Antidepressant use in America is on the rise, with one estimate showing a 400% increase between 1988 and 2008. At the same time, more people than ever are turning to cannabis for a natural way to help with their depression.
Yet, with millions of adults using Prozac or cannabis (or both) in search of relief from depression symptoms, there is surprisingly limited research on how the two interact.
With a proper diagnosis, prescription, and professional guidance, both Prozac and marijuana are considered fairly safe. But combining the two could affect how they work in the body, presenting risks that patients and providers should look out for.
What is Prozac?
Prozac is the brand name of the antidepressant, fluoxetine.
Fluoxetine is a type of antidepressant known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Research suggests that serotonin plays a key role in regulating mood. Similarly, depression has been linked to a lack of available serotonin in the brain.¹ SSRI medications work by preventing the body from reabsorbing serotonin, making more of it available to send messages in the brain and regulate a person’s mood.
Prozac is also commonly prescribed to treat major depressive disorder (MDD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD),² two conditions that can overlap with cannabis use for many consumers.
Mixing Prozac and Marijuana
People suffering from depression have been turning to cannabis for relief since before the first medical cannabis programs began. Now, with the increased availability of medical cannabis, more people are turning to cannabinoids to help alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
In a recent survey of 530 active MMJ patients, more than two-thirds of respondents reported that they were able to cease or reduce the use of one or more pharmaceutical treatments (like Prozac) since starting to use medical cannabis. And while there may be potential benefits of using cannabis in conjunction with a pharmaceutical treatment, the combination isn’t without its risks, and further study is needed to understand the science behind how drugs like cannabis and Prozac interact.
Potential Benefits of Using Weed and Prozac
Many patients have reported positive results when using Prozac and marijuana together, like greater calming effects, improved mood, and mood stabilization. And some experts believe that this is a sign that cannabis has some potential to be used effectively in conjunction with Prozac and other SSRI medications.
However, anecdotal evidence isn’t the same as rigorous scientific study. And those studies that have been conducted are too small to draw definitive conclusions, according to Daniele Pionellie, Ph.D., the director of the University of California, Irvine’s Center for the Study of Cannabis. Additionally, antidepressant dosage often requires fine-tuning, and, “Because cannabis products aren't regulated by the FDA, you can't count on consistency.”
While many patients claim to experience positive results, more research is needed to understand how Prozac and marijuana interact and how they can be utilized for more consistent results.
Potential Risks of Mixing Prozac and Weed
As with any medication, mixing cannabis and Prozac could carry potential risks. And because of the limitations placed on cannabis research from its federal Schedule 1 status, the potential risks from mixing cannabis and Prozac still aren’t well researched or understood.
The first reported incident of an interaction between medical marijuana and Prozac dates back to 1991. According to the report, an individual experienced a brief mild manic episode as a result of combining cannabis with Prozac.³ A similar incident was recorded in 2021 with a different antidepressant medication⁴, which may indicate these adverse episodes aren’t exclusive to SSRIs, like Prozac.
There is another risk related to the combination of SSRI medications and cannabis that essentially stems from the combination working “too well,” so to speak. Because SSRI medications aim to increase serotonin levels in the brain – and because cannabis is also thought to boost serotonin – the combination of the two can create a potentially serious condition called serotonin syndrome, which is essentially too much serotonin in the brain.
Can I Smoke Weed While on Prozac?
There have been promising studies that suggest cannabis may be an effective treatment for depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. However, the amount of research on the potential interactions between cannabis and Prozac – or any antidepressant, for that matter – is extremely limited.
That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor before smoking weed while taking any prescription medication for depression or anxiety. Every person is different, and your doctor can discuss your goals and review your medical history to arrive at the best course of treatment for you.
Mixing medications can be tricky. Like many pharmaceuticals, Prozac has its own risks and potentially serious side effects. And while some people use Prozac and marijuana medically without incident, there is still a risk for potentially severe interactions.
Because of these potential risks and the overall lack of research into the interactions between Prozac and marijuana, it’s important to discuss the possibility of mixing the two with your doctor before trying it yourself.
¹ Chu, Andrew, and Roopma Wadhwa. “Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors.” PubMed, StatPearls Publishing, 2022, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554406/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2022.
² National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Fluoxetine (Prozac) | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness.” Nami.org, 2020, www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Fluoxetine-(Prozac).
³ Stoll, A. L., et al. “A Case of Mania as a Result of Fluoxetine-Marijuana Interaction.” The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, vol. 52, no. 6, 1 June 1991, pp. 280–281, www.google.com/url?q=pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1647392/&sa=D&source=docs&ust=1671356229710073&usg=AOvVaw0rlQHYnp6ZRvYepcwzoYYD. Accessed 18 Dec. 2022
⁴ Kaggwa, Mark Mohan, et al. “Cannabis-Induced Mania Following COVID-19 Self-Medication: A Wake-up Call to Improve Community Awareness.” International Medical Case Reports Journal, vol. Volume 14, Feb. 2021, pp. 121–125, 10.2147/imcrj.s301246.
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.