What is CBD?

CBD (cannabidiol) is only rivaled by the nasty coronavirus in the news right now. Although it isn’t new, its popularity has skyrocketed in the past couple of years. As an emerging treatment for chronic pain, epilepsy, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and even sleep disorders, it is not likely to be dismissed anytime soon.

Unlike the high that is produced by THC in marijuana, CBD does not create that psychoactive effect. What is does, however, is attach to certain receptors in the body that affect pain, mood, emotions, and several other body functions.

Big business versus safety

Like every booming industry, there is money to be made and when a product is mass produced the potential also exists for decreased quality. CBS News recently did a report called What’s In Your CBD? This report states that nine samples were purchased from around the country and lab tested for heavy metals and pesticides. None of the samples contained any of those contaminants, however, the amount of dosage listed on the packages were questionable. Four of the samples were accurate but two samples were 20%-40% lower than the stated value and at least one was 210% more than the label stated.

This only reaffirms the 2017 study reported by Penn Medicine News that revealed nearly 70% of CBD products sold online are mislabeled as a direct result of inadequate regulation and oversight. Comparing it to a Hershey’s chocolate bar, which is scrutinized for its calories and ingredients, a product being used for medicinal purposes has little to no governance.

CBD in the news

When President Trump passed the 2018 Farm Bill, restrictions on hemp were lifted meaning it would no longer be considered a controlled substance. A May 2019 report from NPR explains the FDA’s take on CBD regulation. Long-term effects are unknown as well as what dosage is actually safe with concerns to liver damage.

In Medical News Today an in-depth article details the benefits, legality, side-effects, and risks including reiterating the concerns over the disruption of an enzyme that prevents the liver from breaking down toxins. However, in June 2018, the FDA did approve a purified form of CBD (called Epidiolex) for the treatment of two different rare types of epilepsy.

What is big business without a celebrity endorsement though? While Willie Nelson has put cannabis acceptance on the map for years, PR Newswire writes about other celebrities such as former New Patriots legend Rob Gronkowski (aka Gronk), UFC fighter Nate Diaz, and actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who have all endorsed CBD in the past year touting its therapeutic benefits, further increasing CBD’s popularity.

Non-medical risks

What could the potential risks of CBD be if not medical risks? As it turns out, several people have had encounters with law enforcement or other authority figures due to the confusion of what CBD is and whether it contains a significant amount of THC. NBCNews.com’s Zachary Siegel reports on how police officers are often confused by products that are actually legal. His report outlines the dangers of transporting legalized hemp when it’s mistaken for its non-legal doppelganger, marijuana. Additionally, the report mentions the possibility of urine drug tests coming back as positive when one lady lost her job after taking CBD for stress. Sadly, when a California couple used CBD as an alternative therapy for their daughter’s epilepsy, they were charged with severe medical neglect even though the FDA has approved CBD for certain epilepsy conditions. Their case was eventually reviewed and dismissed.

What’s next for CBD?

The rapidly changing landscape of the CBD movement creates an unrealistic demand on the understaffed FDA making it impossible to keep up with investigations, research, and approvals. In a few short years it has gone from a two billion dollar industry to what is expected to be a $20+ billion dollar industry by 2024.

Anyone who is considering using CBD should first do their own research and select a reputable company to purchase the product. Additionally, always follow the recommended dosage and make note of any possible adverse effects. Based on supply and demand, CBD is going to be around for while so take the time needed to be sure it’s right for you.