The Jury Is Still Out: Should You Approach CBD With Caution?

A substance that’s gained attention in recent years is CBD. Although a derivative of the cannabis plant, CBD is a legal substance due to its low THC levels.

So, how does CBD make you feel? Well, cool as a cucumber. That’s because CBD has all of the relaxing benefits of cannabis without the THC effects that cause you to get “high.”

The rising popularity of cannabis combined with the fact that CBD can help ease pain and discomfort makes daily use an easy choice. Where to access CBD is common knowledge, yet how safe it is remains up for debate.

CBD product lines are expanding at a rapid rate, plus an overwhelming number of people believe that the benefits of CBD outweigh its harmful effects. Keep reading to learn why this well-liked substance isn’t exempt from FDA recalls, misleading claims or health risks.

The Appeal of CBD Over THC

How does CBD make you feel vs. how does THC make you feel? Well, when comparing THC vs. CBD, one causes inebriating effects that make people get “high,” while the other does not. Because THC is the cannabis component that causes people to get high, THC is still federally illegal except when the amount of THC in cannabis is at or below 0.3%.

CBD, an acronym for the term cannabidiol, is one of the phytocannabinoid compounds found in the cannabis plant. There’s CBD in both the marijuana cannabis plant and the hemp cannabis plant, although the amount of CBD in hemp cannabis plants is much greater than the amount of CBD in marijuana cannabis plants.

There’s also THC in both the marijuana cannabis plant and the hemp cannabis plant, although the amount of THC in the hemp cannabis plant is very little in comparison to that of the marijuana cannabis plant. In fact, the amount of THC in a hemp plant is 0.3% or less. It just so happens that only CBD products with a THC level that is at or below 0.3% is federally legal as well. That’s why most legal forms of CBD come from the hemp plant.

Still, even cannabis-derived CBD products that are sold must contain THC that’s at or below 0.3% to be legal.

Many people use CBD to help treat their pain and discomfort or to just help them relax. There’s not enough research to prove that CBD can treat medical conditions though.

Regardless, due to a high demand for the drug, you can now find CBD for sleep, CBD oil for anxiety, CBD lotion or CBD cream for pain, and CBD for a wide variety of other purposes.

The Rise of CBD Usage in America

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), there has been an increase in cannabidiol (CBD) use across all ages since 2014. In fact, the AAPCC reports more than a 14x increase in cannabidiol cases since 2017. This is likely related to the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill that removed hemp-derived CBD and all naturally occurring cannabinoids from the controlled substance list.

The AAPCC updated its last cannabidiol case report on October 31, 2020. We can expect that the final AAPCC cannabidiol records for November and December will be closer to 2,000.

According to a 2019 Gallup poll, 14% of Americans say that they use CBD products. Young adults are the most likely to use CBD products. This is because approximately 36% of respondents were between the ages of 18-49, and 20% were between the ages of 18-29.

Because people between the ages of 18-49 typically still have a long life ahead of them and are very consumer-friendly, having high sales with this demographic could potentially lead to a long-term market for CBD users. This is especially true when looking at the possible long-term market value of CBD users that are currently under the age of 30.

Rise of CBD

Benefits of CBD

Enough research hasn’t been done yet to prove most of the benefits of CBD. Still, there is some evidence that CBD can relieve people of anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms. This is because CBD may be able to act on the serotonin system in the brain and body. Many people also use CBD for sleep.

Evidence even suggests that CBD can interact with the body’s own endocannabinoid system to boost levels of anandamide. Anandamide is the “bliss molecule.” Interacting with anandamide can indeed boost feelings of happiness in a person.

Evidence also suggests that CBD may be able to act with the body’s natural opioid system. This could be the reason that many people like to use CBD to relieve themselves of pain.

People even like to use CBD because it’s non-psychoactive. Therefore, CBD gives off the relaxing health advantages of cannabis without any of its inebriating “high” effects.

How long does CBD stay in your system though? CBD can stay in your body’s system for approximately 2-5 days (sometimes longer), making it easy to reap its benefits.

Potential Harm and Side Effects of CBD Use

Less serious side effects of CBD range from respiratory problems to cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain). However, CBD can cause more dangerous side effects when used while taking other substances. This is because CBD can affect the chemical compounds of drugs.

In fact, using CBD while drinking alcohol or consuming other drugs that slow brain activity can increase the risk of sedation and drowsiness to the point of being vulnerable to injuries. Another possible alarming effect of CBD use is evident in the effects that CBD has had on the reproductive organs of animals in research studies.

Animals in CBD studies responded to CBD use with male reproductive toxicity and damage to female fertility organs. Although these effects occurred during animal testing, there is a chance that these same effects could occur for human CBD users as well. Other negative side effects of CBD use include forms of gastrointestinal distress, like diarrhea and/or a decreased appetite, as well as mood changes.

Health Risks Associated With Using Certain CBD Products

There are numerous health risks that can occur to those that use CBD products. This is because CBD products receive poor manufacturing. CBD products associate with the following major health risks:

1. Liver Injury

The FDA identified certain CBD safety risks that could lead to liver injury, similar to that of excessive alcohol use. These liver injury risks could particularly occur when using a non-FDA approved CBD product without medical supervision.

Liver injury risks even increase when people use CBD products simultaneously with other drugs that impact the liver. The best way to manage these risks is to only use FDA approved CBD products with medical supervision.

2. Drug Interactions

Studies from the FDA approved Epidiolex CBD drug show that the cannabinoid CBD can impact other medications by increasing or decreasing their effects. This could cause an increased chance of adverse effects of medications or decrease the strength of medications.

FDA CBD studies also show that taking other medications while using the cannabinoid CBD can affect the dosage level of CBD that is safe to use. There’s even little to no research on how CBD interacts with products and herbs or other plant-based products in dietary supplements. Ultimately, the best way to ensure the safety of CBD users that also take other medications is to receive healthcare monitoring. Also, don’t take CBD while using herbs or other plant-based products.

3. Male Reproductive Toxicity

Because of the high levels of male reproductive toxicity in male animals in CBD studies, there is great concern surrounding CBD use and the possibility of it causing human male reproductive toxicity.

Unanswered Questions About CBD Safety

CBD can also be harmful due to the simple fact that there are so many unanswered questions surrounding its safety. CBD is simply too new and too little researched. That’s why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved of any other CBD drug or product except for the CBD Epidiolex which treats epilepsy and seizures. Some of the unanswered questions that are still surrounding CBD use include:

  • What will happen to you if you take the cannabinoid CBD every day for a long period of time?
  • How much CBD do you need to intake to trigger some of the more serious CBD health risks?
  • How do different methods of CBD consumption affect intake?
  • How does CBD use affect a brain that’s still developing?
  • How can CBD use affect a developing fetus or a newborn when breastfeeding?
  • Does CBD cause male reproductive toxicity or damage to female fertility organs in humans?
  • How does the cannabinoid CBD interact with other herbs and plant materials?
  • What happens if you expose yourself to various different forms of CBD within the same day?
  • How does CBD affect special populations of people such as children and adolescents, elderly people, and pregnant or lactating women?
  • Is CBD safe to use on animals?
  • Is CBD safe to use on animals that we plan to eat or use their animal products?

Dangerous Promotions of Unproven CBD Medical Claims

At the end of the day, there’s a lack of data to prove that CBD has medical and therapeutic benefits. Thus, all of the CBD products that claim to treat diseases, aside from the CBD approved drug Epidiolex, aren’t being completely honest.

When products market themselves as being “medicinal” without approval from the FDA, should we even feel shocked? Having so many misleading CBD products out in the world is dangerous because it could deter CBD users from going to the doctor and getting a proper diagnosis and/or treatment plan for serious health conditions. Poor CBD product manufacturing and quality can also cause health risks for CBD users because CBD products of such low quality can mislead people about their CBD and THC levels, or worse, mislead people about the traces of other dangerous substances in them.

CBD consumers should even be extra cautious when trying new CBD flavors. For example, in July 2020, there was a recall of watermelon CBD oil due to traces of lead.

CBD health risks and unproven medical claims are also dangerous when dealing with CBD products for pets and animals. This is especially true since there are no CBD products that are FDA approved for pets and animals.

Is Using CBD Safe Enough to Cancel Out the Risks?

With all the unknowns surrounding CBD, the question must be asked: How safe is the cannabis plant cannabinoid CBD? The answer is… well, it’s too early to tell.

While there are numerous benefits to using CBD, there are also many risks. Thus, the best way to take advantage of the CBD benefits is to only use FDA approved CBD products from the hemp cannabis plant. You can also use CBD products that you’re certain contain pure CBD with equal to or less than 0.3% THC in them and have good reviews.

To reduce the likelihood of having an adverse reaction to CBD, it’s recommended to avoid CBD products that are in the form of food or beverages. You should also not use any CBD products at the same time that you’re taking any other medications, herbs, or dietary supplements. If you find yourself misusing CBD or craving to mix it with other medications, you can learn more about your substance abuse and addiction recovery options on Addiction Treatment Services’ resource directory.