What Parents Should Know about CBD

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the most well-known component of marijuana, and it is the one associated with a “high.” However, another major component, CBD, is now becoming more and more available, and, like vaping, it is often marketed to young people. As a family member, you may wonder if it’s safe and if it works.

Here is what we know – and don’t know – about CBD.

What is it?

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is the largest non-psychoactive component of marijuana. It is primarily derived from the hemp plant[1]. Unlike THC, this substance does not cause a high.

Interest in this substance has increased because of its potential to produce medical benefits such as anxiety relief and sleep aid – without the high. It’s seen as a potential medicine without the side effects typically associated with marijuana, particularly as pain relief for cancer, serious chronic pain and epilepsy.

It can be found in numerous forms, including oils, vaping liquid, edibles, tinctures and capsules. There are also many CBD-infused items available such as lotions, shampoos, lip balms and drinks. Thousands of online companies and physical stores market this substance, which is estimated to grow to a $56.3 billion market by 2028[2].

Is it legal?

In short, it depends on the makeup of the product. CBD products are federally legal if they have less than[3] 0.3% CBD. However, states are permitted to make their own rules about access.

Some of these products are illegal, while others can be purchased in supermarkets and health stores by anyone. It’s best to check your state laws[4] regarding legality.

Despite the wide availability of this substance, there is very little Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight of these products. The FDA has not approved[5] any CBD-based human or animal products except for one[6]: Epidolex, which provides patients with a concentrated dose to treat seizures in rare forms of epilepsy. This means that all other CBD products intended for medical use are considered unapproved[7]drugs and are illegal to sell.

Is it safe to use?

Research on the safety of this substance is varied and ongoing. People use it with the intent to treat symptoms, such as chronic pain, depression, anxiety, acne and insomnia. While there is some research[8] to support the use of this substance for these health issues, it is still limited. Much information about its benefits is based on individual user experiences as compared to research. It may also be based upon unreliable sources.

When considering safety, it is important to know that there are important differences between CBD studied in labs for medical conditions like epilepsy and CBD products that are sold to consumers for well-being. These products are mostly unregulated, so people who use them have to rely on the quality assurances of the companies that manufacture and sell them. Because of this, it’s hard to know what is in them, and their level of CBD concentration.

Research[9] and testing show that CBD labels often offer inaccurate information about its contents. For example, products claiming to have no THC could contain trace amounts[10] of it, and there could be less CBD in the product than advertised. So, if someone used this substance and was then screened for drugs, they may test positive if the product they consumed unknowingly contained THC. Additionally, because there is a lack of FDA oversight for these products, some companies may make health claims that have not been approved[11]. This substance does not appear to be dangerous for short-term use, but there is a lack of scientific research and little understanding of its long-term effects.

Does it affect other medications?

Side effects from CBD alone are minor (dry mouth, dizziness, nausea), but CBD products can interact with other medications and cause more serious effects. This substance does not mix well with some medications. It can block the way the body processes them as a result of interactions with liver enzymes.

Steroids, antihistamines, calcium channel blockers, immune modulators, benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax, Klonopin, Valium), antibiotics, anesthetics, antipsychotics, antidepressants, anti-epileptics and beta blockers could all potentially cause an adverse reaction when taken with this substance. Side effects can include[12] :

In rare but serious cases, damage to the liver can occur when this substance is used. As a result, it is best to consult with your healthcare provider about using this substance, particularly if you are on other medications.

Can it be used to treat opioid use disorder?

Research on the health benefits of this substance has included studies on its potential ability to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). Neurobiologist Yasmin Hurd is studying CBD and OUD. She has proposed that it can help alleviate[13] opioid cravings, as it is nonaddictive. Results published in 2019[14] found that CBD reduced cravings and anxiety in individuals struggling with heroin use. Researchers are now testing its effectiveness on a larger scale.

More research is required to establish this substance as an effective treatment for opioid use disorder. Until then, consult with your healthcare provider about treatment.

Read more here for information on available substance use treatment.