Compound in Marijuana Appears Safe and Nonaddictive, WHO Says

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A compound in marijuana appears to be relatively safe and nonaddictive, according to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO).

In an initial review of existing research, the WHO found that the compound, called cannabidiol or CBD, is "generally well-tolerated with a good safety profile," according to the November report. In addition, the compound appears to have "no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential," the report found.

Still, the report added that although "CBD has been found to have relatively low toxicity … not all potential effects have been explored." A more extensive review of the compound will be carried out in 2018, according to a WHO statement from Dec. 13. [Mixing the Pot? 7 Ways Marijuana Interacts with Medicines]

The report, which was conducted by the WHO's Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD), is not an endorsement of CBD. Representatives of WHO told Newsweek that the report "does not say WHO recommends the use of cannabidiol."

Rather, the review was carried out in response to interest from "Member States," or countries who are a part of the WHO. (The WHO is the United Nations' health agency.)

"Responding to that interest and increase in use, WHO has in recent years gathered more robust scientific evidence on therapeutic use and side effects of cannabis and cannabis components," the WHO statement said.

The ECDD concluded that the current information available on CBD does not justify scheduling the compound as a controlled substance.

Potential benefits?

Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is another compound found in marijuana, CBD does not have "psychoactive" effects. In other words, CBD won't get you high.

CBD has been studied for potential therapeutic benefits. The report found that CBD "could have some therapeutic value for seizures due to epilepsy and related conditions," according to the WHO. And there is preliminary evidence that it "may be a useful treatment for a number of other medical conditions," though the evidence is less robust, the report said.

The WHO report noted that there is "unsanctioned medical use" of products containing CBD, including oils, supplements and high-concentration extracts that are available online. However, a study from November, published in the journal JAMA, found that these extracts are often mislabeled and can contain higher or lower doses of CBD than what's listed on the label.

Originally published on Live Science.

Sara G. Miller
Staff Writer
Sara is a staff writer for Live Science, covering health. She grew up outside of Philadelphia and studied biology at Hamilton College in upstate New York. When she's not writing, she can be found at the library, checking out a big stack of books.