Ask a Pharmacist

Highs and Lows of Using CBD

by Emily Ross, PharmD Candidate,
Class of 2020

You can add it to your morning coffee or smoothie. It is available in drops, creams, gummy bears, face masks and so much more. Some say it can help with anxiety, depression, insomnia, arthritis pain and a variety of other issues. You have likely seen it in your local market, pharmacy or shop on the corner. That’s right, we are talking about the latest health trend – CBD.

With all these new products to hit the market it has people wondering: Is CBD safe? Does CBD work? Should I use CBD? We are going to discuss these concerns and more to see if CBD is worth all the hype.

What is CBD?

Let’s start off with basics – CBD stands for cannabidiol. This is a chemical component of the plant Cannabis sativa which has two primary species – hemp and marijuana. The hemp variety contains a higher percentage of CBD. The other major component in the cannabis plant is THC – which is the psychoactive agent responsible for producing the effects most people associate with marijuana. For the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on CBD.

What is CBD Used For?

From relieving pain to helping with insomnia, people are using CBD for a variety of reasons. Many of the problems CBD has the potential to relieve is based on its action in what is called the endocannabinoid  system (ECS.)

This is a special system in the human body that is involved in many life functions including sleep, appetite, pain and immune system. By acting on receptors in the ECS, it may help treat issues listed with the above systems. In addition, it may also have anti-inflammatory effects that would help with chronic conditions such as arthritis.

Another indication for using CBD for many people is to relieve anxiety and depression symptoms. There are studies that show CBD to have an antidepressant effect due to its interaction with serotonin. Serotonin is a molecule in the body that regulates mood and behavior.

In addition, there are unsupported claims that CBD can help to reduce cancer-related symptoms, decrease acne, benefit heart health and may even prevent diabetes. I have just listed a few of the many different reasons people are using this new product.

Does CBD Work?

CBD makes a lot of great promises; however, this only goes so far if there are not proven benefits and results. There have been many studies done in animals and humans with CBD on the possible benefits. CBD has show efficacy in small clinical trials in reducing stress and anxiety, but more research is needed.

The research as to whether it is effective for pain relief is very early and the results are uncertain. As of now, there may be benefits due to the anti-inflammatory properties. CBD works in a different way than traditional prescription pain relievers, such as opioids, so there may be use for combination therapy when recommended by your doctor.

Is CBD Safe?

As of now, there has not been serious or major adverse effects reported in these studies. Though, CBD has been reported to have some side effects and can interact with other medications. Common side effects include:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • GI upset (nausea, diarrhea)
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in appetite

Another big consideration is that CBD products are like herbals and other dietary supplements: there is no standardization on products. Different companies have different additives, and those may contain trace amounts of THC.

As of now, there are no regulations (FDA) in place that guarantee the safety of all the ingredients in the product. The FDA has issued a warning statement that there are many unanswered questions about the science, safety and quality of products that contain CBD.

Should You Try CBD? The Bottom Line

CBD comes in many forms and is being used to treat a variety of issues. While there are many convincing reasons to try it, more studies need to be done in order to make a conclusion and treatment decision regarding CBD. Everyone is different and what works for one person may or may not work for another.

The most important thing to remember is to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before starting any new supplement or product to make sure that it is safe for you.

References:

Bemben, Nina M. “CBD Oil and Medical Marijuana: Pharmacists Need to Know the High Points.” Wolters Kluwer, 21 May 2019, www.wolterskluwercdi.com/blog/cbd-oil-and-medical-marijuana-pharmacists-need-know-high-points/.

FDA Office of the Commissioner. “What to Know About Products Containing Cannabis and CBD.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, 17 July 2019, www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-need-know-and-what-were-working-find-out-about-products-containing-cannabis-or-cannabis.

Grinspoon, Peter. “Cannabidiol (CBD) – What We Know and What We Don’t.” Harvard Health Blog, 5 June 2019, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476.

Kubala, Jillian. “7 Benefits and Uses of CBD Oil (Plus Side Effects).” Healthline, Healthline Media, 26 Feb. 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/cbd-oil-benefits#section7.

Volkow, Nora D. “The Biology and Potential Therapeutic Effects of Cannabidiol.” NIDA, 24 June 2015, www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2015/biology-potential-therapeutic-effects-cannabidiol.

Williams, Reagan A. “CBD Oil: Leading Patients to Safe Use.” Pharmacy Today, Nov. 2018, www.pharmacytoday.org/article/S1042-0991(18)31505-6/fulltext.



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