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Does cannabis decrease the effectiveness of birth control? – Medical News Today

Currently, there is no evidence to indicate that marijuana, or cannabis, decreases the effectiveness of birth control. While more research is still necessary, it is unlikely that cannabis negatively affects these contraceptive methods. However, some potential side effects of cannabis use may interact with these medications.
Cannabis is one of the more popular recreational drugs in the United States, with almost 20% of U.S. respondents reporting cannabis use in a 2020 survey. Birth control refers to methods that people may use to prevent pregnancy. Evidence suggests that roughly 65% of American females use some form of contraception.
While more research is necessary, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not currently list cannabis use as a contraindication for birth control. However, both cannabis and birth control produce possible side effects that could be concerning if a person were to mix them.
In this article, we will discuss the potential interactions between cannabis and birth control.
“Cannabis” refers to a plant that people may use for recreational and medicinal purposes. The cannabis plant contains at least 120 active ingredients, or cannabinoids, that may have an influence on the body.
The most abundant cannabinoids are cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). People can partake in cannabis by smoking or eating parts of the plant, such as the dried flowers or leaves and seed oil.
CBD is a cannabinoid present in cannabis that is also available in several other forms in the U.S. For example, CBD oils, tinctures, and gummies are available for purchase in many states.
CBD is just one of many compounds derived from the cannabis plant. Consuming CBD does not lead to the feeling of being “high” that many people associate with cannabis use. People may use CBD for its relaxing effects and anti-inflammatory properties.
Some research suggests that CBD can impact liver function, as can some hormonal birth control options. The liver metabolizes most medications, and CBD may affect some enzymes involved in this process.
As a result of these potential liver impacts, limited evidence indicates that CBD may affect some estrogen-based birth control methods but not progesterone-based birth control. While research is inconclusive, progesterone may be a viable option for those who wish to use both CBD and birth control medication at the same time.
THC is the cannabinoid responsible for the “high” associated with cannabis consumption. When THC enters the body, it binds to natural cannabinoid receptors, which can affect the nervous system and impact mood, perception, appetite, and cognition. Many people ingest THC with no negative side effects.
There is no evidence to suggest that THC can decrease the effectiveness of birth control. However, certain side effects of THC may worsen negative side effects of hormonal birth control methods, such as pills, IUDs, the patch, ring, and implant.
Evidence suggests that both estrogen-based birth control pills and THC can increase blood pressure, which may increase the risk of heart complications. Individuals with a history of high blood pressure or heart concerns should consult a doctor before ingesting THC or taking birth control pills.
Research has also shown that the endocannabinoid system plays a role in female reproduction. This system helps with egg production and embryo development. More research is necessary to clearly understand whether THC has any effect on these bodily functions.
Typically, people may partake in recreational cannabis use through either smoking parts of the cannabis plant or eating edibles infused with cannabis oil. Currently, there is no evidence to suggest whether the method of cannabis consumption impacts how it may interact with birth control.
However, some methods of cannabis consumption and contraception may be likely to affect each other. For example, as people ingest both oral contraceptives and edibles, there is more potential for interaction in the stomach.
Some people may use medicinal cannabis in other forms that could interact with birth control. For example, some research suggests a possible interaction between nabiximols, a treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) containing THC and CBD, and hormonal birth control. However, nabiximols have not yet gained FDA approval for the treatment of MS in the United States.
At present, there is insufficient evidence to provide recommendations on cannabis and birth control use. And there is no definitive evidence to suggest that cannabis decreases the effectiveness of birth control. Future research is necessary to investigate any potential interactions.
Many people report positive effects from consuming cannabis. In addition to its recreational properties, cannabis may provide pain relief for people with chronic pain conditions or cancer.
However, there are some safety risks associated with regular cannabis use, including:
Some evidence also suggests that chronic cannabis use may affect female fertility. However, studies in this area are scarce. Additionally, ingesting cannabis during pregnancy can also harm a growing fetus. The harmful effects of cannabis use throughout pregnancy may include:
While birth control methods are typically safe, they may also result in health complications. For example, possible risks of using birth control pills may include:
While more research is necessary to investigate interactions between smoking cannabis and taking birth control, certain birth control methods may not be suitable for those who smoke cigarettes. For example, the CDC recommends that people over the age of 35 years who smoke should avoid using certain types of contraception, such as the combined pill, patch, and ring.
Smoking can negatively affect the heart and blood vessels, which can lead to health complications. For example, smoking can also increase the risk of blood clots and heart attack.
A doctor may advise individuals who smoke tobacco to consider birth control options other than the pill, patch, or ring. These may include condoms or the copper IUD.
Health experts will also likely advise individuals to quit smoking altogether. Beyond negative interactions with birth control, smoking tobacco can cause:
The CDC notes that smoking tobacco leads to 1 in 5 deaths in the U.S. every year.
At present, there is no definitive research to suggest that cannabis decreases the effectiveness of birth control. More studies are necessary to fully understand how cannabis may interact with these contraceptive methods.
As with any drug, there may be some risk of potential side effects and interactions. Additionally, while cannabis and birth control may not interact, each can produce side effects that could be concerning when people mix them.
Individuals who want to use both cannabis and birth control should consult with a doctor to learn more about what birth control options are best for them.
Last medically reviewed on March 10, 2022
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