Products containing cannabidiol (CBD) seem to be all the rage these days, promising relief from a wide range of maladies, from insomnia and hot flashes to chronic pain and seizures. Some of these claims have merit to them, while some of them are just hype. But it won’t hurt to try, right? Well, not so fast. CBD is a biologically active compound, and as such, it may also have unintended consequences. These include known side effects of CBD, but also unintended interactions with supplements, herbal products, and over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications.
Doubling up on side effects
While generally considered safe, CBD may cause drowsiness, lightheadedness, nausea, diarrhea, dry mouth, and, in rare instances, damage to the liver. Taking CBD with other medications that have similar side effects may increase the risk of unwanted symptoms or toxicity. In other words, taking CBD at the same time with OTC or prescription medications and substances that cause sleepiness, such as opioids, benzodiazepines (such as Xanax or Ativan), antipsychotics, antidepressants, antihistamines (such as Benadryl), or alcohol may lead to increased sleepiness, fatigue, and possibly accidental falls and accidents when driving. Increased sedation and tiredness may also happen when using certain herbal supplements, such as kava, melatonin, and St. John’s wort. Taking CBD with stimulants (such as Adderall) may lead to decreased appetite, while taking it with the diabetes drug metformin or certain heartburn drugs (such as Prilosec) may increase the risk of diarrhea.
CBD can alter the effects of other drugs
CBD has the potential to interact with many other products, including over-the-counter medications, herbal products, and prescription medications. Some medications should never be taken with CBD; the use of other medications may need to be modified or reduced to prevent serious issues. The consequences of drug interactions also depend on many other factors, including the dose of CBD, the dose of another medication, and a person’s underlying health condition. Older adults are more susceptible to drug interactions because they often take multiple medications, and because of age-related physiological changes that affect how our bodies process medications.
THC edibles, meanwhile, produce far more potent effects than smoking marijuana. The effects of consuming 1 mg of THC through edibles is comparable to inhaling 5.71 mg of THC, a study by the Colorado Department of Revenue concluded. Individual tolerance to THC also plays a part. A 5 mg dose will likely produce strong psychoactive effects for those with no tolerance, but for those who regularly consume THC, it will produce only mild effects.
The effects of edibles can be felt longer than smoking or vaping marijuana, which is ideal for people who want lasting relief from symptoms without having to continually take doses throughout the day.
‘There is no certainty about the quality of CBD products used by those taking part in the survey, however, and some may have contained unlabelled amounts of THC or other substances that produced these effects – for example, euphoria and hunger are more usually associated with THC than with CBD,’ she says. ‘Even so, no serious side effects were noted.’
• THC edibles
‘The biggest difference between THC and CBD is there’s no high with CBD,’ Dr McCabe explains. ‘One of the biggest side effects or downfalls of THC for most people is there’s paranoia or a psychotic effect that can come with that. [CBD] allows the user to have the powerful benefits both can offer, but without the high.’
Edibles generally last between 6-8 hours, though this depends on concentration, potency and type.
To find out more about edibles of all varieties – legal and otherwise – Healthspan medical director Dr Sarah Brewer and chiropractor Dr Luke McCabe explain how long edibles take to kick in and share advice on dosage, duration and side effects:
Potential edible side effects vary depending on the type. Adverse effects are relatively uncommon for CBD edibles. In an online survey of 2,409 people, only minor complaints were reported, says Dr Brewer – such as dry mouth, when used as oral spray or drops (11.1%), euphoria (6.4%), hunger (6.4%), red eyes (2.7%) and feeling sleepy (1.8%).