After hearing sensational stories about people who may or may not have overdosed on high-THC edibles, you may be worrying about whether cannabidiol or CBD could have a similar effect. If you’ve been asking yourself questions like: “What happens if you take too much CBD?” or, “Can you overdose on CBD?” or, “How much CBD should I take?” you’ve come to the right place.
First, the phrase “overdose” can mean different things. Some types of drug overdoses can be fatal, like with heroin or prescription opioids, cocaine, or even good old-fashioned sleeping pills.
But overdose can also just mean taking more than one dose accidentally, or having a bad reaction that you attribute to too much. So to answer these and other questions, let’s break it down.
A fatal overdose on CBD is not possible, but unwanted side effects and reactions to CBD products are possible for some people. So what happens when you take too much CBD for you personally?
Some research indicates that a person would have to consume over 20,000 mg of CBD at a once to cause a lethal incident—a huge amount of CBD, and no matter how fat your wallet is, that’s probably not physically possible.
So does that mean you should down the whole bottle of CBD tincture? Definitely not.
Overdose Potential of CBD Oil
The existing research data does not support a risk of CBD overdose—certainly not a lethal overdose. After Congress legalized hemp with the Farm Bill, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a standard pharmaceutical drug, Epidiolex, to treat seizures caused by epilepsy. That drug contains a pharmaceutical-grade, plant-derived CBD isolate. There are much higher doses of CBD in the drug than in even full spectrum CBD oil, but the medication does not contain any other cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. The FDA found when it approved this drug that its negative side effects are mild: sleepiness, diarrhea, and nausea.
A retrospective analysis from 2019 studied over 35 reports on CBD, all focused on its medical use. The doctors saw no serious side effects in the data other than sedation, even at high doses. The World Health Organization (WHO) also says that CBD is safe, and does not cause overdose, dependency, or addiction.
Is CBD Oil Addictive?
No, further reducing the risk of overdose, cannabidiol or CBD is not addictive. Although addiction and substance abuse are serious public health issues, when it comes to CBD oil, put your mind at ease.
CBD is one of the over 100 cannabinoids—natural compounds that the flowers of the cannabis plant secretes. The two most famous and well-studied are tetrahydrocannabinol or THC and CBD. All cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system in the bodies of mammals.
THC is the only cannabinoid that generates psychoactive effects. This is why some people experience behavioral addiction and form habits surrounding cannabis use. However, this is psychological addiction. No cannabinoids—THC included—can cause physical addiction.
CBD is non-intoxicating and won’t produce any of the euphoric “high” or other mind-altering effects associated with THC. This reduces the risk of overdosing on CBD because people with a history of substance abuse in particular are unlikely to consume too much CBD.
A study from 2017 found that CBD was about like a placebo across the board and does not produce a signal for abuse liability—meaning there is little risk of overdose and CBD is not habit-forming. In fact, research suggests that CBD might help treat opiate and heroin addiction as well as other types of drug addiction.
Okay, so is it possible to build up a tolerance to CBD?
Can You Build a Tolerance to CBD?
People do not develop a tolerance for CBD, although research is ongoing. Developing a tolerance for a drug merely means that you need to consume more to get the same results—to the point that a fatal overdose is possible. Human studies indicate that tolerance to CBD does not develop.
Now, this doesn’t mean that individual people don’t report some sort of plateau effect anecdotally. While this causes concerns about tolerance for some, the problem can usually be resolved by taking a short break from CBD, using topicals or vapes mixed in with CBD gummies or oils, or taking CBD at a different time of day.
For people with a history of cannabis use or who simply prefer full-strength cannabis products, CBD products may work a bit differently as well. One strategy some long-term CBD users adopt is switching over to a full spectrum CBD product if they feel CBD isolate or broad-spectrum CBD products are becoming less effective. Typically, even more experienced CBD users find relief from the entire spectrum of cannabinoids.
Some people even seem to develop what is sometimes called “reverse tolerance.” These people use CBD consistently and gradually need a lesser dose to feel the effects over time. This may be because as CBD interacts with the body’s existing cannabinoid receptors it enhances the body’s ability to produce endocannabinoids.
Can Humans Overdose on CBD Oil?
As the Magic 8 ball says, my sources say no. You might feel sedated if you accidentally take more than your dose, and if your stomach is sensitive, enough CBD could cause a stomach ache or diarrhea. Without a specific cannabis allergy on board, that’s typically as bad as a CBD overdose gets.
The National Cancer Institute explains this well. There are no cannabinoid receptors in the brain stem, where motor functions like breathing are managed. But things like opioid receptors can be found in the brainstem, so that is why an overdose of those substances can seriously hurt or kill you.
What about your pets, then?
Can Pets Overdose on CBD?
Nope. This is just like humans, who are also mammals, of course. We all have cannabinoid receptors. We just need the right dose for our size.
If a pet has too much CBD, the most likely side effects include: vomiting, diarrhea, poor coordination, lethargy, appetite changes, increased sensitivity to stimuli, and incontinence.
Any reputable CBD pet treats are tested, and all CBD comes labeled with dosing instructions and a recommended serving size. They also contain less CBD than humans use, for obvious reasons. Most CBD pet treats contain no more than 5 mg CBD per piece.
Always verify the source, third-party testing, and label of your CBD products. (After all, you don’t want to be consuming pesticides or heavy metals, either.)
What about adverse side effects of CBD?
Side Effects From Too Much CBD
The main side effect to expect from doses of CBD that are too high is lethargy and dry mouth. Although there is little risk of overdosing on CBD, potential adverse side effects include:
- Changes in appetite
- Dry mouth
- A temporary drop in blood pressure
So, how much CBD is too much?
People will respond differently to different doses, so that depends on factors like your unique body chemistry, your body weight, and your health history. As with any health supplement, start low and slow, follow the recommended servings on the CBD package, and gradually increase the dose until you achieve the right benefits.
Effective Dosing of CBD for People
So, what CBD dose will be effective? What is the best CBD dosage? Does it matter if you take your CBD with food?
Whichever CBD product you try, follow the instructions that come with it. Each CBD product is different, and its maker has insight about how to get all of the benefits of CBD from that specific product.
Think about why you’re taking the CBD. Is it for anti-inflammatory benefits all day long to treat chronic pain? If so, CBD gummies or other edibles with a moderate dose might be a great choice. If it’s for anxiety a CBD vape might be a better choice, able to give quick relief and a microdose.
If your healthcare provider has told you to take CBD, follow their orders. They are accommodating your other health conditions. Ask a pharmacist for a drug interaction evaluation if you are concerned about drug interactions with CBD or side effects from other medications.
For most first-time CBD users, a daily dose of 10 to 25mg is a great place to start. Large doses for more experienced users are okay, so long as you start with lower doses and work up slowly. You can always add more to a low dose later!
The Bottom Line on Taking Too Much CBD Oil
We all want the health benefits of CBD, but the idea of overdosing on anything is pretty scary. Luckily, toxicity and CBD is not really a problem you need to worry about. So if you’re hoping to add CBD products to your wellness routine, you can do so with confidence, as long as you follow manufacturer guidelines and the advice of your healthcare professional.