Ask the Pharmacist

Q: I would like to try CBD oil for my pain but am worried that it contains marijuana. Does it and does it work?

A: CBD is one of many compounds in the cannabis plant. CBD oils contain concentrations of CBD. The concentrations and the uses of these oils vary. The least-processed form of the cannabis plant is hemp. Hemp contains most of the CBD that people use medicinally. Until recently, the best known compound in cannabis was THC. This is the active ingredient in marijuana. Marijuana contains both THC and CBD, and these compounds have different effects. THC creates a mind-altering “high” when a person smokes it. CBD is different; unlike THC, it is not psychoactive. This means that CBD does not change a person’s state of mind when it is used. However, CBD does appear to produce significant changes in the body, and some research suggests that it has medical benefits.

After researching the safety and effectiveness of CBD oil for treating epilepsy, the FDA recently approved the use of CBD (Epidiolex) for two rare conditions characterized by epileptic seizures. CBD oil is legal and available without a prescription in California, however it is not regulated by the FDA so quality of products varies. When drugs do not have FDA approval, it can be difficult to know whether they contain safe or effective levels of CBD. Unapproved products may not have the properties or contents stated on the packaging. CBD is not very well absorbed orally so if it isn’t made in the right way, you may not be getting much into your system. Animal studies have shown CBD oil to be effective in treating pain, inflammation, anxiety, sleep, and other conditions. Side effects include drowsiness, diarrhea, and changes in appetite or weight.

The bottom line is that CBD oil is not marijuana so you won’t get high from it and it may or may not be effective for pain depending on the quality.