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Could CBD Cause Impaired Driving?

Now that the entire nation is presumably hopped up on CBD, are the roads even safe to travel on anymore?

Cannabidiol, the non-intoxicating cannabis compound best known by its three-letter abbreviation CBD, is perhaps the most crucial discovery of mankind since the dawning of rolled toilet paper. Well, let’s not get carried away. Where would we be without that stuff, am I right?

Nevertheless, CBD is now a household name in the United States, making its way inside food, beverages and a slew of other products that Americans are gobbling up with rabid enthusiasm. But now that the entire nation is presumably all jacked up on CBD, are the roads even safe to travel on anymore? It’s a question recently proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which believes the effects of this popular cannabis derivative might be causing trouble behind the wheel.

It’s not that CBD causes the kind of impairment that comes from smoking real-deal marijuana, the FDA says. It’s just that CBD might cause motorists to be a little less alert than they normally would.

Drivers should “use caution if planning on operating a motor vehicle after consuming any CBD products,” the FDA said in a press release issued in December 2019. The agency is concerned that CBD should be used with caution because it is known to cause “drowsiness, sedation, or lethargy.”

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But is this a real concern? After all, the FDA is the same agency that’s out there posting stuff every once in a while about how CBD might cause a variety of yikes! moments for Americans, such as diarrhea, mood swings, liver damage and shrunken testicles. “CBD has the potential to harm you, and harm can happen even before you become aware of it,” the FDA wrote in a statement.

Heavy marijuana users might be dangerous drivers when sober
Photo by Jessica Furtney via Unsplash

The truth of the matter is there isn’t a heck of a lot of research out there on CBD. There is even less when it comes to its effects on motorists. Still, hundreds of people die each year as a result of drowsy driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Association. So, if there is any chance that the increased use of CBD across the United States could somehow cause more people to fall asleep behind the wheel, well, we should definitely look into that. There are some studies presently underway that are searching for any correlation between CBD and drowsy driving.

In the meantime, some scientists say it is, in fact, possible that people who use CBD could experience some unexpected drowsiness. “There is some evidence to suggests that CBD may cause mild sedation at high doses, and this could translate into subtle driving impairment,” Thomas Arkwell, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Sydney, said in an interview with Inverse.

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And CBD drowsiness makes perfect sense too, considering that cannabis advocates have been preaching for years about CBD’s ability to tame a variety of conditions ranging from anxiety to insomnia. It is well within the scope of reason that if CBD can chill people out and help them find sleep through the night, then it could be putting them to sleep on the roadways. But then again, much like other sleep aids, the knock-out effects on individuals would depend on dosage and other factors.

More research is undoubtedly needed before we can definitively say that CBD shouldn’t be used while driving. All of these questions are something that should be looked into by the federal government. Instead, it continues to stymie cannabis-related research while approving more seemingly dangerous drugs.

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