In this article we answer the question whether CBD is safe. Considering that many people will use CBD with other cannabinoids, we subsequently ask ourselves whether cannabis as a whole is a safe substance. Finally, we consider the combination of cannabis and medication.
Is CBD safe?
CBD has a remarkably low toxicity. We learned this from the expanding body of scientific research on CBD. For some diseases, scientific studies are already in phase 2, which means that the results of phase 1 have been favorable. This first phase focuses mainly on the safety of a substance and the search for a suitable dosage.
In one study human subjects were given a high dose of CBD (700mg) on a daily basis for 6 weeks. In this study, no indication of toxicity was found and very few side effects were reported . Apparently, CBD is tolerated well in high doses and for an extended period of time. This makes CBD not only safe, but also very interesting as a potential future medicine.
Is cannabis safe?
Cannabis, like CBD, has a very low acute toxicity, never has anyone deceased as a direct and immediate consequence of cannabis*. Animal studies have shown that a lethal dose of cannabis is more than 10,000 times higher than a pharmacologically effective dose. That the toxicity of cannabis is very low doesn’t mean that cannabis can’t have undesirable effects though. Cannabis has a short-term effect on blood pressure (which goes down) and on heart rate (which goes up). The psychoactive effects of cannabis (getting high or stoned) are considered undesirable by many people. Many of the current CBD-oils, however, do not contain THC (or only very small concentrations) and thus do not have a psychoactive effect .
* The use of cannabis alone has never resulted in death. However, the combination with other medication could potentially be dangerous. Please read through the rest of this article for more information on the interactions between cannabis and prescription drugs.
Cannabis in combination with medication
Are you already on medication? In that case it is important to consider whether cannabis is a good match with your current medication. Mind that we are talking about the combination with cannabis as a whole here and not necessarily about the combination with CBD. It is likely that most of these undesired interactions are due to THC.
Here we discuss some of the combinations in which caution is advised and others that are better avoided altogether . This list is not complete, but it does contain some of the most common used cannabinoids. When in doubt, always consult a doctor first if you want to start using cannabinoids.
– The combination of cannabis with many types of pain medication can result in an additive effect. This effect may be stronger than the simple sum of the parts.
– The combination of cannabis with opioid medication may cause drowsiness and depression of the central nervous system. This can be dangerous and even fatal, because the central nervous system regulates heart rate and respiration.
– The combination of cannabis with benzodiazepines (such as Valium) may have effects that are similar to the combination of cannabis and opioid medication.
– The combination of cannabis with antihistamines (which are used, for example, against hay fever) may cause drowsiness and a suppression of the central nervous system. Cannabis enhances this effect.
– Alcohol also suppresses the central nervous system. When cannabis is combined with alcohol this effect is amplified.
– Metformin is a prescription drug that is used in diabetes for regulation of the blood sugar level. Cannabis can decrease the effectiveness of Metformin.
– Cannabis has an effect on blood pressure. For patients who experience problems with their blood pressure, it is important to keep this in mind when using cannabis.
– Cannabis can lead to an increase in heart rate. Increased heart rate may be due to cannabis when it is combined with stimulants (such as amphetamine or even strong coffee). This is especially important for patients who use medication for heart disease.
– The combination of cannabis with antidepressants can cause drowsiness and sedation.
- Pertwee, R.G. (2014). Handbook on cannabis. Oxford: Oxford University Press
- Consroe, P., Sandyk, R., Snider, S.R. (1986) Open label evaluation of cannabidiol in dystonic movement disorders. Int J Neurosci. 30(4): 277-82.
- Not available online.