One of the main draws to using CBD oil in recent years has been the reputation of how safe it is. In 2017, the World Health Organization made their stance on the compound very clear. They suggest that in addition to possessing a “good safety profile,” CBD has “no public health problems” when taken as a pure extract from the cannabis plant (including both hemp and marijuana varieties).
However, if you know your chemistry and/or toxicology, you’ll know there is a fatal cutoff point somewhere. All chemical substances, in fact, are potentially lethal if taken in a high enough dose. Even water can be fatal to humans if we consume too much within too short a time.
Moreover, given the fact that Epidiolex (a CBD-based epilepsy drug) just became the first ever natural cannabis medicine to gain FDA approval, more and more individuals are curious as to what the toxicity level of CBD oil is. In other words, how much CBD oil would it take to kill you?
In this article, we aim to answer exactly that question.
First Things First: What is Toxicity?
The FDA requires that all approved medicines establish a toxicity level, or what’s known as an LD50. The LD50 (LD stands for “lethal dose”) of any given chemical compound is the amount that it would take to kill 50% of test subjects at a certain dose. The “test subjects” are female rats, as per the FDA (females are more sensitive to toxic effects than males). However, any animal species would generally suffice.
For instance, if 100 rats consume 1,000 mg of ibuprofen and the dose proves lethal for 50 of them, we could accurately say that the LD50 for ibuprofen is 1,000 mg (this is a loose generalization, and is not the actual LD50 for ibuprofen).
To be clear, clinical trials for an FDA-approved medicine do not have to disclose an LD50. There simply has to be clear pre-existing scientific evidence that establishes some form of toxicity for the compound.
As such, the recent approval of Epidiolex did not disclose an LD50 or a human toxicity level for CBD. However, multiple previous studies have attempted to determine such a level for both cannabidiol (CBD) and 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
How Much CBD Would it Take to Kill You?
The government’s Toxicology Data Network actually lists toxicity levels for CBD (otherwise known as cannabidiol, the active ingredient in Epidiolex). In fact, three separate LD50’s exist from three different studies spanning more than 70 years:
- The LD50 for cannabidiol in dogs was determined to be greater than 254 mg per kg of body weight when administered intravenously (1946)
- An LD50 was established in mice at 50mg per kg of body weight, when administered intravenously (1975)
- A report in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology showed the LD50 for CBD to be 212 mg per kg of body weight when administered intravenously in monkeys (1981)
More recently, a 2011 article in Current Drug Safety observed toxic levels of CBD in rhesus monkeys when administered orally. Doses over 200 mg per kg of body weight proved to be fatal in some monkeys by way of respiratory arrest and cardiac failure, while 300 mg per kg of body weight resulted in “rapid death.”
For reference, consider a relatively average-sized human at 75 kg (approx. 165 lbs). By these numbers, it would take roughly 18,750 mg (18.75 g) of CBD consumed within a very short amount of time to result in any potentially fatal effects. By comparison, most typical CBD oil users consume no more than 100 mg of the compound — and that’s throughout the course of an entire day.
Other Interesting Facts on Cannabis Toxicology
Perhaps even more interesting than these figures are the toxicology figures that have been determined (or have had attempts to be determined) for other natural cannabis compounds – including whole plant marijuana.
In one 2018 report in Toxicology Communications, an LD50 for “crude marijuana extract” in beagles (a species of dog) was unattainable as doses greater than 3,000 mg per kg of body weight did not result in any fatalities.
The same was true for rhesus monkeys, wherein 5,000 mg per kg of body weight did not elicit toxicity. Moreover, doses of up to 9,000 mg per kg of body weight in primates had “no significant toxicity effects.”
What does the data mean?
According to these figures, the report estimates an LD50 for marijuana extract to be larger than 10,000 mg per kg of body weight in primates.
Finally, the FDA’s “8-Factor Analysis on Cannabis” highlights the Americans for Safe Access (ASA) claim that there is no known LD50 for any form of cannabis in humans. This includes any of its major component extracts.
The report emphasized the fact that for years, researchers have been unsuccesfully attempting to determine a consistent LD50 rating for cannabis in animals. One statement in the report claimed that “researchers have continuously been unable to give animals enough natural cannabis to induce a death.”
By current ASA estimations, in fact, a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times the amount of cannabis in a standard marijuana cigarette (defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to be 0.9 g) to experience any potentially fatal consequences. For reference, this would be approximately 1,500 lbs of cannabis within a 15-minute period to induce a “theoretically lethal response.”
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil Toxicity Levels
To be clear, there is no precisely-identified lethal dose of CBD oil in human beings. The compound is a safe and non-addictive substance, as highlighted by WHO and other organizations. Furthermore, it can have profound therapeutic effects on a variety of physiological conditions.
That said, it is always wise to speak with a doctor before adding CBD into your healthcare routine. CBD inhibits cytochrome p-450 enzyme activity, which may affect how certain medications metabolize in your body. Use CBD responsibly, exercise safety and caution, and your body will thank you in the long run.
Also, be sure and do plenty of research with regard to finding a quality CBD product. The FDA does not regulate CBD manufacturing or labeling processes. As such, there are plenty of substandard products out there in terms of quality. Take your time, read plenty of reviews, and find a reputable product before using.