PhotoCannabidiol, or CBD -- a component of cannabis that does not contain intoxicating properties -- has the potential to harm users, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned Monday in an updated consumer advisory

CBD was federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, and its use has skyrocketed in recent years. The compound is believed to have some health benefits, including the ability to treat pain, inflammation, and anxiety. 

However, the FDA now says it doesn’t have enough scientific evidence to conclude that CBD is “generally recognized as safe among qualified experts for use in human and animal food.” The agency said the compound can potentially: 

  • Cause liver injury;

  • Affect the metabolism of other drugs, causing serious side effects; and/or

  • Increase the risk of sedation and drowsiness when used with alcohol or other Central Nervous System depressants. 

Possible health risks

In its advisory, the FDA said consumers may not be aware of certain side effects they may experience as a result of CBD use. The compound may cause changes in alertness, drowsiness, gastrointestinal distress, or changes in mood, the agency said.

“The FDA is concerned that people may mistakenly believe that trying CBD ‘can’t hurt,’” the FDA said, adding that it “wants to be clear that we have seen only limited data about CBD’s safety and these data point to real risks that need to be considered.” 

The agency noted that it’s still looking into the long-term effects of CBD use, trying to figure out what effect it has on a developing fetus or breastfed newborn, and looking into how it interacts with herbs and botanicals, among other things. 

Companies warned against illegal sales

In a separate advisory published the same day, the FDA disclosed that it recently contacted 15 companies that were selling products containing CBD in ways that violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. 

“Aside from one prescription drug approved to treat two pediatric epilepsy disorders, these products have not been approved by the FDA and we want to be clear that a number of questions remain regarding CBD’s safety – including reports of products containing contaminants, such as pesticides and heavy metals – and there are real risks that need to be considered,” the FDA said. 

The agency has said it’s aware of growing public interest in the compound. As part of its effort to ensure that it is safe for consumer use, the FDA is working with those in the industry to “fill in the knowledge gaps about the science, safety and quality of many of these products.”

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