Can I Smoke Weed and Take Cold Medicine?

medical marijuana doctor
By Rebecca Olmos Updated October 27th, 2022

Medically reviewed by Dr. Brian Kessler, MD

Despite thousands of years of medicine, humanity still hasn’t found a permanent cure for the common cold. Some practices are believed to help recover from cold symptoms faster, like rest and over-the-counter medicine. Others may extend the recovery time, like drinking alcohol and not drinking enough water.

This dilemma for cannabis users is: “Can I smoke weed and take cold medicine?”

This article explores the studies behind cannabis and cold medication, their possible interactions, and whether it’s safe to take them at the same time.

Can You Smoke Weed While Taking Cold Medicine?

For most consumers, it’s not recommended to combine weed and cold medicine. If you choose to consume cannabis while taking cold medicine, proceed with caution. 

First, smoking can irritate the throat and lungs, something you’ll want to avoid if you’re already coughing and trying to alleviate a sore throat.

Additionally, consuming cannabis may worsen unwanted side effects of over-the-counter cold medicine or pain-relieving pills like Tylenol or Advil. While many consumers turn to cannabis as a source of relief for things like pain, inflammation, and sleep issues, too strong a dose can lead to feelings of dizziness or nausea. If you’re already feeling unwell from a cold or cold medication, you may not want to risk worsening side effects.

Many other cold “remedies” besides cold medicine can help with symptoms without interacting with cannabis. Doctors generally recommend staying hydrated, resting, gargling with warm salt water, consuming warm liquids and honey, and even using a humidifier.

How Weed Can Interact with Cold Medication

The active ingredients in many cold medicines include acetaminophen (also the main ingredient in Tylenol), dextromethorphan, guaifenesin, doxylamine, and phenylephrine.¹ 

Dextromethorphan, acetaminophen, phenylephrine, and doxylamine can cause drowsiness, dizziness, nervousness, nausea, or vomiting. Cannabis can also causes similar adverse effects², and combining both may increase the severity or duration of these unpleasant feelings.

On the other hand, there seems to be little concern about combining cannabis and ibuprofen or guaifenesin. However, no studies have been done on the direct correlation between these medications and cannabis consumption, and patients may wish to consult with their doctor before adding either drug to an existing cannabis routine (or vice versa). 

NyQuil and Weed

NyQuil and Weed

NyQuil is a recognizable over-the-counter brand of medicine that temporarily relieves coughing, headaches, stuffy and runny nose, sore throat, fever, and sneezing. And while it can seem innocuous to combine NyQuil and cannabis, there are several reasons consumers should be cautious.

First, the three active ingredients in NyQuil include acetaminophen, dextromethorphan, and doxylamine. All three have been linked to side effects like stomach pains, nausea, dizziness, and drowsiness (common side effects of consuming too strong a dose of cannabis). Taking Nyquil in addition to cannabis can result in stronger side effects and sedation than desired. 

Although limited, some studies have also shown that certain cannabinoids like CBD and THC affect the liver³ and its enzymes⁴ which are both responsible for processing medications like NyQuil in the body. This suggests that consuming cannabis could affect the doxylamine and dextromethorphan levels in the body after taking NyQuil, leading to dizziness, drowsiness and sedation, vomiting, blood pressure, sweating, fever, and more.

Second, NyQuil is a cough suppressant, while smoke inhalation may cause or aggravate an existing cough. It may be counterproductive to partake in both while experiencing a cold.

Additionally, NyQuil is about 10% alcohol. Combining alcohol with cannabis can also lead to increased dizziness, incoherence and prolong the rhinovirus’s length of time spent in your system. 

The risk of combining cannabis and NyQuil is generally considered moderate, but that doesn’t mean they’re negligible. And, the way the two interact in the body will vary by user.

More research is needed to understand how cannabis and NyQuil interact with the human body. In the meantime, consideration should be taken if you are thinking about taking both drugs simultaneously, especially if you are prone to negatively responding to cold medications or cannabis. 

Can Smoking Weed Help Alleviate Cold or Make It Worse?

Doctors don’t advise smoking weed while you have a cold. This is not because the cannabinoids or terpenes will directly influence the virus but rather because of the way cannabis and cold medicine interact with our bodies. 

Cannabis compounds have shown to be both antipyretic⁵ (fever reducing) as well as anti-inflammatory⁶ and pain relieving⁷. However, direct smoke inhalation can exacerbate cold symptoms⁸. Likewise, consuming cannabis through pre-rolls, vapes, or glassware like pipes or bongs may irritate an existing cough or sore throat⁹ from a cold. If you wish to continue your cannabis consumption while experiencing cold symptoms, switching to products like tinctures or capsules – and avoiding smoking – might be best.

Can Smoking Cannabis Help Against Other Viruses?

Although there has not been studies on how cannabis interacts with the common cold, certain cannabinoids have been studied in the way they interact with other viruses. One study in particular collected an extensive list of current research on cannabis and viruses like HSV 1 and 2 (Herpes), BDV(Borna Disease Virus), HIV, influenza and more¹⁰. Depending on which virus is looked at can have both beneficial and adverse effects.¹¹ 

Most recently, studies have been done on how cannabinoids affect the COVID-19 virus.¹² CBD was found to have antiviral properties and one study found that CBDA and CBGA can attach to the COVID spike proteins.¹³ This attachment may make it more difficult for the COVID virus to attach to other cells in the body.¹⁴ Regardless, these results were found on tissue cultures in labs and have yet to be applied to the human body.

Continued research is needed to give both medical professionals and the general public a better understanding of the way cannabis and viruses like the common cold interact. 

Conclusion

The general consensus among the medical community is that it’s not recommended to combine smoking weed with cold medicine. Mixing the two may cause unwanted reactions when you already may not be feeling your best. Plus, smoke inhalation can aggravate and extend symptoms like sore throat and coughing.

If you choose to consume cannabis to mitigate cold symptoms, like the aches from your fever, it’s best to:

  1. Avoid combining cannabis with cold medicine. In this case, you might try soothing a sore throat with warm liquids and honey or fighting congestion with a humidifier.
  2. Choose non-smokable forms of cannabis like tinctures or capsules. This will provide the desired effects from cannabis without the throat or lung irritation that comes with smoking.
  3. Consult with your doctor.

Sources:

¹ “Active Ingredients in Selected Cold Medicines.” Harvard Health, 1 Jan. 2008, www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/active_ingredients_in_selected_cold_medicines. Accessed 31 Aug. 2022.

² Mathew, R. J., et al. “Middle Cerebral Artery Velocity during Upright Posture after Marijuana Smoking.” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, vol. 86, no. 2, Aug. 1992, pp. 173–178, 10.1111/j.1600-0447.1992.tb03247.x. Accessed 2 Dec. 2021.

³ Doohan, Peter T., et al. “Cannabinoid Interactions with Cytochrome P450 Drug Metabolism: A Full-Spectrum Characterization.” The AAPS Journal, vol. 23, no. 4, 28 June 2021, p. 91, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34181150/, 10.1208/s12248-021-00616-7. Accessed 31 Aug. 2022.

⁴ Britch, Stevie C., et al. “Cannabidiol: Pharmacology and Therapeutic Targets.” Psychopharmacology, vol. 238, no. 1, 21 Nov. 2020, pp. 9–28, 10.1007/s00213-020-05712-8. Accessed 16 Jan. 2022.

⁵ Ryz, Natasha R., et al. “Cannabis Roots: A Traditional Therapy with Future Potential for Treating Inflammation and Pain.” Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, vol. 2, no. 1, Jan. 2017, pp. 210–216, 10.1089/can.2017.0028.

⁶ Gallily, Ruth, et al. “The Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Terpenoids from Cannabis.Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, vol. 3, no. 1, 2018, pp. 282–290, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30596146, 10.1089/can.2018.0014.

⁷ Yanes, Julio A., et al. “Effects of Cannabinoid Administration for Pain: A Meta-Analysis and Meta-Regression.” Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, vol. 27, no. 4, Aug. 2019, pp. 370–382, 10.1037/pha0000281. Accessed 4 June 2021.

⁸ National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, et al. Respiratory Disease. Www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Academies Press (US), 12 Jan. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK425753/.

⁹ Caviedes, Ivan, et al. “Marijuana Use, Respiratory Symptoms, and Pulmonary Function.” Annals of Internal Medicine, vol. 170, no. 2, 15 Jan. 2019, p. 142, 10.7326/l18-0614. Accessed 31 July 2021.

¹⁰ Reiss, Carol Shoshkes. “Cannabinoids and Viral Infections.” Pharmaceuticals, vol. 3, no. 6, 9 June 2010, pp. 1873–1886, 10.3390/ph3061873. Accessed 13 Mar. 2020.

¹¹ Mabou Tagne, Alex, et al. “Cannabidiol for Viral Diseases: Hype or Hope?” Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 15 Jan. 2020, 10.1089/can.2019.0060. Accessed 8 Feb. 2020.

¹² Janecki, Marcin, et al. “Anti-Inflammatory and Antiviral Effects of Cannabinoids in Inhibiting and Preventing SARS-CoV-2 Infection.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences, vol. 23, no. 8, 10 Apr. 2022, p. 4170, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9025270/, 10.3390/ijms23084170.

¹³ Raj, Vinit, et al. “Assessment of Antiviral Potencies of Cannabinoids against SARS-CoV-2 Using Computational and in Vitro Approaches.” International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, vol. 168, 31 Jan. 2021, pp. 474–485, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33290767/, 10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2020.12.020. Accessed 11 Oct. 2021.

¹⁴ van Breemen, Richard B., et al. “Cannabinoids Block Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2 and the Emerging Variants.” Journal of Natural Products, 10 Jan. 2022, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35007072/, 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.1c00946.

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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