Lexapro and Weed: Interactions and Effects

lexapro and thc
By Rebecca Olmos Updated March 8th

Medically reviewed by Dr. Brian Kessler, MD

Lexapro is a medication doctors prescribe to treat depression and anxiety. It’s a drug classified as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI, formulated to increase serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is responsible for regulating functions in the body related to mood, sleep, digestion, and even libido. All these functions can impact a person’s mental health.

Over 50 million Americans struggle with mental health illnesses. Approximately 6.8 million people have general anxiety disorder and 21 million experience depressive episodes. Treatment for these conditions is unique to the individual but typically entails some form of talk therapy and, if deemed necessary, medications like Lexapro.

For some, alternative drugs like cannabis have proven to be just as effective. In a small online survey, almost 50% of Americans felt that cannabis helps with anxiety and depression, with only 15% feeling it increases their symptoms.1 

Before combining Lexapro with cannabis, it’s key to know exactly how these substances impact the body. When using any two substances together, there are risks, and cannabis and Lexapro are no different. 

The Complete Guide to Medical Cannabis for Stress & Anxiety

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What is Lexapro?

Lexapro is also called Cipralex or Escitalopram. It is an SSRI medication that raises serotonin levels in the brain by hindering serotonin reuptake of the neurotransmitter into the presynaptic nerve ending.2 This medication is typically prescribed to treat mental health conditions like anxiety or depression and comes in pill or liquid form. 

While it may be an effective medication, there is also the potential to experience adverse symptoms. Common side effects of Lexapro include

  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive sweating
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Sleep issues

Some patients experience more severe side effects. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms after taking medications like Lexapro.

  • Weight fluctuations
  • Changes to menstrual cycles
  • Constant headaches, long-lasting confusion or weakness
  • Frequent muscle cramps
  • Serotonin syndrome
  • Blood in cough or urine
  • Black or red stool or blood in vomit
  • Bleeding gums
  • Unexplained bruising

Lexapro and Weed: Interaction and Effects

Lexapro and Weed Interaction

For some people, cannabis is an alternative medication that helps them to manage their anxiety and depression3. The plant has hundreds of chemical compounds that have been studied for their therapeutic effects. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD can have anti-anxiety effects, and terpenes like pinene and limonene can have uplifting effects. 

Due to its ability to alter the mind and body, it’s important to be mindful when mixing cannabis with other medications like SSRIs.

There are minimal studies examining how Lexapro and weed interact when taken together. However, it is generally recommended to not take the two simultaneously. One study found that combining CBD and SSRIs increases the risk of adverse side effects, including cough, diarrhea, fatigue, and dizziness.4 

The cause for concern comes from how medical professionals understand cannabis and SSRIs interact with the body individually. The two can both cause rapid heart rate and drowsiness, which may be intensified if taken together. 

Cannabis, similar to SSRIs, may increase serotonin levels by inhibiting serotonin reuptake.5 The increase in serotonin from THC, especially when taken in combination with medications like Lexapro, can lead to adverse side effects like serotonin syndrome. This condition can have side effects like insomnia, high blood pressure, and irritation.

These adverse side effects may be even more concerning for patients with existing ailments related to their cardiovascular or digestive systems. Before using cannabis and Lexapro simultaneously, consult with your doctor. 

Are There Any Benefits to Taking Lexapro and Medical Marijuana?

Lexapro and medical marijuana are two substances that may be effective for treating anxiety and depression disorders. However, no research indicates any additional benefits from combining the two. 

Cannabis may help treat some of the adverse side effects of Lexapro, like nausea, diarrhea6, and sleep issues7. Nevertheless, talk to your doctor before choosing cannabis to remedy these negative symptoms, as it may lead to additional complications like serotonin syndrome or other negative symptoms related to the cardiovascular and digestive systems.  

Can Cannabis Be a Substitute for Lexapro?

Lexapro vs Weed

Although cannabis and Lexapro may not be the best combination, they both interact with the body to help treat mental health conditions related to anxiety and depression8. On its own, cannabis has several compounds that may contribute to its therapeutic effects on these disorders. 

THC has a similar impact on the brain to SSRIs, inhibiting serotonin reuptake and increasing serotonin levels. It may also be the cannabinoid’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system that makes it an effective antidepressant9. However, researchers acknowledge the early stages of studies on cannabis and depression and call for further research.

CBD is another cannabinoid studied for its effect on mental health conditions. One study found that CBD significantly reduced anxiety symptoms in patients with seasonal affective disorder (SAD)10. Another found evidence to suggest that small doses of CBD effectively reduced anxiety symptoms.11 

The research on CBD and its ability to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression is particularly interesting because it doesn’t have the same intoxicating or intense psychoactive effects as THC. 

Anecdotal evidence suggests that patients may already be using cannabis as some form of treatment for their mental health. NuggMD surveyed consumers and found that one of the top reasons patients turned to cannabis was to treat issues related to mental health, like anxiety and PTSD

It may be tempting to consume cannabis to self-treat mental health disorders, but speak to your doctor first. Even though cannabis can potentially be beneficial for anxiety and depression, it may also exacerbate these disorders and their symptoms for some consumers. Cannabis, especially at high doses, can have potentially adverse side effects like increased anxiety and has been associated with higher levels of depression.

The Complete Guide to Medical Cannabis for Stress & Anxiety

Find natural, lasting relief with our comprehensive (and completely free) patient’s guide to medical cannabis for stress and anxiety.

What to Consider When Taking Lexapro and Weed

The first thing to consider when taking Lexapro and weed is talking to the doctor who prescribed you the SSRI. They may be the best resource for suggesting how to proceed. Combining the two medications may cause a number of adverse side effects, like raised blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and excessive drowsiness.

If you choose to consume both substances, start with small doses and avoid doing dangerous activities like operating machinery or driving. 

Contact a medical professional immediately if you experience negative symptoms after taking cannabis and SSRIs, like Prozac or Lexapro. 


1. Keyhani, Salomeh, et al. “Risks and Benefits of Marijuana Use.” Annals of Internal Medicine, vol. 169, no. 5, 24 July 2018, p. 282, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6157909/, https://doi.org/10.7326/m18-0810.

2. Culpepper, Larry. “Escitalopram.” The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, vol. 04, no. 06, 1 Dec. 2002, pp. 209–214, https://doi.org/10.4088/pcc.v04n0601.

3. Kosiba, Jesse D., et al. “Patient-Reported Use of Medical Cannabis for Pain, Anxiety, and Depression Symptoms: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Social Science & Medicine, vol. 233, July 2019, pp. 181–192, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.06.005. Accessed 20 Oct. 2019.

4. Vaughn, Samuel, et al. “The Impact of Marijuana on Antidepressant Treatment in Adolescents: Clinical and Pharmacologic Considerations.” Journal of Personalized Medicine, vol. 11, no. 7, 29 June 2021, p. 615, https://doi.org/10.3390/jpm11070615.

5. Baltz, Jacob, and Lamanh Le. “Serotonin Syndrome versus Cannabis Toxicity in the Emergency Department.” Clinical Practice and Cases in Emergency Medicine, vol. 4, no. 2, 2 Mar. 2020, pp. 171–173, https://doi.org/10.5811/cpcem.2020.1.45410. Accessed 25 July 2020.

6. Buckley, Megan C., et al. “Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Cannabis: A Practical Approach for Clinicians.” Advances in Therapy, 10 June 2021, https://doi.org/10.1007/s12325-021-01805-8. Accessed 4 Mar. 2022.

7. ​​Vaillancourt, Régis, et al. “Cannabis Use in Patients with Insomnia and Sleep Disorders: Retrospective Chart Review.” Canadian Pharmacists Journal / Revue Des Pharmaciens Du Canada, vol. 155, no. 3, 15 Apr. 2022, pp. 175–180, https://doi.org/10.1177/17151635221089617.

8. Gruber, Amanda J., et al. “Do Patients Use Marijuana as an Antidepressant?” Depression, vol. 4, no. 2, 1996, pp. 77–80, https://doi.org/10.1002/(sici)1522-7162(1996)4:2%3C77::aid-depr7%3E3.0.co;2-c. Accessed 4 Oct. 2019.

9. Feingold, Daniel, and Aviv Weinstein. “Cannabis and Depression.” Cannabinoids and Neuropsychiatric Disorders, 18 Dec. 2020, pp. 67–80, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-57369-0_5.

10. Wright, Madison, et al. “Use of Cannabidiol for the Treatment of Anxiety: A Short Synthesis of Pre-Clinical and Clinical Evidence.” Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, vol. 5, no. 3, 3 Jan. 2020, https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2019.0052.

11. Blessing, Esther M., et al. “Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders.” Neurotherapeutics, vol. 12, no. 4, 4 Sept. 2015, pp. 825–836, link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs13311-015-0387-1, https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1.

The information in this article and any included images or charts are for educational purposes only. This information is neither a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional legal advice or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult with an attorney, physician or other licensed professional.

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