Last Updated: October 25, 2022
With the recent legalization of marijuana in many states, cannabis has been receiving increased public attention. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a substance that naturally occurs in the cannabis plant, but it does not produce the same ‘high’ side effects as marijuana. CBD does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana’s psychoactive component, so it does not have the same restrictions or recreational uses as marijuana.
Because they come from the same plant, CBD is often confused with THC, even though they are different substances. Since the substance is an extract from the cannabis plant, people are often unsure if they can get addicted to CBD.
At this stage, there is no support for CBD addiction. Unlike THC and cannabis, CBD is not a controlled substance. However, it’s still important to keep in mind that CBD is not well-regulated, and its side effects may change when used in combination with other substances.
What Is CBD?
Like marijuana and THC, cannabidiol (CBD) comes from the cannabis plant. CBD is the most abundant cannabis plant substance, accounting for around 40% of what is extracted from the plant.
Following the legalization of marijuana and the growing popularity of CBD products, there have been a number of questions about what CBD is and what effects can be expected. Unlike marijuana, CBD is not easily converted into tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that produces a ‘high’ like feeling in marijuana use.
The federal government passed the Agricultural Improvement Act in 2018, which made hemp (cannabis products that contain less than 0.3% THC) legal. However, this law includes strict regulations about how cannabis plants can be grown. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies CBD as a drug ingredient, and it is still tightly regulated in products. However, some manufacturers may not tightly adhere to these regulations, causing some CBD products to contain illegal amounts of THC.
Despite these federal regulations, many people are still unsure whether CBD is legal in all 50 states. Not all states have updated their laws to align with federal law. However, the National Conference of State Legislatures provides up-to-date information on state-level CBD/hemp regulations.
What Does CBD Look Like?
The green, leafy cannabis plant from which CBD is derived will be familiar to many people. However, what CBD looks like can vary depending on the type of product it is supplied in:
- CBD oil: CBD oil is yellow and usually comes in a small glass bottle. Oil can also be put in capsules and sold in pill form. The appearance of CBD can change if it is mixed with other products for consumption. For example, powders may be put in capsules or added as an ingredient to food and beverages.
- Capsules: CBD can come in capsule form or be mixed with other oils (like olive oil) and taken orally.
- Edibles: Recreationally, CBD is offered in products that are administered in many different ways. For example, the drug can come in edible forms like gummies, which look similar to other gummy products.
- Topicals: Topical CBD products like lotions or serums are applied to the skin.
- Vapes: CBD can be added to cartridges and smoked or vaped, but this is a more risky type of use.
Because CBD products are not regulated or approved, there is little regulation over the recommended doses in things like oils or capsules or how CBD should be used.
What Is CBD Used To Treat?
There are many advertised CBD uses and benefits, but not all have been supported by research. CBD oil has gained recent popularity, with claims that its uses include pain relief, improvement of anxiety symptoms and even improved cognition.
Because CBD does not contain the psychoactive compound THC, it’s not often used recreationally. However, it is used for a range of reasons that are not necessarily out of medical necessity. Some people may take CBD recreationally to help relax or to improve feelings of anxiety. CBD is also common in beauty products or marketed as a pain or mood management remedy.
Although many people may experience benefits when using CBD, it’s important to note that many CBD uses have not been well researched and are usually not FDA-approved for that specific use.
CBD for Seizures
A highly purified form of CBD sold under the brand name Epidiolex is FDA-approved to treat seizures from conditions like Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, Dravet syndrome and tuberous sclerosis complex. Although experts are not completely sure how CBD works to prevent seizures, it may be related to the drug’s impact on calcium channels in the brain
CBD for Anxiety
Cannabidiol has been studied as a treatment for anxiety, both on its own and in combination with other medications. It has been studied in different anxiety subtypes, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. CBD has been effective at improving anxiety symptoms in these studies, with doses ranging from 6 mg to 400 mg per dose. Experts think that CBD works for anxiety by indirectly influencing the brain’s cannabinoid CB1 receptors and serotonin 5-HT1A receptors.
CBD for Chronic Pain
There is little evidence that cannabidiol has a strong impact on pain control for conditions like multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease and nerve pain. Although some individuals feel that CBD helps control their pain, studies have been unable to replicate this on a large scale. Most of the studies that have shown a benefit on pain have combined CBD and THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis that is still a Schedule I controlled substance. That said, CBD may contribute to pain control; one study showed that people on opioids who started taking CBD 30 mg daily were able to reduce their opioid intake.
CBD for Inflammation
CBD has been studied in several conditions with an inflammatory component, including gastrointestinal inflammation, ulcerative colitis, ocular hypertension, glaucoma and diabetes. However, CBD has not shown benefit in these studies, and more information is required.
CBD for Sleep
Because cannabidiol can be sedating at high doses, some studies have explored the use of CBD for sleep. One study found that a CBD dose of 160 mg increased the duration of sleep. In another study, CBD doses between 25 mg and 175 mg improved sleep in about two-thirds of people, but its effectiveness varied over time. More studies are likely needed.
CBD vs. THC
Although CBD and THC come from the cannabis plant, they are very different. THC is a psychoactive substance that is responsible for the high a person gets from marijuana, while CBD is not psychoactive. The two substances impact the brain’s endocannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors in different ways. Further, CBD has an additional impact on a variety of brain pathways that THC does not. Due to these differences, THC is an illicit Schedule I controlled substance in the United States, while CBD is not a controlled substance
CBD Oil vs. Hemp Oil
Although CBD oil and hemp oil both come from the cannabis sativa plant, they are very different. Hemp oil is legally required to come from cannabis strains that are low in THC. As a result, hemp oil contains little to no THC or CBD. Hemp oil is made by cold-pressing hemp seeds. In contrast, CBD can come from any strain of cannabis sativa, and it is mechanically extracted from the plant’s leaves, stalks and flowers.
CBD Side Effects
Like all drugs, CBD has some side effects. These include:
- Lack of energy
- Decreased appetite
- Elevated body temperature
How Long Does CBD Stay in Your System?
CBD can take up to several weeks to clear from your system. Because CBD contains only very low levels of THC, there is less concern about being impaired or having the drug detected on a drug test. However, if CBD is used very regularly, it is possible that those small doses of THC can build up in the body.
If CBD products follow the law that requires them to contain under 0.3% THC, they are not likely to be detected on a drug test. However, since these products are unregulated, there is often no guarantee of the THC percentage. Consider the impact of CBD on various parts of the body:
- Blood: CBD can show up in blood tests and reaches a peak level within a few hours of being used.
- Urine: CBD does not show up in urine tests.
- Hair: CBD can show up in hair tests. Typically, a 1.5-inch hair sample will show the past 90 days of drug use.
- Breastmilk: While THC is detectable in breast milk for up to six days, there is not enough data available on CBD. CBD use is not recommended in breastfeeding mothers.
The half-life of a drug refers to how long it takes for half of the substance to leave your body. When taken orally, the half-life of CBD is around 2.5 days. This means it can take that long for 50% of the CBD to leave the system. Because it typically takes five half-lives before a drug is completely cleared from your system, it can take more than 12 days to completely rid your body of CBD.
Getting Help for Substance Abuse
While CBD has not been found to be addictive, CBD should not be used to replace medical or psychiatric treatment for a mental health or substance use disorder.