Angel LeBailly   |   August 10, 2020

Dangers in the Dose

In the grand scheme of things, THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids have a very low level of toxicity. But like everything in life, too much of a good thing isn't always the best.
Angel is a freelance writer and editor evolving in the areas of blockchain and technology.

All cannabis-related products are generally considered safe; however, it’s essential to understand the level of toxicity behind various products and at which dosage they become toxic. We know that it’s all about the dose. Yet, the dosology may differ depending on a number of variables, such as the consumption method and several biochemistry factors in the individual consumer.

While it’s easy to say that cannabis is safe, it’s not as easy to say cannabis is harmless. Cannabis producers, and consumers, should remember the danger is in the dose.

Anything in Excess Can Be Detrimental

Even the most innocent OTC products can be harmful when consumed in excess. A recent newsletter from Precision Plant Molecules reminds, “…that eating about 33 tubes of toothpaste (sodium fluoride) is toxic… about 75 shots of espresso will kill you… and approximately 120 cups of coffee will, too.”

In fact, according to an article in US News, Tylenol, a household staple, is responsible for approximately 60,000 hospitalizations every year. The piece also states, “Overdosing on acetaminophen is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the US, according to the Acute Liver Failure Study Group, a project funded by the National Institutes of Health.” Likewise, NSAIDs (ibuprofen) send around 100,000 people to the emergency room and contribute 16,000 deaths per year.

Too much food. Too much exercise. Too much alcohol. Let’s face it, too much of anything can be dangerous—even cannabis.

What Do the WHO and FDA Say?

Various studies have shown that for non-psychiatric cannabinoids associated with hemp (CBD, CBN, CBG, and CBC) have low toxicity. For therapeutic use, such as anxiety and pain relief, chronic pain, inflammatory infections, seizures, and convulsive disorders, the type of products used, and the dosage are essential. Are all cannabis products safe, and can we overdose on THC or CBD, for instance?

In a recent report, the World Health Organization recommended reclassifying marijuana and its different components, especially removing the marijuana plant and the cannabis resin from Schedule I classification. This convention involves classifying drugs that are harmful to health and with limited medical benefits.

On the other hand, the FDA has only approved one cannabis-derived product, Epidiolex, which can be prescribed for treating rare forms of epilepsy. On the other hand, the FDA has shown reluctance toward giving its go-ahead as far as other cannabis-products were concerned as of today. Therefore, cannabis producers should be aware that the FDA and WHO may influence consumer choice, and they need to brand their products accordingly.

Different Products, Different Consumer, Different Doses

CBD has received a large amount of positive press over the last years for its therapeutic use. But what if users take too much CBD? And how about THC or other cannabis components? How do cannabis producers label their products accordingly and reach out to their desired markets at low risk? Most effects may differ according to the patient’s medical condition, weight, and general health.

In a recent podcast, Kristina Etter and Len May, with EndoDNA, discussed the differences in DNA and how various biological markers can result in different effects. Depending on metabolism and epigenetics, consumers may have very different experiences. As with any other medication, counter-indications may also occur: depending on what existing treatment is currently taken, and the effects may differ.

THC Products and Acceptable Limits

THC can be used to treat various conditions, and alongside CBD can help individuals relieve pain such as stress, anxiety, and more severe diseases. Some common unwanted side effects from overconsumption may include nausea, fatigue, or paranoia. While overconsuming THC can result in a very uncomfortable experience, research has shown that a fatal overdose from THC is impossible.

Additionally, THC is biphasic, meaning larger doses have a very different outcome than smaller doses, even creating the opposite effect than it was intended. While addiction is less common in cannabis consumers, research has shown that about nine percent experience some level of addiction. Withdrawal symptoms are mild compared to drugs like opiates and benzodiazepines, but many people will experience agitation, mood swings, lethargy, and other symptoms when quitting.

If ingested orally, we know that liver enzymes actually create 11-Hydroxy-THC, a more potent metabolite. Because different people break down THC differently, with cannabis edibles, one person may experience a much stronger effect than another at the same dose. Other products like cannabis concentrates have extremely high levels of THC and should be approached with caution, especially by new, inexperienced consumers.

CBD Dosages and Acceptable Limits

Medical News Today has shown that CBD has a very low level of toxicity. In human studies, a dose of 1,500 mg a day of CBD was tolerated, and after 28 days of taking 1,500 mg a day, patients didn’t have any withdrawal effects. Dosing is going to vary from person to person, so consumers are encouraged to start low and slowly titrate their dose until they begin to achieve their desired results.

With CBD, the most prominent cautionary tales relate to interactions with other drugs. CBD is a competitive inhibitor; thus, it can reduce the effectiveness of some medications. Naturally, it is advised that all new consumers discuss any medications they are taking with CBD with a physician or licensed medical marijuana prescriber.

Further Takes

There is still some research to be carried on cannabinoids, for example, to understand more about the levels of toxicity. Despite this, producers must comply with the current legal status of cannabis and medical marijuana according to some states to brand their products safely and be compliant to the law — as well as be transparent about their supply chain. Accurate testing and labeling are just the first steps. Proper consumer education is imperative. 

 

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