A 56-year-old male with no known history of substance abuse and no known prior medical conditions presented via ambulance to the emergency department after being found by coworkers with bizarre behavior, vomiting, and slurred speech. He had legally purchased cannabidiol (CBD) gummies marketed for pain and anxiety relief at a gas station several hours prior. Vitals upon arrival were temperature 36.8 Celsius, heart rate (HR) 79, respiratory rate (RR) 12, blood pressure (BP) 113/60, and oxygen saturation (O2) of 84% on room air that improved upon arousal. Physical exam showed an obese man in no acute distress with a depressed level of consciousness but who awoke to painful stimuli. Neuro exam was significant for dysarthric, hypophonic speech. Labs were significant for a primary respiratory acidosis with concomitant mild lactic acid elevation, normal bicarbonate, and normal anion gap. A comprehensive urine toxicology screen including cannabis was negative. Vital signs three hours after presentation deteriorated, showing: HR 47, RR 8-12, BP 88/52, O2 78%. Electrocardiogram (EKG) revealed sinus bradycardia. The patient progressively became more obtunded and required constant stimuli in order to maintain a patent airway. Non-invasive positive pressure ventilation was not administered due to persistent emesis. The patient underwent supportive care with intravenous fluids, oxygen, anti-emetics, continuous stimulation, and close neurologic monitoring with full recovery by the following morning. Further, patient history revealed that he had consumed two packages of CBD gummies, totaling 370 mg total of CBD (serving size on the package was 30 mg). He felt the products were healthy and safe based on packaging and therefore did not believe they would have any adverse effects. CBD is one of many cannabinoids found in marijuana and marijuana-derived products. It is generally considered safe unlike its more psychoactive counterpart, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which has been linked to seizures, respiratory depression, and cardiovascular complications. CBD has surged in popularity recently, being marketed in oils, capsules, and candies as a health supplement, claiming to treat a wide variety of medical conditions such as glaucoma, pain, and even having beneficial effects on cancer prevention. Most currently available studies do not look at isolated CBD nor their synthetic equivalents, and purity is not guaranteed, thus leading to unforeseen side effects and toxicities. Moreover, these compounds do not show on traditional toxicology screens, posing a diagnostic dilemma for physicians. This case of respiratory depression and cardiovascular compromise in a relatively healthy man is just one example of the importance of considering synthetic CBD toxicity in the differential diagnosis, as there is little data available for recognizing and treating this condition.
Keywords: cannabidiol; cannabinoid; cannabis; cbd; gummies; overdose; safe; synthetic; toxicity.