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CBD 101: What is it? Why is it showing up everywhere?

Human subject research has been limited

DETROIT – A few years ago hardly anyone had ever even heard of CBD. Now it's showing up in supplements, foods and even makeup.

The explosive growth in awareness has been fueled by scientifically unsubstantiated claims regarding its effectiveness in treating a wide range of diseases. As a chemical compound CBD has been known since the 1940s.

CBD stands for cannabidiol. It's one of dozens of substances called cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant. The most familiar cannabinoid is THC, the compound in cannabis that has the effect of getting a person high. It's different than CBD.

While CBD and THC are extracted from cannabis, they have different effects. Human subject research on CBD and its effects have been limited.

According to University of Michigan College of Pharmacy Professor Gus Rosania, “We are getting closer to actually being able to study hemp and hemp derived CBD and what it’s doing.”

That’s because in December 2018 hemp, the form of cannabis sativa that does not produce a significant amount of the psychoactive compound THC, became federally legal.

While the legalization of cannabis at a state level is gradually moving across the U.S., a change in laws has opened the door for CBD to become federally legal across America.

“The varieties that produce low levels of THC, below 0.3 percent dry weight, those varieties are considered hemp,” Rosania said.

The CBD industry has grown since the legalization of hemp, but many questions remain. The FDA does have regulatory authority over CBD, especially since cannabidiol had been approved for the treatment of certain forms of epilepsy.

In addition to the unsubstantiated claims of CBD’s effectiveness at treating a wide range of medical conditions, the FDA has other concerns. Some of the questions that remain include, what are the safe dose limits, what is the full side effect profile, what is the effect of long-term use, what effect is there in children or pregnant women and what is the extent of drug interactions.

The FDA approved form of CBD, Epidiolex, did go through safety testing so there is information that we can infer from the studies done prior to the approval of Epidiolex.

“There is very little harmful effect, there is sleepiness associated with it or there’s sleep disturbances, but what’s more of a serious concern is coming from drug-drug interactions,” Rosaina said.

The biggest concern Rosania has right now is the quality of the available products.

“The products that are currently being sold are unregulated, so we don’t even know if those products contain the CBD they are said to contain. We also don’t know whether there’s other contaminants that may be present,” he said.


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