Medical marijuana has always been a popular – and not to mention, controversial – topic. But now, its grandchild, cannabidiol (CBD), is enjoying its own 15 minutes of fame. These days, it’s virtually impossible to turn on the TV, surf the ‘net, or even cruise down the street without seeing or hearing something about CBD.
Though CBD comes from the same plant as marijuana, CBD has little, if any, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that gives marijuana its euphoric or hallucinogenic effects. So, as long as the amount of THC falls below a certain amount, CBD products are legal to sell (though that doesn’t guarantee that the products are entirely safe).
CBD is used to treat many health conditions such as seizures and other neurological disorders, pain, and inflammation. CBD comes in a wide variety of products and dosages: You can find CBD sold in tinctures, gummies, capsules, lozenges, oils, vape pens, sprays, creams, and suppositories, and more. But not all CBD products are safe – or are created equal. And the jury’s still out on the quality of these products and how well they work.
To get a better handle on the challenges, I spent some time chatting with my colleague, Michael Schuh, PharmD, MBA, FAPhA, a clinical pharmacist and assistant professor of family medicine, palliative medicine, and pharmacy at the Mayo Clinic in Florida. He also happens to be an expert in integrative medicine and CBD.
What’s the biggest misconception about CBD?
CBD is like a potent herbal supplement, but what many people don’t realize is that CBD has side effects and drug interactions just like any drug. Basically, if it’s a strong enough dose to cause therapeutic effects, it’s enough to cause side effects and drug interactions. Another problem is that few of the products are standardized or vetted to make sure you’re getting a pure and high-quality product. This makes it hard to know what you’re really using. In fact, there’s no real way to vet CBD products right now. Anything that you swallow, inhale, inject, or absorb through your skin that has direct contact with your bloodstream has a risk of unforeseen side effects or interactions.