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Weed And Birth Control: What Are The Risks Of Combining The Two?

Apart from reducing the effectiveness of some birth control pills and increasing the risk of pregnancy, combining weed and birth control can also affect general health.

The growth of cannabis acceptance globally has brought about a change in the demography of people that use cannabis. Gone are the days when people believe only potheads use cannabis; the days of backward thinking like that are long gone.

In the world we live in today, more women and professionals use cannabis. And with more people using cannabis, new questions are being asked on how its use can affect other drugs that these new groups of users may be taking.

A couple of significant questions that have been asked by a large majority of people revolves around birth control: How will cannabis interact with birth control drugs? Are there risks involved if they’re combined? Is it safe for users?

A closer look at birth control

Birth control is a common part of every society. Different birth control methods range from the use of condoms to pills, shots, implants, vagina rings, patches, and so on. Various factors come into play when people choose birth control methods that best suit them. Many of the birth control methods that deal with hormones are estrogen-based, progestin-only, or a combination of modulation of both hormones. The mechanism of action of some of these birth control methods as it relates to the body is mostly what we have to consider when it comes to weed and risks of combination.

Are there risks?

The answer to the question about the possibility of risks associated with combining weed and birth control is not one that can be answered directly. This is because there are limited studies available in this area to help make concrete inferences. Nonetheless, the general understanding of some of the ways cannabis and hormonal birth control works gives a detailed understanding of what to expect.

Before even delving into the biochemical reactions of cannabis and birth control in the body, it is important to first state that cannabis can be consumed through different methods. A lot of people opt for the different means of consumption for several reasons chief of which is health. We all know that smoking can make users susceptible to cardiovascular issues, lung irritation, and so on. So for the sake of this article less emphasis will be placed on the risks incurred by combining birth control with any particular method of consumption; we’ll solely look at the risks posed by the interaction of cannabinoids and birth control drugs.

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Risk of reduced effectiveness?

The goal of using birth control is to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Likewise, cannabis is also used for different primary goals, such as medical or recreational reasons. However, when these products are combined, they have a huge risk of affecting the activity of one another. More importantly, cannabis has a risk of reducing the effectiveness of birth control drugs thereby increasing the risk of unwanted pregnancy.

Experts have conducted studies that show that cannabis can affect the mechanism of action of estrogen-based hormonal birth control. Cannabis contains a major cannabinoid called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which causes a euphoric feeling when cannabis is used. THC affects the mechanism of action of estrogen-based hormonal birth control in the body. This happens by THC interrupting signaling between estrogen receptors. By interrupting this process, THC increases the estrogen level in the body countering the effects of estrogen-based hormonal birth control. This also increases the risk of blood lots and such persons developing stroke.

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The risk of cannabis reducing the effectiveness of birth control doesn’t only lie with THC. Cannabis also contains another major cannabinoid called cannabidiol (CBD) which also affects the effectiveness of birth control. CBD is known to interact with different types of substrates in the body. This also includes birth control pills thereby reducing their ability to effectively prevent pregnancy. CBD also monopolizes liver enzymes and by so doing, it prevents such enzymes from sufficiently metabolize molecules of birth control pills. This enzyme inhibition decreases the effectiveness of estrogen-based contraceptives and increases the risk of pregnancy. This is however not so with progestin-only hormonal birth control.

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Risk to general health?

Apart from reducing the effectiveness of some birth control pills and increasing the risk of pregnancy, combining weed and birth control can also affect general health. The use of weed alongside birth control increases the risks of developing blood clots which can lead to stroke. Individually, both birth control pills and THC can lead to the development of blood clots. When combined they run the risk of causing high blood pressure and ultimately problems associated with hypertension. Other factors that can cause blood clots are smoking, family history, and age.

There are limited studies to be able to draw enough conclusions about the role of CBD when it comes to blood pressure. Some researches point to CBD reducing blood pressure while others show it raises blood pressure. It should be noted that the difference in these results might be due to the dose differences in these studies. The role of THC, however, is still a bit clear from a 2016 study in the Journal of Hypertension. The study shows that there is a modest association between recent cannabis use and systolic blood pressure. Those who conducted the study however warned that more investigations will need to be carried out to fully understand the role that CBD plays with systolic blood pressure.

What to do

It is obvious that there might be some risks when it comes to using weed and birth control. But, is it possible to mitigate this risks, sure it is. If some crucial steps are taken, it’s possible for women to avoid these risks while still using birth control.

Consultation – The most important step you can take regarding this is to consult a professional. An expert will be able to give you unique quality information on how you can go about using birth control and weed. Each individual is different, so don’t follow the instructions given to someone else, get in touch with your healthcare provider for the best possible advice and directives.

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Change – A change in the type of birth control or method of cannabis consumption can also play a significant role. This will be influential in limiting the risk of ineffectiveness and risk to general health.

Bottom line

There is still a need for more relevant studies to fully know the risks involved with combining birth control and weed. Until sufficient research has been conducted, it’s advisable that users reduce the combination of the two substances as much as possible.

This article originally appeared on Cannabis.net and has been reposted with permission.

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