Posted on

Is inhaling cbd oil bad for you

Everything We Know About the Health Risks of Vaping CBD

The problem many CBD vapers have faced recently seems to stem mainly from poor regulation over the vaping market in general, and the subsequent unreliable quality of any vape or vape oil.

Earlier this year, the United States Army issued a public health warning after medical centers at two bases in North Carolina saw some 60 patients within a few months for health issues that officials linked to their use of CBD vape oils. The symptoms included everything from headaches, nausea, and vomiting to disorientation, agitation, and seizures.

A few months later, North Carolina health officials issued their own warning after local emergency rooms saw some 30 people come in suffering from hallucinations, loss of consciousness, and heart irregularities linked to vaping CBD products. Both notices hinted that officials feared such visits could grow exponentially more common as popular interest in and access to CBD vaping, a legal practice in many states with a host of purported (but still not conclusively proven) health benefits expands.

These reports should be enough to give anyone vaping CBD—or considering it for medicinal or recreational purposes—severe pause. Experts and existing evidence largely agree, though, that CBD itself, even when vaped, is largely safe. But that is only if you can get your hands on unadulterated CBD tinctures to vape. The problem many CBD vapers have faced recently seems to stem mainly from poor regulation over the vaping market in general, and the subsequent unreliable quality of any vape or vape oil.

What are the benefits and side effects of vaping CBD?

CBD is an abbreviation for cannabidiol, one of more than 100 active cannabinoid components found in cannabis. Studies of its myriad potential medical benefits have found that people can tolerate a wide range of doses of it with minimal effects, including weeks on continuously high dosages. Granted, that doesn’t mean there are no side effects. Studies have found that CBD can cause some users to experience irritability, lethargy, reduced appetite or urination, gastrointestinal distress, rashes, breathing issues, or in the worst instances, liver problems or exacerbations of mental health issues.

Knowledge of the way our bodies process CBD also suggests that it interacts with enzymes in the liver in ways that may change the efficacy of a number of other drugs, from blood thinners to anticonvulsants, to antidepressants. This may potentially lead to increased side effects, or even a risk of unintentional overdose on other drugs in the worst cases.

We do not yet know enough to say definitively how common these side effects are, or how many of them are native to CBD usage versus the result of those potential interactions between CBD and other drugs. We also don’t know with any reliability how different doses might lead to different side effects or drug-drug interactions, or how drastically these effects may differ from body to body or in conjunction with other conditions. Nor do we have any good data on how CBD might affect children differently than adults, or long-term users over the course of decades.

More from Tonic:

However scary all of that may sound, though, general consensus seems to be that these risks are tiny, and if encountered, often easily tackled by changing dosages. Even the Army’s health warning on CBD vaping described pure CBD oil, on its own, as relatively safe.

How safe is it to vape CBD?

In theory, nothing about vaping—which just heats a tincture of a substance at high temperatures to create a vapor to inhale—should change the risk profile of CBD. However, Michelle Peace, a toxicologist and vaping expert at Virginia Commonwealth University, does note that, “when you inhale something as opposed to eating something,” the way many other CBD products are consumed, “you do have to be careful about dosing because inhalation is a much more efficient way to get drugs into the system and be active.”

Cannabis industry companies tend to claim vaping CBD makes the same dose about four times more potent, although Peace notes that there are as of yet no real and conclusive studies on this subject. Regardless, that could clearly lead people prone to CBD side effects or drug-drug interactions to face increased risks of negative effects, which could explain some emergency room visits. This risk is easily addressed by exercising due caution about dosing, as one would (or should) with any other substance.

The nature of vapes, however, could introduce a few new risks to CBD usage, even if the process of vaping doesn’t. Earlier this year, a study on vapes at Johns Hopkins University found that, while heating, some of their coils—the metal bits used to heat tinctures—likely leech notable amounts of heavy metals like chromium and nickel into the vapor users eventually inhale. “What is the long-term impact of inhaling these particulate metals?” Peace says. “We don’t fully understand that yet.”

See also  Measurements for cbd oil

How safe are CBD oils themselves?

Vape oils are also poorly regulated, which has resulted in frequent reports of items sold as, say, pure nicotine that are actually adulterated with known toxic substances. Some of these substances, like the buttery flavoring agent diacetyl, are perfectly safe to, say, eat, but when heated in a vape and inhaled, can cause serious lung irritation. CBD vape oils are no different: A 2017 study of 10 such products found that seven misrepresented the dosage of CBD found within them and two contained THC, the other well-known cannabinoid in cannabis that often has oppositional effects to CBD. This may speak to mischaracterizations of the source of the CBD in a vape product: isolated and purified CBD extracts or a concoction made of whole plant cannabis that had a high CBD:THC ratio. Some scientists worry that vaporizing as opposed to burning and smoking whole cannabis materials can lead to unique complications, failing to break down a waxy material from the plant’s leaves, which can then build up in a vaper’s lungs and cause irritation. Peace notes that her lab has also studied some CBD products and found worrying items in some of them that were not announced on the box. In the products they evaluated, she says, “rarely have we found that there has been much truth in advertising.”

Health officials seem to consider this rampant, hidden adulteration the greatest risk associated with vaping CBD as opposed to consuming it in any other form. The Army’s health warning called out the risk of adulteration with synthetic cannabinoids and high concentrations of THC in these products in particular as the likely cause of many, if not all, of the CBD vaping illnesses it saw. And that could be a huge problem for vapers: Peace notes that usually her advice would be for people interested in vaping CBD to just be conscious consumers, reading product labels and consulting their doctors about dosing and possible drug-drug interactions. However, no one has a master list of questionable brands, or a good sense of how to spot them. Peace notes that even some seemingly legitimate retailers may be selling bad tinctures.

As such, conscious and cautious consumption is almost impossible. Nor is it possible for users to make a real and rational gauge of risk, given uncertainty about the scale of adulteration in the industry. The only real solution to this risk—common to all forms of vaping—would be greater regulation of the industry. But with no signs of that in the offing, users can only approach vaping of CBD or any other substance with a degree of caution and a knowledge of the risks involved.

Is Vaping CBD Safe?

The vaping industry has taken the country by storm. In many ways it has phased out traditional smoking methods for nicotine, marijuana, and even CBD. Cigarettes, joints, and cigars have been relegated to a thing of the past—replaced by handheld cartridges and electronic devices. However, what with the serious uptick in news stories of vape users getting sick or even dying from vaping-related illnesses, and the recent FDA bans on flavored cartridge-based products, you might be left wondering “can you vape cbd oil?” or “is vaping CBD safe?”

As to the first question, the answer is yes, CBD can be inhaled through a vaporizer. In regards to the second question, however, the waters become more muddied. While most people can safely vape CBD, they remain far more likely to develop any number of severe health issues resulting from inhalation. Until studies conclusively state that CBD is safe, might we suggest that there are safer, more effective ways to enjoy it.

Below, we’ll discuss the controversy surrounding vaping, the effects vaping can have on the body, and then propose CBD alternatives worth considering.

Is Vaping CBD Safe?

Truth be told, there remains swaths of information we still do not fully know or understand surrounding vaping—whether CBD or e-cigarette products containing nicotine. Because vapes are still a relatively new product, we lack the research necessary to reasonably say what the long-term effects might be. In addition, the dearth of federal regulation and the widespread demand for vaping products has led to all sorts of knock-offs and blackmarket alternatives being sold—many of which contain unknown flavoring agents and potentially harmful additives.

See also  Is cbd oil any good for eczema

The following are but a few reasons why you should consider an alternative method for administering CBD.

Lack of Regulation

The fight over cannabis legalization rages on. Per Esquire, the state by state breakdown looks as follows:

  • 11 states and D.C. allow the sale of recreational marijuana, medicinal marijuana, and CBD.
  • 22 states allow for the sale of medicinal marijuana and/or CBD.
  • 17 states range from outright opposition to legalization to being currently in the process of legalization.

Due to the fact that there’s no widespread consensus, it’s nearly impossible for the FDA to properly regulate cannabis products, including CBD vape oil. Similarly, hemp-based CBD, which contains less than .3% THC, was only recently made legal last year with the U.S. Farm Bill. As such, regulations are scant and inconsistent if they exist at all. Consumer Report writes:

While the FDA provides some guidance on dietary supplements, foods, and cosmetics, it does not offer similar oversight of vaping products, he says. That lack of regulation on vaping prevents the U.S. Hemp Authority from certifying CBD vape oils, as it does for CBD topicals, tinctures, and edibles.

And this isn’t the only issue that stems from this lack of regulation.

Mislabeling CBD Products

A mounting problem that we’re only recently discovering is that some CBD and vaporizer companies make bold claims, speak in half truths, or flat out lie about their product. As one 2017 JAMA study put it, “Discrepancies between federal and state cannabis laws have resulted in inadequate regulation and oversight, leading to inaccurate labeling of some products.” This study discovered that:

  • Approximately 7 out of 10 CBD products did not contain the amount of CBD as advertised on their packaging.
  • 42.85% of products contained more CBD than advertised.
  • 26.19% contained less CBD than advertised.
  • Just 30.95% of CBD products were accurately labeled.

This lack of regulation and frequent mislabeling is especially concerning when it comes to CBD vape pen products since the lungs are incredibly vulnerable organs. And, when you inhale unknown vape products, you put yourself at a higher risk of developing serious health issues. Knowing this, if you must vape CBD—which we advise against—it’s essential that you only purchase CBD vape cartridges from reputable companies that have undergone rigorous third-party testing to ensure that their products are safe and labeled accurately.

Despite such precautions, the problem remains that such companies are few and far in between.

Lack of Research

As mentioned, vaping is a relatively new industry, and hemp-based CBD has only been legal nationwide for about a year. Consequently, there’s a scarcity of clinical research on the effects of vaping CBD, particularly on studies pertaining to the potential long-term effects.

Recent decades have demonstrated the grave consequences of using building materials or ingesting specific substances that we didn’t know enough about. Asbestos once padded the walls, lead lined our water lines, tobacco was freely smoked in restaurants and around children. It took years for us to see the ramifications of such actions.

Now, we look back and proclaim, “How could we have been so naive?!” The same sentiments might be said about vaping in two decades. Currently, we lack the information to confidently state an opinion whether in favor of or against vaping CBD. Long-term studies must be conducted before we can safely say that vaping CBD is a smart idea, especially when we know that there are better alternatives.

Harmful Additives

One question many people have is, “is vaping CBD bad for your lungs?” The answer to this is—we don’t know, but the limited research says it’s likely. It’s worth noting that such dangers don’t stem from the CBD itself, but rather the substances that are included—whether intentionally or not—in the vape juice mixture. The two primary substances you should be wary of include:

    • Cuticle Wax – Cuticle waxes are present on the surface of many plants, including the hemp plant. The wax consists of a layer of oily and fatty lipids that protect the plant. When people smoke cannabis in a bowl, bong, or joint, the wax burns off during the combustion process. However, vaping typically uses much lower temperatures, and these temperatures do not burn the wax layer away. Instead, the wax can collect together and possibly build up in your lungs – potentially causing health issues and other effects.
      • Vitamin E Oil – There are many mechanisms of toxicity caused by EVALI. For example, oils/lipids/aerosols (hydrocarbons), heavy metals, oxidized lipids or surfactants, vitamin e acetate, and lipoid am/foam cells.

      You should avoid CBD vape juices that have cuticle waxes and instead limit your selection to juices that have undergone a winterization process—a technique which involves removing some or all of the harmful wax.

      • Vape Additives – As mentioned previously, CBD vape products may not correctly label their ingredients. Harmful additives or substances could be added without your knowledge or consent—substances that aren’t meant to be combusted. For example, diacetyl, a buttery flavoring agent found in popcorn products, has been detected in several types of vape juices. While safe to eat, inhaling heated diacetyl has been linked to lung irritation and disease.

      In addition to diacetyl, there are dozens of other potentially harmful ingredients that only become a health concern when they are heated and then inhaled.

      How to Make CBD Vaping Safer

      If you choose to vape CBD, it’s important that you purchase only the highest quality vape products. Two things that you must consider when you purchase vaping items include:

      • The temperature of the vaporizer’s heater coil – If the CBD vape pen has a temperature that is too high (think 446°F or hotter) thinning agents in the oil may break down into carcinogenic aldehydes, which are harmful and potentially cancer-causing, and other toxic compounds. One study on the matter concluded:

      In addition to applied power, the composition of e-liquid, and the devices’ ability to efficiently deliver e-liquid to the heating coil are important product design factors affecting coil operating temperature. Precautionary temperature checks on e-cigarettes under manufacturer-recommended normal use conditions may help to reduce the health risks from exposure to toxic carbonyl emissions associated with coil overheating.

      The various types of coils (dry, wet-through-wick, full-wet) make it difficult to say what is safe and what is not. That said, generally speaking, look for vaporizers that have temperature readings or several temperature settings and then stick to the lower settings.

      • The ingredients in the vape oil – Other concerns you must bare in mind are the various ingredients found in the vape oil you purchase, since what is on the label isn’t always truthful. Harmful additives or flavoring ingredients, high concentrations of THC, and synthetic cannabinoids have all been found in various vape oils, even when they were not listed on the packaging.

      One way that you can protect yourself is by making sure that the vape oil company participates in independent third-party testing. This testing can confirm the true ingredients and the potency of the cannabinoids found in the oil.

      Alternative Methods for Taking CBD

      Vaping is certainly not your sole option when it comes to using CBD. There are many other ways that you can take CBD, including:

      • Taking CBD oil sublingually (under your tongue).
      • Swallowing CBD capsules.
      • Adding CBD oil to a drink or your food.
      • Massaging CBD creams into your skin.

      Inhalation of CBD is the fastest method because the CBD enters your bloodstream through your lungs. This speed factor likely contributes to the reason for the high volume of people who choose to vape CBD. However, the risks detailed above outweigh the benefits of feeling the effects faster. You can still expect to feel relief through CBD within 30-60 minutes by taking CBD under your tongue or by adding a few drops to your food or drink.

      For Now, Avoid Vaping CBD

      Ultimately, further clinical research must be conducted before we can conclusively know whether there are harmful effects caused by vaping and what those effects may be. Vaping CBD very well could be safe, but we simply do not know enough about it to say that with confidence.

      What with the lack of research about vaping and health problems, it may be best to find another method for taking CBD. While there are many benefits of CBD oil, not all products are created equally. Therefore, if you want to find out more about safe CBD alternatives, check out our CBD blog or talk with one of our experts from Plant People today.

      Emily Spring is the Director of Marketing at Plant People. A longtime proponent of balanced living, she has enjoyed over 8 years driving growth in the lifestyle, health and wellness sectors with deep experience in functional solutions for optimizing anyone’s everyday life.

      Reviewed by Minchul An

      Minchul An is a Clinical Cannabis Pharmacist and MTM Specialist.