Codeine and weed (or marijuana) are very different drugs, latching to separate brain receptors and delivering unique experiences. For some people, it may seem smart or fun to mix them. The reality is much different.
Combining an opioid like codeine with marijuana can mean worsening your mental health, increasing the severity of your opioid use disorder (OUD) and enhancing your overdose risks. As much as people might claim that marijuana use makes opioids safer, researchers strongly disagree.
What Does Codeine Do?
Codeine is an opioid painkiller often prescribed for mild or moderate pain. A visit to the dentist for a sore tooth could end with a prescription for codeine products. If you have a dry cough, your doctor might use syrups laced with codeine to help too.
Like all opioids, codeine attaches to brain receptors and triggers a feel-good chemical response.
Experts say codeine is the most commonly taken opioid in the United States, and it’s at the center of the opioid use disorder problem. While it’s technically a mild drug, it’s far from safe for everyday use. Even so, it’s often prescribed and works as a gateway to stronger opioids like heroin.
What Does Weed Do?
Weed, or marijuana, is a natural drug synthesized from the stems and seeds of an easy-to-grow plant. In many parts of the United States, marijuana is legal for medical or recreational use.
THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, produces an altered sense of reality combined with a mild, euphoric state. People have used marijuana products for years, but researchers say modern marijuana products are stronger than ever before. The dose you take now could be dozens of times stronger than the weed your parents or grandparents used.
Can You Mix These Substances?
As more states legalize marijuana, and as the risks of OUD become clear, some people have tried combining the two drugs. Some believe that using marijuana can help them stop using codeine, but experts disagree.
In studies, about 46% of people using both drugs didn’t alter their opioid use, and 8% increased their dose. Marijuana and opioids work on different receptors and chemicals. Adding one doesn’t automatically make the other less powerful. But the risks are very real.
What Are the Risks of Mixing Codeine & Marijuana?
Opioids like codeine and marijuana aren’t similar. They need different receptors, and they trigger very different responses. But mixing them can come with serious consequences.
Those consequences include the following.
Worsening Mental Health
Researchers say mixing opioids and cannabis can lead to poor mental health, including stronger feelings of anxiety and depression. You might be tempted to ease a low mood with another round of drugs, worsening the problem even more and enforcing a cycle of misuse.
More Drug Misuse
While some believe mixing drugs can ease OUD symptoms, researchers disagree. People who use cannabis have a higher risk of developing an OUD, studies suggest.
Marijuana can ease inhibitions, which can contribute to you taking stronger doses without considering the consequences. Each time you do so, your opioid use disorder can worsen.
Higher Overdose Risks
Research also suggests that legalizing marijuana leads to more opioid overdose deaths. As OUD worsens and people take stronger and stronger doses, they run the risk of overwhelming their bodies and ensuring an overdose.
Treatment Options for Polysubstance Misuse
While doctors haven’t developed a pharmaceutical treatment for marijuana misuse, good therapies for OUD exist. In a Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) program, doctors use Suboxone and other buprenorphine-based therapies to help amend chemical imbalances caused by opioids.
In an MAT program, you can stop misusing codeine without enduring strong withdrawal symptoms or crippling cravings. As your opioid use disorder eases, you may be less likely to misuse marijuana too. This results in better overall health, as you aren’t controlled by a compulsion to misuse drugs.
Bicycle Health uses telemedicine techniques to deliver treatment to you, no matter where you live. Connect with a doctor online, and pick up your prescription at a pharmacy near you. You can also access telehealth counseling services, helping you to address deep-seated issues that influence your substance misuse.
You can get better without sacrificing your time or privacy. With telemedicine treatment, Suboxone and similar forms of MAT are available to more people than ever before. Contact us to find out if our treatment program is right for you.
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD
Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More
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- Cannabis. National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/cannabis-marijuana. December 2019. Accessed March 2023.
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- The Effectiveness of Medication-Based Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder. Medications for Opioid Use Disorder Save Lives. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541393/. Accessed March 2023.
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