Is it safe to use CBD with Lexapro? We take a look at the facts…
This poses a potential problem as CBD oil may interact with many medications – including antidepressants.
In this article, we explore whether CBD oil interacts with the antidepressant Lexapro.
What Is Lexapro?
Lexapro is the brand name for a drug called escitalopram. It is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). SSRIs are a class of antidepressant. They’re used to treat major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
SSRI antidepressants work by boosting the amount of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness and well-being. Furthermore, low serotonin levels are associated with conditions like depression.
Initially, Lexapro was introduced in 2002. It became widely available by 2012. Although escitalopram may cause fewer side effects than similar medications, they can still occur in some cases.
The most common Lexapro side effects include:
- Reduced libido
- Ejaculation disorders
- Inability to orgasm
In addition to these, there is a small chance that Lexapro can worsen the symptoms of depression. As a result, this can lead to suicidal thoughts and behavior. In some patients, Lexapro may also cause several other serious side effects, including:
- Serotonin syndrome
- Hyponatremia (low sodium levels)
- Abnormal bleeding
- Cognitive and motor impairment
Lexapro should be used with caution for people with other medical conditions, including seizures and angle-closure glaucoma. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should only use Lexapro if the benefits outweigh the risks.
Since many antidepressants carry a long list of potential side effects, more and more people are turning to natural alternatives. One such option that has gained much attention in recent years is CBD.
How Can CBD Help Depression and Anxiety?
CBD (cannabidiol) is one of the many active compounds found in cannabis. These compounds are called cannabinoids. Unlike its cousin THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD does not cause an intoxicating ‘high.’
However, that is not to say that CBD has no psychoactive effects whatsoever. In fact, it has become well known for its supposed anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties.
According to a 2018 piece published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, anxiety and depression are the third and fourth most common issues for which people use CBD. As an aside, the first and second most common issues are chronic pain and arthritis/joint pain.
Nowadays, more people are turning to CBD to relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, scientists are still trying to ascertain exactly how the cannabinoid works for these conditions.
How Does the Body Process CBD?
There are several theories, but it seems likely that CBD influences the brain by acting on the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a complex system of cell receptors (known as endocannabinoid receptors) and chemicals called endocannabinoids.
The body naturally produces these endocannabinoids. When they bind with cannabinoid receptors, they trigger a series of physiological reactions. These reactions help to maintain a state of homeostasis (balance) within the body.
One of the best-known endocannabinoids is called anandamide. It gets its name from the Sanskrit word for ‘bliss,’ which should give you some idea of its function. Among other things, anandamide regulates the serotonin system in the brain. It is released under stressful conditions and helps to restore a sense of calm.
Research has shown that CBD can slow down the rate at which anandamide is broken down by the body. This means that more of this endocannabinoid becomes available and its effects are greatly enhanced.
Therefore, in many ways, CBD works similarly to an SSRI antidepressant. It increases the levels of ‘feel-good’ chemicals in the brain, like serotonin, to reduce depression and anxiety.
Does CBD Interact with Lexapro?
If someone is considering using CBD to relieve any medical condition, it is important to know that it can interact with numerous medications.
Drug interactions happen because many different substances break down in the liver during a process called drug metabolism. The majority of prescribed medications metabolize in a particular pathway known as the CYP450 pathway.
This CYP450 pathway is comprised of several different enzymes that act on various substances. Therefore, when one takes two drugs that are metabolized by the same enzymes together, an interaction can occur.
In this situation, the two drugs compete with one another for the enzymes, so one or the other breaks down more slowly than usual. This increases the amount of that drug in the body, which can raise the risk of adverse effects.
Lexapro metabolism involves three different enzymes, which means it is less likely to cause interactions than some other medications. Even if it has competition for one of its pathways, there are still two more from which to choose.
The following enzymes metabolize Lexapro:
The CYP450 pathway also metabolizes CBD in the liver. The specific enzymes responsible for breaking down CBD are:
As it turns out, CBD inhibits the enzymes CYP3A4 and CYP2C6. As you can see, Lexapro and CBD share many of the same enzymatic pathways and, therefore, have a strong chance of interacting.
Is It Safe to Take Lexapro and CBD Together?
Taking CBD alongside Lexapro may increase the amount of antidepressants in the body. One might assume this is a positive thing, but it significantly increases the risk of harmful side effects if taken together.
The Depression Alliance recommends that anyone wanting to try CBD for depression should stop taking their medication first and then make the switch. However, it is essential that one does this gradually, carefully, and under the supervision of a doctor.
Stopping an antidepressant medication suddenly can cause the original symptoms to return. One may also experience withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Mood changes
- Sleep disturbances
- Flu-like symptoms
- Digestive issues
It is important to have an honest discussion with one’s doctor before making any changes so that they can help reduce dosages safely and effectively.
Using CBD for Depression and Anxiety
There are many different methods of taking CBD for anxiety and depression. For instance, one of the most popular ways is CBD oil. To do so, one can drop CBD under the tongue. Most manufacturers recommend holding the oil under the tongue for at least 30 seconds so that it can be absorbed effectively into the bloodstream.
Similarly to antidepressants, CBD oil can take a while to start working. However, one should not exceed the maximum dose recommended by their doctor.
If using CBD oil is inconvenient or doesn’t taste great, one could also try CBD capsules, edibles, or vaping.
Each of these consumption methods has its own advantages and disadvantages. To find out more, read our related article on the best forms of CBD products.
Does CBD Oil Interact with Lexapro? Final Thoughts
In conclusion, both Lexapro and CBD oil are popular remedies for depression and anxiety. However, taking the two together may cause a drug interaction as they are both metabolized by the same enzymes in the liver.
If you are taking Lexapro and would like to give CBD a try, talk to your physician first. They will guide you in managing your drug regimen safely and finding an effective dose.
If you have made the switch from antidepressants to CBD oil, we would love to hear from you. Share your experiences in the comments and help our community learn about the benefits and risks of CBD for depression and anxiety.