By Dr. Leslie Mudd, PharmD
After numerous reports that some people in legal marijuana states have gone to the Emergency Room after overdosing on THC-rich edibles, some people worry that CBD might have a similar effect. It has led many people to ask: Can you overdose on CBD? And what happens if you take too much CBD?
First, let’s define a few terms. The term “overdose” can have a few different meanings. To begin with, some types of drug overdose can result in death, like with heroin, cocaine, sleeping pills, or prescription opioids.
Also, overdose can just mean accidentally taking two doses instead of one, or when a person’s body has a bad reaction and they assume it was because they took too much. When someone asks about an overdose, it helps to know their definition of the term in order to give the best possible answer.
Overdose Potential of CBD — by the data
Is there such a thing as CBD oil overdose? Let’s look at the data.
After the passage of the Farm Bill that legalized hemp, the FDA approved a pharmaceutical preparation of cannabidiol know as Epidiolex ®. This preparation is indicated for the treatment of particular types of seizures in patients 2 years old or older. Epidiolex is a plant derived pharmaceutical grade cannabidiol (CBD). The label says that adverse events are mild: diarrhea, sleepiness, and nausea. Researchers found no untoward safety signals in the trials leading to its approval by the FDA.
Last year, a group of physicians in the UK performed a retrospective analysis of over 35 studies of CBD use in a medical context. The main diagnoses were epilepsy, anxiety, and psychotic symptoms. Doses ranged from less than 1 mg/kg of body weight to more than 50 mg/kg of body weight. Other than sedation, the doctors saw no serious adverse events in the data, even at high doses.
Earlier this year, a group in Denmark performed a look-back at clinical trials using CBD oils. Most of the studies reported no adverse effects with acute administration and only mild to moderate adverse effects with chronic administration. Anecdotal case reports show various degrees of efficacy of CBD and have not reported any serious adverse effects.
Studies on CBD in the United States have been limited due to federal drug laws, further clouding our ability to better understand CBD overdose and toxicity level.
Is CBD addictive?
No, CBD is not addictive, which lowers the risk of taking too much. CBD does not produce the euphoric “high” associated with THC-rich marijuana, which further lowers the risk of CBD overdose. People with a history of substance abuse are not likely to take too much CBD.
A study from 2017 concluded that CBD oil “does not produce a signal for abuse liability” and that CBD was “placebo-like on all measures collected.” That means that while CBD may have great wellness and health benefits, it is not habit-forming with little risk that someone might overdose on CBD oil.
Can you build up a tolerance to CBD?
It does not appear that people develop a tolerance for CBD. When people develop a tolerance for a drug, it compels them to take more of it to get the same effect. That can lead to toxicity if they take too much.
According to this 2011 study of human subjects published in Current Drug Safety, “In human studies… tolerance to CBD did not develop.”
Anecdotally however, some people claim that CBD has less an effect on them as it did previously, which could be an indication of tolerance. This issue can often be resolved by taking CBD at a different time of day, taking a short break, or only taking CBD periodically to address a specific issue.
This could be different for someone using full-strength cannabis products or a history of marijuana use. These sorts of cannabis experiences can change how cannabidiol products work for you.
“Can you overdose on CBD?”
No, it is doubtful that you can die from an overdose on CBD. You can accidentally take more that the recommended dose, and you might be sleepy as a result. If you have a sensitive stomach, CBD could give you a tummy ache or even diarrhea. That’s as bad as a CBD overdose can get.
The clinical trials mentioned above all used different doses and different dosage forms. What might have been an effective dose in one trial could be too large of a dose in another.
Can pets overdose on CBD?
Again, the answer is no. Mammalian pets respond to CBD in much the same way as humans. That’s because all mammals have cannabinoid receptors. The primary difference in administering CBD to pets for their health conditions is a matter of dosage. CBD dosage is based on body weight. Like humans, pets who use CBD seem to find relief from pain, anxiety, seizures and other conditions.
If a pet consumes too much CBD oil, what can happen? The most likely side effect from a dog or cat overdosing on CBD include: lethargy, vomiting, and incontinence. For ideal dosage for CBD pet products to avoid these side effects, visit Cornbread Hemp’s dosage guides for pet owners of dogs and cats.
What is an effective dose of CBD for people?
The real question is not about overdose—but about effective dose. How much do you need to take to achieve the outcome you desire? What is the best dosage? CBD taken orally is subject to digestion. Does it matter if CBD is taken with or without food? Some CBD preparations are better absorbed with a high fat meal. Is there anything else in the CBD that might affect how it works or how it makes you feel? Researchers are looking for the answers to these questions and more.
Follow the instructions on the label of the CBD oil. CBD has no intoxicating effects, so there is no reason to take more than indicated. If you are taking the product on the advice of a healthcare provider, follow those orders. If you are concerned about the side effects of other medications taken with the CBD, make sure to contact your pharmacist for a drug interaction evaluation.
What are the side effects of CBD? Similar to the side effects of the cannabis plant, using too much CBD can cause dry mouth and sleepiness. In the worst cases, it can result in a stomach ache or incontinence. If you notice any change in your heart rate or blood circulation, be sure to consult your doctor.
Choose a CBD brand you can trust
There have been zero reports of a person overdosing on CBD. But that doesn’t mean that CBD is totally harmless. Some disreputable CBD brands have been shown to contain dangerous contaminants like pesticides and heavy metals. One report suggests that 70% of all CBD products contain dangerous contamination.
The only way to ensure that a CBD oil is free of pesticides, heavy metals, solvents, and microbial contaminants is to look for CBD oils that are USDA certified organic and third-party lab tested like the CBD oils made by Cornbread Hemp.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We recommend that you do your own research on CBD products, in part by reading the 300+ reviews on the Cornbread Hemp website.