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Marijuana Study Finds CBD Can Cause Liver Damage

Hemp oil, Hand holding bottle of Cannabis oil against Marijuana plant, CBD oil pipette. . [+] alternative remedy or medication,medicine concept

There is no denying that cannabidiol, more commonly referred to as CBD, is rapidly becoming more popular in the United States than sliced bread. It is a hot trend that got started several years ago after Dr. Sanja Gupta showed the nation in his documentary ‘Weed 2’ just how this non-intoxicating component of the cannabis plant was preventing epileptic children from having seizures.

Since then, CBD, a substance often touted as being safer than popping pills, has become highly revered as an alternative treatment for a variety of common ailments from anxiety to chronic pain. But a new study suggests that CBD may spawn its fair share of health issues. Specifically, scientists have learned that this substance could be damaging our livers in the same way as alcohol and other drugs.

Researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences recently rolled up their sleeves to investigate CBD hepatotoxicity in mice. What they found was while this cannabis derivative is gaining significant recognition as of late in the world of wellness, people that use CBD are at an elevated risk for liver toxicity.

The findings, which were published earlier this year in the journal Molecules, suggest that while people may be using CBD as a safer alternative to conventional pain relievers, like acetaminophen, the compound may actually be just as harmful to their livers.

It is the methods used in this study that makes it most interesting.

First, researchers utilized all of the dosage and safety recommendations from a CBD-based drug known as Epidiolex. If this name sounds familiar, it should. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it as a treatment for certain kinds of childhood epilepsy. It was a development that marked the first time in history that a cannabis-based medicine was approved for nationwide distribution in the United States.

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Researchers then spent some time examining mice under the influence of various doses of CBD. Some of the animals received lower doses, while others were given more. The dosage is said to have been “the allometrically scaled mouse equivalent doses (MED) of the maximum recommended human maintenance dose of CBD in EPIDIOLEX (20 mg/kg).”

Shockingly, researchers discovered that the mice given higher doses of CBD showed signs of liver damage within 24 hours. To that end, 75 percent of these animals in the sub-acute phase had either died or were on the verge of death within a few days.

Regardless of your feelings on this particular study, it is hard to argue with dead mice – even if you are an all-knowing marijuana expert.

The photo of liver is on the man’s body against gray background, Liver disease or Hepatitis, Concept . [+] with body problem and male anatomy

Liver toxicity is an adverse reaction to various substances. Alcohol, drugs and even some natural supplements can all take their toll on liver function – even in healthy individuals. But this is the first study of its kind indicating that CBD might be just as detrimental to the human liver as other chemicals.

But come to find out, there has been evidence of CBD’s havoc wreaking ways on the liver for some time.

Lead study author Igor Koturbash, PhD, recently told the health site Nutra Ingredients USA that the risk of liver damage from CBD is a nasty side effect printed in black and white on GW Pharma’s Epidiolex packaging.

“If you look at the Epidolex label,” he said, “it clearly states a warning for liver injury. It states you have to monitor the liver enzyme levels of the patients. In clinical trials, 5% to 20% of the patients developed elevated liver enzymes and some patients were withdrawn from the trials,” he added.

In other words, anyone taking CBD regularly and in higher doses might unwittingly find themselves on the road to liver disease.

Previous studies have also suggested that certain components of the cannabis plant may be harmful to the liver. Although one study found that marijuana may actually help prevent liver damage in people with alcoholism, in some cases it worsened the condition.

“Patients with hepatitis C who used cannabis had way more liver scarring than those who didn’t and more progression of their liver disease. Something in the cannabis could actually be increasing fatty liver disease,” Dr. Hardeep Singh, gastroenterologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California, told Healthline.

But wait, it gets worse.

The latest study also finds that CBD has the potential for herbal and drug interactions. “CBD differentially regulated more than 50 genes, many of which were linked to oxidative stress responses, lipid metabolism pathways and drug metabolizing enzymes,” the study reads.

However, Dr. Koturbash was quick to point out that the CBD products coming to market may not pose this particular risk. What he is sure of, however, is that more research is needed on CBD to evaluate its overall safety.

As it stands, none of the CBD products being sold in grocery stores and malls all over the nation have received FDA approval. And the only CBD-based medicine that has been approved, Epidiolex, is apparently stamped with a big, fat warning of potential liver damage.

Although CBD is often revered as a miracle drug, a new study finds that it could be causing liver damage.

Cannabis use is associated with reduced prevalence of progressive stages of alcoholic liver disease

Affiliations

  • 1 North Shore Medical Center, Salem, MA, USA.
  • 2 Department of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, USA.
  • 3 Johns Hopkins Medicine, Howard County General Hospital, Columbia, MD, USA.
  • 4 Department of Medicine, Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, Englewood, NJ, USA.
  • 5 School of Public Health, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA, USA.
  • 6 Department of Medicine, Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY, USA.
  • 7 Department of Pediatrics, Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, Bronx, NY, USA.
  • 8 INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier, Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique, Laval, QC, Canada.
  • PMID: 29341392
  • DOI: 10.1111/liv.13696

Cannabis use is associated with reduced prevalence of progressive stages of alcoholic liver disease

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Authors

Affiliations

  • 1 North Shore Medical Center, Salem, MA, USA.
  • 2 Department of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, USA.
  • 3 Johns Hopkins Medicine, Howard County General Hospital, Columbia, MD, USA.
  • 4 Department of Medicine, Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, Englewood, NJ, USA.
  • 5 School of Public Health, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA, USA.
  • 6 Department of Medicine, Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY, USA.
  • 7 Department of Pediatrics, Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, Bronx, NY, USA.
  • 8 INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier, Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique, Laval, QC, Canada.
  • PMID: 29341392
  • DOI: 10.1111/liv.13696

Abstract

Background: Abusive alcohol use has well-established health risks including causing liver disease (ALD) characterized by alcoholic steatosis (AS), steatohepatitis (AH), fibrosis, cirrhosis (AC) and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Strikingly, a significant number of individuals who abuse alcohol also use Cannabis, which has seen increased legalization globally. While cannabis has demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties, its combined use with alcohol and the development of liver disease remain unclear.

Aim: The aim of this study was to determine the effects of cannabis use on the incidence of liver disease in individuals who abuse alcohol.

Methods: We analysed the 2014 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project-Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) discharge records of patients 18 years and older, who had a past or current history of abusive alcohol use (n = 319 514). Using the International Classification of Disease, Ninth Edition codes, we studied the four distinct phases of progressive ALD with respect to three cannabis exposure groups: non-cannabis users (90.39%), non-dependent cannabis users (8.26%) and dependent cannabis users (1.36%). We accounted for the complex survey sampling methodology and estimated the adjusted odds ratio (AOR) for developing AS, AH, AC and HCC with respect to cannabis use (SAS 9.4).

Results: Our study revealed that among alcohol users, individuals who additionally use cannabis (dependent and non-dependent cannabis use) showed significantly lower odds of developing AS, AH, AC and HCC (AOR: 0.55 [0.48-0.64], 0.57 [0.53-0.61], 0.45 [0.43-0.48] and 0.62 [0.51-0.76]). Furthermore, dependent users had significantly lower odds than non-dependent users for developing liver disease.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that cannabis use is associated with a reduced incidence of liver disease in alcoholics.

Keywords: alcohol; cannabis; drug abuse; liver disease.

© 2018 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Our findings suggest that cannabis use is associated with a reduced incidence of liver disease in alcoholics.