1. What is it?
CBD or cannabidiol is the second most prevalent active ingredient in cannabis (marijuana), according to Harvard Health. It is one of 115 different cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. There is no psychoactive component to CBD which means that there isn’t a “high” associated with its use. This is what makes it more attractive for those who seek to use it for its medicinal properties.
2. Is it legal?
Maybe? Because CBD can be prescribed for seizures, the FDA is hesitant to allow widespread use until more research has been conducted. The legislation on this changes almost monthly. For now CBD products are legal, however they must not claim effects that have not been proven through research. If CBD products are made from hemp they are legal. If they’re made from the marijuana plant they are legal in most states, but they are not legal federally.
3. Is it safe?
When marijuana became legal in Colorado, consumers saw issues with how products were produced, especially in food products where the THC molecules were not being evenly distributed throughout a batch. This resulted in some products sold having extremely elevated doses of THC. A JAMA study shows that we are seeing similar issues arise in CBD products, with some products having more or less CBD than is listed on the label. States like California passed a bunch of legislation that regulates products sold in dispensaries. This allows testing to be done to find any heavy metals and fungus that the plant may have absorbed. It also means that the dosage on the label should be accurate.
CBD may also interfere with how you metabolize other medications or how quickly you break them down. According to CBD Project, it inhibits the cytochrome P450 enzyme which is involved in metabolizing many drugs. So if you are taking medications, you want to be sure to consult your doctor before using CBD products.
4. Does it show up in competition drug tests?
According to the US Anti-doping Agency cannabidiol is not prohibited. The problem is it seems fairly difficult to isolate CBD from THC, the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant. This means that you may test positive for marijuana in a blood test done before competition.
A study published by the American Medical Association in 2017 showed that THC was detected (up to 6.43 mg/mL) in 18 of the 84 samples tested. If you have a competition that does blood testing coming up in the next couple of months, the USADA recommends avoiding the use of CBD products. In other words (and written in bold on the USADA site): “The use of any CBD product is at the athlete’s own risk.” There are also plenty of CBD products that come from hemp which has no THC, but that also means you have to know and trust the brand.
5. How does it work?
The body has its own endocannabinoid system that produces cannabinoids and is reward-based. During exercise, research shows that endocannabinoid signaling is indeed intensity dependent. That means that with greater exercise intensity comes a greater endocannabinoid response which some people may associate with exercise induced euphoria or a “runner’s high”. Essentially CBD could be tapping and feeding into a system that is already working naturally in our bodies. The CBD molecule also passes through the blood-brain barrier which could explain the cognitive claims and effects.
6. What are some benefits? Alternatives?
There are a variety of claims that have yet to be widely proven. These include claims that CBD can elevate mood, speed recovery by fighting oxidative damage, and reduce pain through anti inflammatory properties. The fact is that many of these studies were performed on rats and much more research and regulation is needed. So in the meantime, remember that exercise and nature elevate mood, antioxidant-rich foods help fight oxidative damage, and rest days allow the body to recover from an inflammatory state and renew itself.
For questions about CBD, cannabinoids, and other substances contact the USADA Drug Reference Line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (719) 785-2000, option 2.
I am a Sports Chiropractor in San Francisco. My posts reflect some of the day to day interactions and questions from patients, clients, and coaches. I strive to empower people through injury rehab & sports performance to lead healthy, productive lives.