Cannabidiol oil – potential adverse effects

  • Self-administration of over-the-counter bought CBD is increasingly popular and doctors and pharmacists should be aware of its potential adverse effects.
  • Somnolence (dowsiness), decreased appetite, diarrhoea and raised serum aminotransferases (liver enzymes) were side effects significantly associated with the use of an oral purified CBD solution (100mg/ml) (Epidiolex®, GW Pharmaceuticals) in a meta-analysis of studies involving 550 patients with Lennox-Gastaut or Dravet syndrome.
  • Reports of somnolence were more frequent in patients also receiving the antiepileptic clobazam.
  • Most serum aminotransferase elevations occurred in the first 30 days to 90 days of treatment. This adverse effect is more likely to occur in a person who is also receiving valproate (an antiepileptic), higher doses of CBD and (to a lesser extent) clobazam.
  • A recent Federal Drug Agency report additionally identified ‘infections’, particularly pneumonia and possibly ‘rash’ as potential adverse effects of CBD.
  • Other effects that occurred in more than 10% of treated patients in CBD studies for Lennox-Gastaut or Dravet syndrome were vomiting, pyrexia, upper respiratory tract infection, nasopharyngitis, status epilepticus, fatigue, convulsion and lethargy.
  • Theoretically, moderate to severe impairment of kidney or liver function may reduce the clearance and/or excretion of CBD which could increase the risk of side effects occurring.
  • Since the data available suggests that CBD interacts with cytochrome p450 enzymes, caution is recommended when CBD is co-administered with medications that are metabolised by this pathway.
  • Readers should consult the UKMi Q&A Cannabis based medicinal products potential drug interactions for further information on potential drug interactions.
  • CBD-containing products are commonly advertised to be free from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) but have the potential to contain traces of THC, even after the manufacturing process. THC has psychotropic properties and may contribute to potential adverse effects.
  • The purity of individual products may differ, possibly due to undisclosed ingredients or variation in content of CBD (as well as THC), which will have an effect on potential adverse effects or drug interactions. Anyone wishing to use a CBD containing supplement should ensure they obtain their supply from a reputable source.
  • Information regarding CBD safety is limited to a few human studies and information should be interpreted cautiously. Further studies are needed to evaluate the full safety profile.
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