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World Health Organization. Cannabidiol (CBD): Critical Review Report (World Health Organization, 2018).

Many such claims lie beyond the bounds of medical evidence — including that regarding CBD preparations that purport to prevent cancer or to treat Alzheimer’s disease. However, even products that make more modest claims could be problematic. In 2017, Bonn-Miller and his colleagues performed chemical analyses on 84 products purchased online from 31 companies, and found that only 31% were accurately labelled with regard to CBD content 14 . What’s more, many commercially available preparations have been found to be contaminated with intoxicating doses of THC, heavy metals and pesticides, as well as toxic solvents from the CBD extraction process. In a case reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 52 people in Utah became seriously ill or were hospitalized after using a CBD oil that contained an intoxicating synthetic cannabinoid drug. The possibility of such contamination is concerning to all potential users, and especially to people who are seeking relief from the effects of a health condition. “It’s one thing if you’ve got too much THC in gummy bears you’re using with friends, but something entirely different if it’s a kid you’re giving CBD for medical reasons,” says Bonn-Miller. “I don’t trust any CBD product until I’ve done the tests.”

And although cannabis been demonized as a gateway to more dangerous substances, Hurd has found that it might actually contain an effective antidote for potentially deadly addictions. After observing that rats with a heroin addiction were less likely to seek out the opioid when treated with CBD, she began to investigate whether CBD might have the same effect on people with an opioid dependency. On the basis of an encouraging pilot study, Hurd and her team conducted a randomized controlled trial in 42 abstinent heroin users, who had avoided taking the drug for up to three months after years of routine or heavy use 13 . The researchers then exposed the participants to drug paraphernalia and videos that showed heroin use — cues that normally provoke strong cravings in people with a dependency — and then measured participant-reported responses and physiological indicators of stress and anxiety. “Cue-induced craving is associated with increased cortisol levels and increased heart-rate, and CBD reduced those,” she says. Participants receiving CBD also reported lower levels of drug craving and anxiety relative to placebo group, and Hurd notes that the beneficial effects persisted for a week after the final administration of CBD.

Ovarian cancer

Cannabidiol oil has purported health benefits, including helping to relieve chronic pain. Credit: Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times/Getty

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Kaplan, J. S., Stella, N., Catterall, W. A. & Westenbroek, R. E. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 114, 11229–11234 (2017).

CBD oil is derived from hemp plants that do not contain a large amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component in cannabis.

The DEA defines Schedule 1 drugs as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

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“A pharmaceutical firm currently involved in cannabinoidal research and product development praised the DEA’s efforts to establish a new drug code for marihuana (sic) extracts,” the DEA said.

WASHINGTON — The Drug Enforcement Administration issued a ruling Wednesday, declaring cannabidiol hemp oil a Schedule 1 substance.

That puts CBD oil in the same category as heroin, LSD, MDMA, psilocybin and other drugs.