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Your Guide To CBD Vaping: Safety, Side Effects And More

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While traditional cigarette smoking has seen a significant decline over the past two decades, the use of vaping is experiencing a notable increase. According to a 2020 JAMA Network scientific paper, approximately 5.66 million adults in the U.S. engage in vaping[1]. What is particularly concerning is the rise in vaping among high school and middle school students, with over 2.5 million reported cases, as indicated by the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)[2].

While the risks associated with traditional e-cigarettes are well-documented, there is less awareness regarding the effects of vaping cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is often lauded in the wellness community for its perceived natural ability to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, relieve pain, and improve sleep. However, the potential benefits of CBD can lead to confusion when it comes to the health and safety of vaping this cannabinoid. In the following sections, experts will delve into the scientific aspects of how vaping CBD affects the body, aiming to provide clarity on whether this is a habit to embrace or avoid.

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD oil is a product derived from one of the naturally occurring cannabinoids found in cannabis sativa and hemp plants—CBD. The extraction process involves obtaining the cannabinoid from the plant and dissolving it in a carrier oil, such as sunflower, hemp, or olive oil. This versatile oil can be consumed orally, applied topically, added to foods and drinks, and even used in e-cigarettes.

Linked to numerous potential benefits, CBD oil has gained recognition for its positive impact on mental health, sleep improvement, pain alleviation, and inflammation reduction. The legality of CBD oil depends on its source and adheres to specific state regulations. At the federal level, CBD derived from cannabis plants is illegal. However, CBD derived from hemp plants, containing less than 0.3% delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) by dry weight, is considered legal. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for consumers seeking to navigate the legal landscape of CBD products.

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Are CBD Vapes Safe?

The safety of CBD vapes comes under scrutiny, as highlighted by Irfan Rahman, Ph.D., a professor in the University of Rochester’s Department of Medicine and a leading researcher on cigarette smoke-mediated lung inflammation and CBD vaping. When individuals vape CBD, they are not just ingesting the CBD oil itself. Dr. Rahman emphasizes that CBD oil is almost always combined with other chemicals for flavor, and often nicotine, both of which pose their own set of dangers.

Vijay Iyer, M.D., an interventional cardiologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, expresses clear concerns about the safety of CBD vaping. He points out that while CBD use alone doesn’t appear to directly affect heart function, the act of vaping is inherently problematic. Dr. Iyer emphasizes that vaping, regardless of the substance, has detrimental effects on the lungs and heart, leading to associations with lung disease and heart disease.

Dr. Iyer explains that vaping irritates the inner lining of the lungs and may impair the blood vessels’ ability to produce nitric oxide, a substance crucial for keeping blood vessels relaxed and reducing blood pressure. The compromised ability of blood vessels to relax can contribute to clotting and constriction, potentially elevating blood pressure levels.

Dr. Rahman adds that the harmful effects of vaping extend beyond the act itself, with the chemicals included in e-cigarettes for flavor and nicotine having specific downsides. Flavorings, he notes, often contain chemicals that can damage the lungs. Additionally, nicotine, known for its addictive nature, is not only commonly included in CBD vaping products but also increases the risk of cardiovascular, respiratory, and gastrointestinal disorders. Thus, the combination of vaping and the chemical additives in CBD products raises serious health concerns, emphasizing the need for caution and awareness among consumers.

Potential Side Effects and Health Risks of CBD Vaping

Despite the initial feelings of relaxation that someone who regularly vapes CBD oil may experience, both experts, Dr. Irfan Rahman and Dr. Vijay Iyer, caution that vaping is damaging and can lead to serious health consequences over time. The potential health risks associated with regular CBD vaping are outlined below:

  1. Popcorn Lung (Bronchiolitis Obliterans): This condition involves the buildup of scar tissue in the lungs, obstructing airflow. Dr. Iyer explains that popcorn lung, or bronchiolitis obliterans, leads to difficulties in breathing, manifested through wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. This irreversible condition is a cause of progressive lung damage.
  2. Lung or Heart Disease: Vaping has been identified as a factor that damages blood vessels, increasing the risk of both lung and heart disease, as highlighted by Dr. Iyer. The impairment of blood vessels can contribute to a range of cardiovascular and respiratory issues.
  3. Compromised Immune Health: While other forms of CBD consumption, such as topical application or ingestion through food and drinks, are associated with immune health support, studies suggest that vaping may have the opposite effect, potentially compromising immune health.
  4. Death: Though specific data on vaping-related deaths is limited, there is evidence of severe consequences. Between March 2019 and February 2020, at least 68 individuals reportedly died due to lung injury caused by vaping[3]. This underscores the gravity of the potential risks associated with vaping, emphasizing the need for awareness and caution regarding its use.

CBD Regulations and Counterfeit Product Problems

Dr. Irfan Rahman sheds light on the challenges surrounding CBD regulations, emphasizing that the current regulatory landscape is filled with loopholes that are easily exploited. This situation directly impacts the safety of CBD oil used in e-cigarettes. According to Dr. Rahman’s research, CBD oil in e-cigarettes often includes additional ingredients, such as MCT oil, used for flavor preservation. However, the inhalation of MCT oil may lead to acute lung toxicity when vaped. Furthermore, THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, is sometimes added to CBD oil in e-cigarettes without clear labeling. Dr. Rahman notes that companies may include THC to enhance the euphoric effects, even when the product packaging does not disclose its presence.

Dr. Rahman advocates for a comprehensive review and clarification of the current CBD laws, particularly in the context of vaporization. Presently, consumers lack a reliable means of ensuring the content of the substances they are inhaling when vaping CBD. Supporting this concern, a 2019 study from Virginia Commonwealth University discovered that four out of nine CBD vaping liquids tested contained a synthetic cannabinoid compound called 5F-ADB. This compound is an active ingredient in some illegal synthetic cannabis products like Spice, K2, Black Mamba, and Crazy Clown, which have been linked to deadly overdoses in the U.S.[4]. This underscores the urgent need for more stringent regulations to address the potential hazards associated with counterfeit or adulterated CBD products in the vaping market.

Healthier Alternatives to CBD Vapes, According to Experts

In encouraging news, Dr. Irfan Rahman suggests that ceasing CBD vaping can facilitate the healing of the lungs, allowing them to recover from much of the damage incurred during a past vaping habit. He emphasizes the resilience of the lungs, stating that they can heal as long as the injury is minor. However, Dr. Rahman underscores the challenge of healing from severe damage, making the prompt cessation of CBD vaping crucial for better outcomes.

Both experts emphasize that the issue lies not with CBD oil itself but with the act of vaping. Consequently, they recommend adopting healthier alternatives such as using CBD oil topically or consuming it orally in various forms like foods, drinks, and gummies.

For those who vape CBD to relax, Dr. Rahman and Dr. Iyer advocate for healthier stress-relief methods, including meditation, exercise (even a short walk), and yoga. In the case of using CBD to manage chronic pain, Dr. Iyer suggests exploring alternatives such as applying a CBD cream directly to the affected area. However, he cautions that even topical CBD products lack clear regulations. The safest course of action is to consult with a healthcare provider, address chronic pain concerns, and collaboratively develop a treatment plan tailored to individual needs. This approach ensures a more informed and personalized approach to well-being while minimizing potential risks associated with vaping.

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Your Guide To CBD Vaping: Safety, Side Effects And More
Your Guide To CBD Vaping: Safety, Side Effects And More

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