No Upside of Opioids and Marijuana?
Using products that may contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) like marijuana, hemp or CBD to help relieve pain while taking opioids may seem like an option, especially if you have chronic pain. However, using these products together can hurt your health and career.
What you need to know about opioids
Opioids are strong pain drugs most often prescribed after surgery or injury, but sometimes given for chronic pain. The downside is that anyone who takes opioids is at an increased risk of becoming addicted to them if they are not taken correctly.
What you need to know about marijuana
Active duty Service members, reservists and Guardsmen, are prohibited from having or using marijuana in any form [PDF 283KB]* or products made or derived from hemp including CBD** [PDF 2MB].*** If someone chooses to use marijuana whether it is smoking weed or pot, oil or using another type like edibles, know that it affects everyone differently and may affect the same person in a different way each time they use it. For example, it can relax, depress or even energize a user. The risks of these unknown effects may increase if used with other substances like prescription opioids.
Why not mix marijuana and opioids?
Aside from being prohibited for Service members, using marijuana or products that may contain THC while taking opioids can make the side effects of each drug worse. These include unwanted symptoms such as:
- Feeling drowsy
- Having trouble paying attention
- Being clumsy and disoriented
- Feeling as though you cannot remember things
- Finding it hard to learn new information
- Slowed reaction time
Other symptoms of mixing opioids and marijuana include fatigue, chills, blurred vision and seeing or hearing things that are not real. Research shows that mixing opioids and marijuana increases anxiety and depression but does not help pain.
Using any other drugs, including opioids with marijuana, can make “greening out” more likely. “Greening out” is when you feel sick after smoking marijuana and have any of the following:
- Doubt of others or beliefs that are not real
- “Heavy” arms and legs or not being able to move
- High heart rate or heart palpitations
- Chills or sweats
- Upset stomach
- Lack of focus
If you are using opioids for chronic pain and they are not working, talk with your health care provider. You may also want to talk to them about non-drug pain management options [PDF 626KB].
* This PDF document was published by the Department of Defense Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense; we are not responsible for content contained therein.
** The DOD order/regulation on hemp products does not include FDA-approved cannabinoid drugs for which a Service member has a valid prescription.
*** This PDF document was published by the Department of Defense Office of the Under Secretary of Defense; we are not responsible for content contained therein.