Original cannabis journalism for Canadians

The curious case of the contaminated CBD oil

An 8-year-old boy with a seizure disorder was hospitalized in Portland, Ore. after using CBD oil contaminated with a synthetic cannabinoid. (David Zalubowski / The Associated Press files)

An 8-year-old boy with a seizure disorder was hospitalized in Portland, Ore. after using CBD oil contaminated with a synthetic cannabinoid. (David Zalubowski / The Associated Press files)

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is quickly gaining traction as a possible treatment for certain seizure disorders, especially in children, but as a recent U.S. incident illustrates, not all CBD oil is created equal.

The case, which led to the hospitalization of an eight-year-old boy from Washington state in 2018, was recently published in the medical journal Clinical Toxicology.

The young patient had a seizure disorder. After consulting with a neurologist, his parents decided to start the boy on CBD oil to help control his seizures. Even though the family lived in Washington, where cannabis is legal, they ordered the CBD oil from an online vendor based in another legal-cannabis state, Colorado.

"They had started giving their child the CBD oil, and what they observed was a nine or ten day period of fairly good seizure control, from what they reported," Portland, Ore. emergency room physician Dr. Tony Rianprakaisang, who helped treat the boy, said in an interview with The Leaf News.

"And then all of a sudden he started have these episodes, he'd had something like more than 14 seizures in a 24-hour period, which was significantly more than normal."

On top of the unusual amount of seizures, the boy was agitated and his pupils were dilated, symptoms that didn't match his existing seizure condition. Doctors decided to remove the CBD oil from the equation while the boy was being treated in hospital, and his symptoms subsided after a few days.

The doctors sent a sample of the CBD oil off for laboratory testing, which determined the oil contained cannabidiol along with a synthetic cannabinoid known as AB-FUBINACA, which has been implicated in various overdose incidents including a 2018 mass overdose in New Haven, Conn. that sent more than 70 people to hospital.

Rianprakaisang said he and his colleagues can't conclusively say AB-FUBINACA caused the boy's unusual symptoms, but those symptoms were consistent with the drug's known effects.

He declined to name the specific brand of CBD oil that the boy's parents bought from Colorado, but plans to enter it into the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's MedWatch database.

Rianprakaisang hasn't heard of a case of contaminated CBD oil before, but they have occured in the U.S. In 2018, dozens of people fell ill in Utah after using CBD oils that reportedly contained synthetic cannabinoids.

"These things here are not regulated the same way that medications are regulated, by the FDA, and so supplements have in the past been contaminated with other substances that are not listed on the ingredients," said Rianprakaisang.

Ultimately, Rianprakaisang believes the story highlights the importance of government regulation.

"The important take-home message would be that we need stricter laws in place to regulate supplements, and regulate these things so that this sort of thing doesn't happen."


New on The Leaf

  • Supply is running twice as high as demand in Oregon, meaning the surplus from last year's harvest alone could amount to roughly 2.3 million pounds of marijuana. (Dreamstime/TNS)

    Supply is running twice as high as demand in Oregon, meaning the surplus from last year's harvest alone could amount to roughly 2.3 million pounds of marijuana. (Dreamstime/TNS)

    Fact-checking a drug warning: An Ontario group sent out an alert warning about a carfentanil product that looked like cannabis, but a local woman who uses opioid drugs says it could never be mistaken for marijuana.
  • Hi-ho, silver: Dear Herb answers a question about home production of cannabis seeds.
  • Turning off the taps: Oregon has way too much legal cannabis, so the state is taking steps to curb production.

Elsewhere on the Weed Wide Web

  • A new poll of Canadians found only about 10 per cent of rare and non-consumers will ever try cannabis. (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press files)

    A new poll of Canadians found only about 10 per cent of rare and non-consumers will ever try cannabis. (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press files)

    An old story, revealed: The RCMP kept quiet about the true nature of the 2014 seizure of a huge amount of cannabis bud, finds National Post reporter Douglas Quan.
  • Thawing out in Alberta: Alberta's cannabis regulator will gradually lift its freeze on new cannabis store licences as the province's cannabis supply situation improves.
  • Never say never: A new poll suggests Canadians who haven't tried cannabis likely won't bother trying it in the future.

What Next

Share this article

Sign up to receive The Leaflet newsletter!

Recommended for you

Advertisement