CBD appears to be everywhere right now. The cannabis-derived plant oil is available in food, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and even animal health products. It’s been lauded as a cure-all elixir and become a popular alternative to traditional medications. However, as it has only been made recently available, the long term effects are still under scrutiny.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warning letters to 15 companies for illegally selling products containing CBD. In a report last week, the FDA also indicated that it “cannot conclude that CBD is generally recognized as safe for its use in human or animal food.”
Specific safety concerns related to CBD products included reports of products containing contaminants, such as pesticides and heavy metals. The use of CBD may also lead to potential liver injury, interactions with other drugs, drowsiness, diarrhea, and changes in mood.
So far the FDA has approved only one CBD product, named Epidiolex. It’s a prescription drug that treats two rare, severe forms of epilepsy. Other products containing CBD have not been subject to FDA evaluation and therefore their health risks are not known.
The FDA stated that their top priority is to protect the public health. “This priority includes making sure consumers know about products that put their health and safety at greatest risk, such as those claiming to prevent, diagnose, treat, mitigate, or cure serious diseases.” For example, CBD products cannot be marketed as treating cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes or psychiatric disorders.
Despite these warnings, other groups are encouraging users of CBD not to panic unnecessarily. The Council for Responsible Nutrition said the FDA’s move shouldn’t alarm consumers. But they do recognize that the FDA’s inaction for the past year has “facilitated an unregulated marketplace, which is bad for consumers and the burgeoning CBD industry.”
In the same week the FDA made its announcement on CBD, a report was published by the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. It found that U.S. life expectancy is now decreasing.
A major cause of this decline can be attributed to “deaths of despair,” which include drug overdoses and suicides among young and middle-aged adults. CBD has been marketed as an alternative to drugs and alcohol, and as a safe way to manage stress. If true, that could help in the fight against addiction and stress-related deaths. However, these claims have not yet been substantiated either.
If you are currently taking CBD, you shouldn’t panic. Talk to your doctor about the new FDA warnings, especially if you are taking other medications or have a liver condition.