Cannabidiol (CBD) oil has become the hot new product in states that have legalized medical marijuana.
But experts say the evidence is scant for most of these touted benefits.
Seventeen additional states have CBD-specific laws on the books, according to Prevention magazine. Those are Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Strong Evidence for Treating Epilepsy
Only one purported use for cannabidiol, to treat epilepsy, has significant scientific evidence supporting it.
“That’s really the only area where the evidence has risen to the point where the FDA has said this is acceptable to approve a new drug,” said Timothy Welty, chair of the department of clinical sciences at Drake University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, in Des Moines, Iowa.
For the rest of CBD’s potential uses, there is simply too little evidence to make a firm conclusion.
For example, some human clinical trials suggest that CBD could be effective in treating symptoms of anxiety, particularly social anxiety, Bonn-Miller said.
There also are concerns about both the quality of CBD oil being produced and its potential side effects, the experts added.
Lack of Regulation Also Concerning
Because of the legally murky nature of marijuana, the FDA has not stepped in to regulate products like CBD oil, Bonn-Miller said. States are struggling to put regulations in place, but they don’t have the deep pockets of the federal government.
Meanwhile, a 2017 study led by Bonn-Miller found that nearly 7 of 10 CBD products didn’t contain the amount of marijuana extract promised on the label.
Nearly 43 percent of the products contained too little CBD, while about 26 percent contained too much, Bonn-Miller said.
“CBD is kind of a tricky drug because it’s not very well absorbed orally,” Welty explained. “Less than 20 percent of the drug is absorbed orally. If it isn’t made in the right way, you may not be getting much drug into your systemic circulation.”
Worse, about 1 in 5 CBD products contained the intoxicating pot chemical THC, Bonn-Miller and his colleagues found.
“About 2 to 3 percent of individuals taking CBD actually had to discontinue because their liver enzymes went so high it was of concern to the people running the study,” he said.
Welty recommends that people interested in CBD seek out a doctor who has read up on the extract and its potential uses.
“My bottom-line advice is people really need to be under the care of a health care provider who understands CBD. They need to be monitored and managed by that individual, and not just go out and buy CBD thinking it’s going to be the answer,” Welty said.