The Dangers of Synthetic CBD

We’ve heard all about cannabidiol, or CBD, the natural component found in cannabis plants that has a myriad of medicinal properties that we are only beginning to discover… But what’s going on with the new, lab-made versions that are wreaking havoc on all our efforts to have CBD recognised as medicinal?


Synthetic CBD

A synthetic compound is a compound created in a lab, rather than obtained directly from a natural source. It seeks to imitate or enhance the molecular structure or effects of a natural compound.

Synthetic cannabinoids were extremely useful for the research that discovered the endocannabinoid receptors and for advancing research about the endocannabinoid system in the early 90’s, since access to natural cannabinoids was extremely restricted.

Synthetic THC has been used since the 80’s in nausea medication, but CBD is a relatively new venture.

Synthetic cannabinoids, mainly THC, began rising in popularity for recreational purposes, and have since caused countless cases of toxicity, since they are illegally made and often are contaminated with harmful chemicals, like brodifacoum, which is used as rat poison, or don’t even contain the compounds that they claim to. Probably the reason why they are so popular for recreational purposes, is that they won’t show up in a blood test.

Since organic CBD was socially and legally associated with cannabis, a plant that is heavily regulated and prohibited in most of the world, scientists, looking for a loophole, and perhaps for less health risks or a more potent beneficial effect, developed synthetic CBD.

Several attempts have been made to develop synthetic CBD. However, as it often happens with synthetic versions of components, they may cause strange, unforeseen effects that their original, natural counterparts didn’t.

Health Concerns About Synthetic CBD Oil

For unknown reasons, some versions of synthetic CBD Oil have already caused side effects like headaches, seizures, and even 16 documented deaths in the United States.

Like synthetic versions of opioids, synthetic versions of CBD appear to be more dangerous and even deadly. As some might know, opioid related deaths raised exponentially in the past couple of years due to synthetic versions, like fentanyl, which is 100 times more potent than morphine.

Synthetic CBD and THC can be found under different names, or even disguised as non synthetic CBD oil, which is not only unethical, but may cause harm to the person taking it. The synthetic versions, as is common, aim to increase potency and reduce manufacturing costs, while the legal ones aim to fulfill an urgent medical need.

Because the FDA is still debating the legality of CBD and cannabis products, some have taken to making a synthetic compounds, which as it doesn’t come from cannabis, is technically legal. Emphasis on technically.

Synthetic CBD Side Effects

The most common observed side effects caused by synthetic cannabinoids are:


  • Agitation
  • Tachycardia
  • Seizures
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Confusion and mental disturbances
  • 16 reported deaths due to chemical contamination of the oil

Though carefully tested and manufactured synthetic CBD has the potential to be a beneficial active component in medication, it needs to have a very careful manufacturing process, tested dosage, and FDA scrutiny in order to ensure its safety.

However, illegal, clandestine production has proven to be extremely dangerous, which is something that doesn’t happen with natural CBD.

The CDC has expressed concern over the fact that there are no documented deaths related to cannabis or cannabis products, while deaths and health issues related to synthetic cannabinoids are increasing yearly. This is something that could probably be tackled with cannabis regulation, since CBD products and medicinal THC would become legal, and discourage illegal manufacturers.

Some synthetic compounds sold as CBD, are not even technically synthetic CBD, they’re synthetic compounds that mimic other cannabinoids, like THC, which also makes them highly unpredictable.   

FDA Regulation

The FDA has currently approved medication where synthetic cannabinoids are the active ingredient, such as:

  • Only a few days ago, the FDA granted “Fast Track” status to a synthetic CBD transdermal gel being developed for the treatment of symptoms of Fragile X, a genetic condition that causes developmental issues and learning disabilities, but it could also be used by those who suffer from autism or are affected by a similar form of anxiety and behavioral problems. Hopefully this medication aids in the natural CBD regulation process.
  • Marinol and Syndros: an appetite stimulant, antiemetic medication used for AIDS patients, and for other different conditions that cause wasting and vomiting. It is made from synthetic THC constituents, and has several side effects, such as mood alterations, drowsiness, confusion, poor focus, “high”, anxiety, weakness, fainting, seizures, among others.

In 2018, the FDA issued a statement warning the public about the significant health risks of illegal synthetic CBD and other cannabinoid products that are being sold.

Part of the reason for their harmful effects is their increased potency; but, another part, particularly the deaths, can also be attributed to their contamination with other harmful or deadly chemicals, which often happens with illegally made compounds.

Natural vs Synthetic CBD

Though the world of synthetic CBD is only beginning to be explored, and there is a chance that science will continue to evolve and create a beneficial compound that doesn’t produce harmful side effects, it is still very clear that natural cannabinoids are a lot easier and safer to manage.

Though carefully manufactured synthetic CBD medication has the potential of helping a lot of people suffering from debilitating conditions, like Fragile X, it is too delicate and risky for it to be used as a supplement, unlike natural CBD.

Natural CBD supplements are virtually harmless and, even in high dosages, have shown no significant side effects, and are safe enough to be consumed by children and by adults without medical prescription.

Synthetic compounds are generally more potent, but they may interact differently with the endocannabinoid system, making them too risky; meaning more research and studies need to be done about them before we trust them entirely.

Though it is known that they act on the cannabinoid receptors, the way they do so is not yet understood, but it is clearly very different from the way natural cannabinoids do.

This is why, if you ask me, for now I would stick to natural CBD Oil, unless a specific medical condition that requires synthetic medication is involved… At least until we know more about how the synthetic oils interact with the endocannabinoid system.  


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