These days, it seems as though we can’t escape vaping or the health issues that follow it. From a scary e-cigarette related illness known as “popcorn lung” to Apple banning 181 vaping apps from their App Store to the FDA threatening to ban JUULs, it seems as though we’re in the midst of an anti-vaping era. Research is just starting to scratch the surface on all of the health risks associated with vaping in general, and when you throw CBD into the mix, the waters get even murkier.
CBD, aka cannabidiol, is a compound derived from hemp or marijuana. Unlike THC, it doesn’t get you high. And even though in the United States, the Food & Drug Administration has only approved CBD for one use — in a prescription drug used to treat rare forms of epilepsy — you can find CBD products touting all sorts of benefits. Manufacturers will say it relieves pain, reduces anxiety, and overall just chills you out. (Side note: The FDA recently began warning some companies about the claims they were making about their CBD products.)
Since extensive studies haven’t been conducted on the benefits — and risks — of CBD in general, it’s impossible to say what the actual effects of the compound are. And even less information is available about what vaping the substance can do to your lungs and your body.
“There’s a great deal of misinformation about the whole vaping phenomenon,” Enid Neptune, MD, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and co-chair of the ATS Tobacco Action Committee previously told Refinery29. Dr. Neptune explained that many people compare vaping to smoking cigarettes, when in reality they are two separate things that have different consequences.
Since cigarettes have been on the market for so many years, and since (unfortunately) so many people have smoked them for so long, scientists know what’s in them and what they can do to the body. But as of now, we’re not really too sure what kinds of chemicals are being snuck into vape pods, including nicotine pods as well as ones that claim to contain CBD.
“CBD products are often combined with THC, and up to two-thirds of products may not contain the amount of CBD that’s reported on the labels,” says Hilary Robbins, MD, transplant pulmonologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “Because these products are unregulated, they may also have additives that can be dangerous (such as pesticides).”
Case in point: A recent study conducted by the Associated Press analyzed 30 different CBD vape pods or cartridges from 13 different brands bought online. Ten of the samples had synthetic marijuana in them. (One form of synthetic marijuana, a substance known as “K2”, caused 1,500 hospitalizations in one month back in 2016.) Eight samples had no detectable level of CBD at all, according to AP. Others tested had very little CBD. While this is a small sample, it shines some light on how little you know about what you’re really getting when you purchase these items.
The possibility of putting anything unknown into your body should be a huge red flag. Earlier this year, a Canadian teen spent 47 days in the hospital due to contracting popcorn lung, a vaping-related illness that occurs when one inhales the chemical used to create butter flavoring called diacetyl. The chemical’s presence could have been in either the vaping pod or vaping device used and caused chemical damage in his lungs that may be permanent.
Another well-known additive found in vaping devices across the country is vitamin E acetate. So far, the substance has caused 450 cases of vaping-related respiratory illnesses in the U.S., and resulted in three deaths.
Besides the issue of who-knows-what lurking in these vape pods, CBD itself could also cause unpleasant and even dangerous side effects. According to Harvard Health Publishing, CBD can increase the level of the blood thinner coumadin in your blood. It could also lead to things like nausea and irritability.
“The bottom line is that all of these THC and CBD products are unregulated, so we don’t know exactly what is in them,” Dr. Robbins says. “Until it is clear what is causing acute respiratory failure and death in people who are vaping, these products should all be considered dangerous.”
Better safe than sorry, so next time you feel compelled to take a puff of CBD, just put the vape down.
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