably interacts, too.
An interesting aside is that this is the reason why using a 1:1 Balanced CBD/THC oil or strain causes less of a high than using straight THC at the same level. The CBD counteracts much of that psychoactive effect.
It is possible that whole plant cannabis, with its entourage effect, interacts differently than the isolated CBD that is administered in most research settings. Certainly, you will want to avoid currently non-approved (and therefore non-legal, and also not available from Canada’s Licensed Producers) high CBD isolates and distillates.
What does this mean for my birth control?
Enzyme inhibitors (for example CBD), can possibly increase breakthrough bleeding and potentially decrease estrogen-based contraceptive effectiveness, which may lead to increased risk of pregnancy. Studies are currently being done to determine if they may also increase the risk of side effects like blood clots and breast cancer.
The active hormones in your birth control can also make a difference. Estrogen-containing oral contraceptives, patches, injections, and rings are at higher risk of not working properly in the presence of CBD than non-estrogen forms. Progesterone-only contraceptives may be a more dependable option if you are using CBD, especially via ingestible oils. Talk to your doctor about your options, and consider using additional methods of birth control such as condoms if you are relying on an estrogen form and using CBD oil daily. We don’t yet know at what level CBD affects estrogen and currently can only recommend caution and awareness.
We also know now that combining certain things with CBD and birth control can potentially interact even further. Cigarette smoking, chronic alcohol use, and St. John’s Wort are three big players and should be avoided while on birth control, and especially when using CBD.
Written by Shawna Zylenko, RN, Natural Health Services. Shawna work out of our Edmonton Clinic and is a member of the American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA) and has received her Cannabis Nursing Certification (2016) through TMCI/ACNA.
For further insight into all things Cannabis, don’t forget to tune in to The Cannabis Show, and make sure to subscribe as there is a new episode every Wednesday.
Cannabis and Birth Control: What You Need to Know Cannabis is a plant with enormous health potential. We know that the cannabinoids that give cannabis its amazing effects are very safe. We also