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. Here’s everything you need to know.
What Is Lexapro?
Lexapro 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 the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness and wellbeing. It is widely accepted that low serotonin levels can lead to problems such as depression.
Initially, Lexapro was introduced in 2002. Later, it became widely available by 2012. Nowadays, it is considered slightly superior to many other antidepressants in terms of both effectiveness and tolerability.
Although Escitalopram may cause fewer side effects than many 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, this 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 such 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 a cannabinoid. Cannabidiol is one of the many active compounds found in cannabis. Although, 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. 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 cannabinoid receptors) and chemicals called endocannabinoids.
The body naturally produces chemicals called 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,’ and this 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.
In many ways, CBD works similarly to an SSRI antidepressant. It increases the levels of ‘feel-good’ chemicals in the brain to reduce depression and anxiety.
Does CBD Interact with Lexapro?
If you are 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. Firstly, the majority of prescribed medications metabolize in a particular pathway known as the CYP450 pathway.
This CYP450 pathway is comprised of several different enzymes which act on various substances. In turn, when you take 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. 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 is metabolized by 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.
Lexapro breaks down because of these enzymes:
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 antidepressant in your body. You might assume this is a positive thing, but it significantly increases the risk of harmful side effects if you take the two together.
The Depression Alliance recommends that anyone wanting to try CBD for depression stop taking their medication first and then make the switch. However, it is essential that you do this gradually, carefully, and under the supervision of your doctor.
Stopping taking your antidepressant medication suddenly can cause your original symptoms to return. You may also experience withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Mood changes
- Sleep disturbances
- Flu-like symptoms
- Digestive issues
Therefore, you should reduce the dose of your medication steadily over time. If you take multiple medications, stop taking them one by one. Most of all, have an honest discussion with your doctor before you make any changes so that they can help you to reduce your dosage 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, drop CBD under the tongue and swallow. Most manufacturers recommend that you hold the oil under your tongue for at least 30 seconds so that it can be absorbed effectively into your bloodstream.
The advantage of taking CBD oil in this way is that it is easy to adjust your dose.
Firstly, start by taking one drop daily for the first day or two to test how your body reacts.
Next, if you do not experience any unwanted effects, increase the dose to two drops daily (morning and evening is usually best). From here, maintain this dose for several weeks. Similarily to antidepressants, CBD oil can take a while to start working. Remain patient.
Finally, after a few weeks at this dose, you can increase it again if necessary. However, you should not exceed the maximum dose recommended on the label of your oil or by your doctor.
After this, if you find using CBD oil inconvenient or don’t like the taste, you 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 swapping your medication 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.