Thursday May 30, 2019

By Andrew Ward


CBD is in the mainstream. No longer is it a niche product cannabis experts are telling their friends about. Instead, it’s in Whole Foods, pharmacies and scores of other everyday shops where people consume products. It’s in pills, foods (despite the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) lack of support), topicals and even toothpaste.

With the rise in CBD popularity comes public concerns. At this time, most people understand that cannabis products do not lead to overdoses – though choice people remain concerned. Some may even think they have experienced a CBD overdose themselves. These claims come despite the fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated CBD is medically beneficial with nearly zero health risks. Regardless of the case, some of the public remain uncertain over CBD and safe consumption. These concerns extend to their furry friends as well. As such, we’re here to touch on some of the critical facts concerning CBD and overconsumption.

Cannabis Toxicity Levels

Before we dive into overdosing on CBD, let's briefly touch on cannabis toxicity. With medicines in the U.S., the FDA requires each product to have an established toxicity level. This is known as an LD50, or the lethal dosage it would take to kill 50 percent of test subjects. Grim stuff, right? Grim but necessary information. With cannabis, its legal status prevents it from being legally available for most research.

While some results for animals have been provided through the years (more on that below), few if any LD50s for human THC or CBD consumption have come to light – although some believe the lethal dose of pure THC to be somewhere around 1,260 mg/kg (an amount that’s basically impossible to consume in one sitting as a human).

According to science, it's nearly impossible to overdose on THC or CBD. photo credit

In terms of CBD, the closest we can come to accredited research at this time is with Epidiolex, the first FDA-approved prescription CBD drug. However, the LD50 of a drug is not required information to disclose, and Epidiolex is one medication that has not released this information. As such, CBD is pretty much in the dark about its LD50, if it has one at all. While no concrete number has been established, some figures (like the one mentioned above) have been floated about throughout the years. Most sums center on massive amounts of cannabis that no person could likely consume in the time needed to overdose. Simply put, the theoretical LD50 of marijuana is probably too large to reach.

What It Takes to Overdose on CBD

Research and heavy consumer use has shown that not much, if anything, can lead to an overdose on CBD alone. In fact, it is largely believed that a person cannot overdose on any sort of cannabis, CBD or otherwise.

To date, there have been zero instances where a person has died from consuming copious amounts of only THC or CBD. Meanwhile, booze and opioids remain readily available to most Americans. Fair system, right?

In a previous article, we delved into cannabis overdosing and how the body prevents marijuana from causing damage to our organs. Because cannabinoid receptors are not located in the brainstem, it cannot alter key functionalities like breathing. This is not the case with opioids where its receptors are located in the brainstem. When interrupted, a person can lose oxygen or experience poor blood circulation, leading to death or other serious injuries.

But I’ve Overdosed on CBD

Not to diminish anyone’s claims saying so, but a CBD overdose is likely not the case. While it’s true that a person can have a bad experience on cannabis, they are almost assuredly not experiencing the signs of an overdose. Even more, most bad cannabis experiences are in relation to overconsumption of THC, not CBD. There have still been reports of uncomfortable side effects from consuming too much CBD though, although these reports are far less common. That said, understanding the side effects of overconsumption can help you identify adverse side effects and overcome most with ease.

Side effects of overconsumption of CBD might include:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Appetite changes
  • Psychosis (typically only in people with history of mental health problems)
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness

Again, side effects like the ones mentioned above are rare when CBD alone is consumed. However, you can avoid the possibility of such outcomes occurring by following the recommended dosing suggestions provided on each product. And even with CBD, adhere to the old cannabis mantra: start low, go slow.

Concern for Pets Overdosing on CBD

Humans are not the only concern when it comes to overdosing. Our pets are becoming more of a focus as the cannabis pet market continues to balloon. Like humans, we don’t have much conclusive evidence to work off of with pets. That said, some information has come to light over the decades.

According to the Federal Government’s Toxicology Data Network (TOXNET), the LD50 for dogs in 1946 was determined to be higher than 254 mg per kg of body weight, which was administered via IV. 1975 saw an established LD50 for mice at 50mg per kg of body weight when administered intravenously as well. And in 1981, the LD50 for CBD in monkeys was determined to be 212mg per kg of body weight when delivered as the other findings. A more recent instance came in a 2011 article from Current Drug Safety which analyzed LD50 levels in rhesus monkeys when consuming orally administered CBD. In these cases, doses of 200mg per kg of body weight killed some test subjects. 300mg per kg of body weight brought on what was described as a ‘rapid death.’

The rhesus monkey findings led to an LD50 for humans, of sorts. If you take those numbers and calculate them in accordance with an average human weight of 160 to 180 pounds, it would take nearly 20,000mg of CBD consumed in a short window of time to bring on any fatal results potentially – which places the chances of a CBD overdose at near impossible levels.

What do you think? Is a CBD overdose possible? Share your comments in the discussion below!

Photo Credit: Kimzy Nanney (license)

Andrew Ward Andrew Ward

Andrew Ward is a Brooklyn-based cannabis writer and creative. His work has appeared on Benzinga, High Times, PROHBTD and several other publications and brand blogs. He has covered the cannabis space for over three years, and has written professionally since 2011. His first book, "Cannabis Jobs," was released in October 2019. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn to stay up to date.

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