Article Overview:

Cannabidiol (CBD) is derived from the cannabis plant, but does not include the psychoactive effects of THC. CBD is generally low-risk to use, but there are side effects that should be considered.

  • CBD is largely unregulated, which can increase the risk of toxicity or presence of THC
  • Negative side effects can include fatigue, diarrhea and changes in appetite and, in rare cases, liver damage
  • CBD has a low risk of addiction, but can still be misused recreationally or as a replacement for proper medical treatment
  • CBD may improve some mental health symptoms and even addictive behavior, but should not replace psychiatric treatment

Understanding the Effects of CBD

Cannabidiol (or CBD) has emerged as an increasingly popular topic of discussion since the legalization of medical and recreational use of marijuana in many states. Although CBD does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is a type of cannabinoid with psychoactive properties that produce a ‘high’, it’s still important to consider how to use CBD safely.

Current CBD research has suggested that there are few serious side effects to taking CBD, and that the risk for CBD addiction is very low.  However, as a new and largely unregulated substance, there can still be a range of risks associated with CBD.

Negative Side Effects

The negative side effects of CBD are much less common compared to other medications. Although CBD is generally well tolerated, there are some side effects that are reported by people who use CBD products.

Negative side effects of CBD are not overly common, but there can be consequences of CBD use. It’s important to consider the risks of using CBD, particularly as a largely unregulated substance.

Common Side Effects

  • Fatigue, tiredness
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in appetite or weight

Uncommon Side Effects

  • Liver damage
  • Interaction with other medications
  • Effects on the immune system

These side effects were very rare and were reported in medical doses of CBD, which are usually higher. However, it’s still important to consider these side effects in non-medical or recreational use. There is also generally not enough information to ensure that taking CBD during pregnancy is safe and should be avoided during this time.

Can CBD be Abused?

Although current research suggests that CBD is relatively safe, it is still possible to abuse CBD. CBD abuse can occur when it is used differently than medically prescribed or taken in larger doses than suggested on non-medical CBD products.

CBD abuse can also occur when it begins to replace necessary medical or psychiatric care. For example, if CBD is used to self-medicate for symptoms of anxiety or insomnia, it is possible to form a reliance on CBD. Although most research suggests that CBD is not addictive and that its potential for abuse is low, it is possible to form a reliance or dependence on the substance.

CBD Use and Mental Health

CBD use has been linked to mental health both as a possible benefit and risk. On the one hand, CBD has been reported as a possible anti-anxiety remedy and may also help people with difficulty sleeping. In this way, CBD offers a relatively low-risk option for managing mild mental health symptoms. There is also some preliminary evidence that suggests that CBD might be an effective treatment for addictive behaviors.

On the other hand, CBD has been criticized for preventing people from seeking the appropriate mental health care they need. While CBD might be beneficial, there is still little research to show its clear mental health benefits.


World Health Organization. “Cannabidiol (CBD) Pre-Review Report Agenda Item 5.2.” Expert Committee on Drug Dependence Thirty-ninth Meeting Geneva, 6-10 November 2017. Accessed August 14, 2019.

Iffland, Kerstin, and Franjo Grotenhermen. “An Update on Safety and Side Effects of […]vant Animal Studies.” Cannabis and cannabinoid research, June 1 2017. Accessed August 14, 2019.

Prud’homme, Mélissa., Cata, Romulus, Jutras-Aswad, Didier. “Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addic[…]iew of the Evidence.” Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment, 2015. Accessed August 14, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.