Dan Nosowitz: CBD, the super-popular cannabis compound, explained (Vox)
A $3 squirt of CBD oil on your ice cream or coffee? Probably right around 10 mg. You’d need 30 times that amount to get to the levels at which researchers have found stress-relieving results.
it wouldn’t be fair to say that 5 or even 20 mg of CBD oil in your coffee is proven to do nothing; that hasn’t been proven. It’s more accurate to say that 20 mg of CBD oil in your coffee has never been proven to do much of anything, and related research indicates that’s probably way too low of a dose to have any measurable effect.
One study found that placebos sometimes work even when the subject knows it’s a placebo. Another, using that same public speaking setup that CBD studies have used, found that anxiety treatments are particularly susceptible to the placebo effect, with 40 percent of placebo-treated patients showing a decrease in anxiety symptoms while tasked with speaking to a crowd.
So is it possible that despite all this anecdotal evidence, low-dose CBD is a placebo? Sure, because, say it with me: We don’t know anything about CBD.
There are big companies and small companies, companies that provide elaborate chemical charts and companies that have no online presence at all. There are companies that run their goods — either as raw materials or as consumer-stage final products — through lab tests. There are those that say they do but provide no information on what the labs found or which labs tested their products.
Everyone wants a piece of CBD, and nobody is watching. Remember: There’s no regulation by the FDA or anyone else.
In 2016, the FDA tested several “CBD oils,” ultimately issuing warnings to eight companies. Some of those oils were found to contain no or barely any CBD, and many contained illegal quantities of THC.
CBD, though wildly understudied, is not bullshit. In fact, the FDA just approved its very first cannabis-derived drug, a CBD-based epilepsy treatment called Epidiolex. The dosage for Epidiolex starts at around 2.5 mg/kg and is increased to 5 mg/kg, so a 150-pound adult would settle onto a dose of just over 340 mg per day, though the diseases it targets start in childhood.
Even some of the claims made by recreational CBD sellers aren’t bullshit, in the abstract. CBD really does show some anti-inflammatory properties. It really does have anxiolytic effects, in certain situations. Of course, it’s the scammy nature of herbal supplements that a seller can say something like “CBD has been indicated to reduce anxiety” (a true statement!), even though the actual product you’ve got in your hand has never been indicated to do so. Nutmeg, for example, will act as a dangerous psychoactive drug at high levels, but it would be deranged to put “scientific research has shown that nutmeg can get you high as hell” on a pumpkin spice latte. It’s correct, but it’s also incredibly misleading.
We don’t know how CBD affects the brain in any kind of depth. We don’t know which doses and delivery methods are best for different outcomes. We don’t know how CBD interacts with most other drugs or foods. We don’t know the differences between the effects of isolates and full-spectrum preparations. We don’t even know how many cannabinoids there are. California, for what it’s worth, seems aware and concerned about this whole thing.
But a lack of data does not hinder capitalism; it is, rather, a huge help. When nobody knows anything, you can say — or imply — anything. More importantly, you can sell everything.