Is CBD a miracle drug or a scam? The jury is still out

Created date

October 30th, 2019
The chemical compound of CBD Oil is overlaid on top of an image of a dropper of oil, next to a cannabis plant.

The chemical compound of CBD Oil is overlaid on top of an image of a dropper of oil, next to a cannabis plant.

There is a lot of talk about the wonders of CBD—a substance derived from cannabis. It’s been touted as a cure for everything from Alzheimer’s disease and anxiety to pain management and cancer. There may be something to some of these claims, and some people who take CBD fervently believe the drug relieves what ails them. 

However, except for one prescription drug used to treat a rare form of epilepsy, the use of CBD has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It has also not been approved by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Reacting to the public’s interest in CBD, both agencies are studying the use of CBD, but for now, the public should understand that claims saying that CBD improves health are being made unlawfully and taking CBD may put your health at risk.

“As we examine potential regulatory pathways for the lawful marketing of products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds like CBD, protecting and promoting public health remains our top priority. Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims—such as claims that CBD products can treat serious diseases and conditions—can put patients and consumers at risk by leading them to put off important medical care. Additionally, there are many unanswered questions about the science, safety, effectiveness, and quality of unapproved products containing CBD,” says acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D. 

The FDA’s principal deputy commissioner, Amy Abernethy, M.D., Ph.D. adds, “We recognize the potential opportunities and significant interest in drug and other consumer products containing CBD. We understand this is an important national issue with public health impact and of interest to American hemp farmers and many other stakeholders. The agency has a well-established pathway for drug development and drug approvals, and we remain committed to evaluating the agency’s regulatory policies related to other types of CBD products.”

Companies taken to task

This past summer, the FTC sent a warning letter to Curaleaf, Inc., for making illegal claims about the CBD products the company sells online. Some of these unproven claims included:

•"CBD oil is becoming a popular, all-natural source of relief used to address the symptoms of many common conditions, such as chronic pain, anxiety…ADHD."

•"CBD has also been shown to be effective in treating Parkinson’s disease."

•"What are the benefits of CBD oil?…Some of the most researched and well-supported hemp oil uses include…anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorders, and even schizophrenia…chronic pain from fibromyalgia, slipped spinal discs…eating disorders and addiction…."

Warning letters were also sent to Advanced Spine and Pain LLC, Nutra Pure LLC, and PotNetwork Holdings, Inc., because these companies made similar, unsubstantiated claims about CBD.

Consumers should understand that since CBD products are not regulated, there is no way of knowing exactly what they are buying. When tested in labs, many CBD products were found to contain either much less or much more CBD than indicated on the label. 

CBD is an entirely new product and there is no doubt that standards and science will soon be available to help consumers make informed choices. Until then—buyer beware.