Officials are warning that "CBD has the potential to harm you."

By Faith Brar
November 26, 2019
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CBD is literally everywhere these days. On top of being touted as a potential treatment for pain management, anxiety, and more, the cannabis compound has been cropping up in everything from sparkling waterwine, coffee, and cosmetics, to sex and period products. Even CVS and Walgreens started selling CBD-infused products at select locations earlier this year.

But a new consumer update from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says a lot more research must be done before CBD is truly considered safe. "There are many unanswered questions about the science, safety, and quality of products containing CBD," the agency said in its update. "The FDA has seen only limited data about CBD safety and these data point to real risks that need to be considered before taking CBD for any reason."

The growing popularity of CBD is the main reason that the FDA chose to issue this stern warning to the public now, according to its consumer update. The agency's biggest concern? Too many people believe that trying CBD "can't hurt," despite the lack of reliable, conclusive research on the cannabis compound's safety, the FDA explained in its update.

The Potential Dangers of CBD

CBD may be easy to shop for these days, but the FDA is reminding consumers that these products are still heavily unregulated, making it hard to pinpoint exactly how they affect the human body.

In its new consumer update, the FDA outlined specific safety concerns, including potential liver damage, drowsiness, diarrhea, and changes in mood. The agency also noted that studies involving animals have suggested CBD may interfere with the development and function of testes and sperm, potentially decreasing testosterone levels and impairing sexual behavior in males as a result. (For now, the FDA says it's unclear whether these findings apply to humans, too.)

The update also states that there hasn't been enough research on the impact CBD could have on women who are pregnant and breastfeeding. Currently, the agency "strongly advises against" using CBD—and marijuana in any form, for that matter—during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. (Related: What's the Difference Between CBD, THC, Cannabis, Marijuana, and Hemp?)

Finally, the FDA's new consumer update strongly cautions against using CBD to treat health conditions that may need serious medical attention or intervention: "Consumers may put off getting important medical care, such as proper diagnosis, treatment and supportive care due to unsubstantiated claims associated with CBD products," a press release about the consumer update noted. "For that reason, it's important that consumers talk to a health care professional about the best way to treat diseases or conditions with existing, approved treatment options."

How The FDA Is Cracking Down On CBD

Given the huge lack of scientific data on the safety of CBD, the FDA says it has also sent out warning letters to 15 companies that are currently illegally selling CBD products in the U.S.

Many of these companies tout unproven claims that their products "prevent, diagnose, mitigate, treat or cure serious diseases, such as cancer," which violates reads the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, according to FDA's consumer update.

Some of these companies are also marketing CBD as a dietary supplement and/or food additive, which the FDA says is illegal—period. "Based on the lack of scientific information supporting the safety of CBD in food, the FDA cannot conclude that CBD is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) among qualified experts for its use in human or animal food," reads a statement from the FDA's press release.

"Today's actions come as the FDA continues to explore potential pathways for various types of CBD products to be lawfully marketed," the statement continued. "This includes ongoing work to obtain and evaluate information to address outstanding questions related to the safety of CBD products while maintaining the agency’s rigorous public health standards."

What to Know Moving Forward

It's worth noting that as of today, there is only one FDA-approved CBD product, and it's called Epidiolex. The prescription drug is used to treat two rare but severe forms of epilepsy in people who are two years of age and older. While the drug has helped patients, the FDA warned in its new consumer update that one of the medication's side effects includes a potential for increased risk of liver injury. However, the agency has determined that "the risks are outweighed by the benefits" for those who take the medication, and that these risks can be safely managed when the drug is taken under medical supervision, per the consumer update.

Bottom line? Despite CBD still being a buzzy wellness trend, there are still many unknowns behind the product and its potential risks. That said, if you're still a believer in CBD and its benefits, it's worth learning how to buy products that are as safe and effective as possible.

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