birth control smoking weed

Does Marijuana Affect Birth Control?

Image Point Fr/Shutterstock

Recreational marijuana is legal in 11 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., but there are still many gray areas when it comes to the health effects of using cannabis. Research is still being done on marijuana secondhand smoke as well as the benefits and risks of trendy products like CBD. However, there have been many studies that have shown marijuana can interfere with some medications.

Almost 13% of women age 15-49 are currently using birth control pills for contraception, while more than 10% use long-acting reversible contraception like intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s no surprise, therefore, that many women would be concerned about the risks associated with mixing marijuana with birth control.

While there have been studies on marijuana use and fertility, there is limited research on the interaction of marijuana and birth control. Despite this, many birth control brands come with warnings that there could be adverse effects when their pill or patch is combined with marijuana.

Marijuana may have effects that counteract estrogen, potentially making estrogen-based birth control pills — as well as patches, injections and rings — less effective. However, there’s no data to suggest that marijuana decreases the effectiveness of birth control.

Certain hormone-based contraception also comes with a warning that it can theoretically decrease the elimination of marijuana from the body, meaning the effects of marijuana could be more severe or last longer.

Cardiovascular issues are also a concern for combining marijuana and contraceptives. Cigarette smoking already increases the risk of serious cardiovascular side effects from oral contraceptive use, and smoking marijuana could have a similar effect.

Researchers are also investigating the effect of marijuana on blood pressure, with some linking cannabis to higher blood pressure but others finding CBD decreases blood pressure. Birth control pills, patches and IUDs can all increase blood pressure, risk of blood-clotting problems and other heart issues.

The lack of research on how marijuana affects the health of women, in particular, is one reason more and more women are being inspired to dive into the fields of marijuana research and law as well as becoming pioneers in the marijuana industry.

Marijuana may make birth control pills less effective, but there are other factors to consider before using birth control and marijuana at the same time.

Marijuana and birth control pills

My question is this: does smoking marijuana have the same effects as smoking cigarettes if you’re on the birth control pill? Thanks.

Given a lack of research on the simultaneous use of marijuana (also frequently called weed and pot) and birth control, it’s currently unclear how pot and the pill may interact or conflict with one another. However, it’s known that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical compound found in marijuana, naturally elevates blood pressure. This elevation may pose a risk for people with certain pre-existing heart conditions that might also be worsened by birth control. Additionally, when used on its own, marijuana may induce undesirable and negative health effects (more on those in a bit!). As such, if you’re considering mixing marijuana and birth control pills, you may wish to speak with your health care provider beforehand to gauge and prevent potential health risks.

While research has shown that smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol while on birth control can heighten a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke, there are no studies looking at the effects of smoking or eating marijuana while on birth control. Due to marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I drug, there are rigid restrictions on the types and amount of research conducted. However, even with the minimal research out there, there’s no evidence to suggest that marijuana decreases the effectiveness of birth control. Beyond the risks involved with using marijuana or cigarettes at the same time as birth control, there are risks associated with using marijuana or cigarettes alone.

In the short-term, both cigarette and marijuana may cause a person to experience elevated blood pressure and heart rate. Although sporadic marijuana use hasn’t been linked with negative long-term effects in young and healthy users, chronic and heavy use may lead to long-term outcomes similar to those from smoking cigarettes. These long-term effects include increased risk for stroke, heart attack, and cancer. Also, those who smoke marijuana and tobacco tend to have a lower tolerance for physical activity than non-smokers, which may decrease their physical fitness.

Beyond comparing the effects of smoking marijuana and cigarettes, you may find it helpful to consider potential effects of marijuana use on its own. With marijuana use, people might experience a variety of health effects that they perceive as positive or negative. Some short-term effects of marijuana use may include perceived pain reduction, increased heart rate and palpitations, slower reaction times, and altered perceptions of time and space. Additionally, long-term effects may include addiction and difficulties with learning and memory. Furthermore, marijuana appears to have a complicated relationship with mental illnesses. Depending on the person and high, marijuana use may alleviate, exacerbate, or induce mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, paranoia, and psychosis.

Ultimately, more research is needed to understand the effects of smoking marijuana on birth control pills. You may want to pay attention to any new information or research that is released in this area as it becomes available. Kudos for asking how different substances interact with medications! If you wan to learn more, you may want to check out the Birth Control Pills category in the Go Ask Alice! Sexual & Reproductive Health archives.

Dear Alice, My question is this: does smoking marijuana have the same effects as smoking cigarettes if you're on the birth control pill? Thanks.