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CBD is known for its therapeutic potential, but for Johnny Walker, it was a nightmare of an experience. Mononucleosis is sometimes called “the kissing disease,” but kissing isn’t the only way you can get it. Learn from the experts at WebMD how to spot the signs of mono and get the right treatment.

UFC 279’s Johnny Walker claims CBD left him ‘drugged every single day’ for three years

CBD is known for its therapeutic potential, but for Johnny Walker, it was a nightmare of an experience.

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Light heavyweight Johnny Walker deals with a TKO loss to Corey Anderson at UFC 244 in 2019. Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Many athletes turn to CBD as a form of therapy. Multiple findings over the years highlight its strong potential, and in the case of a professional fighter, for recovery and pain management.

That wasn’t the case for UFC light heavyweight Johnny Walker. In a pre-UFC 279 guesting on MMA Fighting’s Portuguese podcast Trocação Franca, the 30-year-old veteran revealed some mental health struggles he went through, which according to him, were caused by his CBD use.

“I had no idea, and only found out four or five months ago, that CBD has a small amount of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) in it, a small percentage, and I’m extremely allergic to THC,” he said.

“It gives me schizophrenia, panic attacks. I was getting drugged every single day for the last three years and didn’t know. It’s not strong, it’s a small percentage, but my brain is super sensitive to those substances and I didn’t know.”

Walker began using cannabidiol in oil form after being approached by companies offering sponsorship deals. Upon taking “ten doses” after his 2021 fight with fellow Brazilian Thiago Santos as a form of pain management from an ankle injury, Walker relayed the “tough episode” he went through while on vacation with his fiancée in Thailand.

“I went to Thailand and the first week there I had an episode. The [CBD I used] had higher levels of THC,” he recalled. “It’s not a huge amount, but high enough for my brain. It took me 10 days to get back [to normal], brother. I was messed up for 10 days. My fiancée had to take care of me like a baby. I wouldn’t let her get away from me, I trusted nobody.

“She was giving me diazepam to sleep but I spit it out, I didn’t trust her. She put diazepam in a pudding and I ate two of them. I slept for half an hour and woke up and she had left for a massage, and I went after her.

“I took a van, a taxi, I went after her. Brother, I gave her a hard time. I woke up in the middle of the night seeing things, woke up and started packing my bags saying I wanted to go home, that I couldn’t stay there anymore. It was a tough episode, brother, and I knew it wasn’t normal.”

Walker had since cut out CBD from his life, a decision he says turned his life around.

“When I stopped using [CBD] I became more confident and trusted people more, could focus on a goal, and get early to the gym. My life is 100 percent better now, brother.

“I was drugging myself for the past three years and I didn’t even know. I’m simply healthier now, head in the right place, able to make plans and everything is working out.

“I was having arguments with my fiancee all the time, thinking of a bunch of crap. I wasn’t acting like my real self, you know? It was affecting me a lot and I had no idea what it was.

“The more anxious I got, the more CBD I took, thinking ‘this shit will help me calm down,’ and was drugging me more with the poison. I’m not saying [CBD] is like that for everybody, it’s good for anxiety, but not for me, who has hyperactivity (ADHD). THC wasn’t good [for me] and I didn’t know.”

Walker (18-7) will look to break a two-fight skid as he faces Ion Cutelaba to open up the main card of UFC 279 this weekend in Las Vegas.

Mononucleosis

Mononucleosis is an infectious illness that’s usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). It’s also called mono or “the kissing disease.” You can get the virus through kissing as well as things like sharing drinks or silverware. It’s contagious, but you’re less likely to catch mono than other common illnesses like a cold.

Mono isn’t usually a serious illness, but you can have complications that make it more dangerous. The symptoms of mono can range from mild to severe. You may not be able to take part in your normal daily activities for several weeks.

Mononucleosis Causes

Many people are exposed to EBV as kids. But that doesn’t always mean you’ll get mono. You can carry the virus in your body for your entire life without ever having symptoms of mono.

EBV is part of the herpes virus family. Most people are exposed to it at some point in their lives. In the U.S., about 85% to 90% of adults carry the virus by the time they’re 40.

How Do You Get Mono?

EBV spreads through bodily fluids, usually saliva, which is why you can get it through kissing. You can also get it if you share food, drinks, or silverware with a person who has it or, rarely, if an infected person coughs or sneezes near you. If someone who has mono uses an object like a fork or spoon, the virus is probably still contagious as long as the object is still moist.

EBV can be spread through blood and semen. It’s unusual, but you can get mono from medical procedures such as blood transfusions and organ transplants, or through sexual contact.

Mononucleosis Symptoms

Mono can cause different symptoms in different people. If you get EBV, you may start to have symptoms of mono within about 4 to 7 weeks. Common symptoms include:

Some people have no symptoms or ones that are so mild, they don’t notice them.

Most people who get mono feel better in about 2 to 4 weeks. Sometimes, fatigue can last several weeks after that. In some cases, it can take 6 months or longer for the symptoms to go away.

Mononucleosis Diagnosis

Your doctor can usually diagnose mono based on your symptoms. They might also check for swelling in your tonsils, lymph nodes, and liver or spleen.

They can confirm a mono diagnosis with blood tests including:

  • Complete blood count (CBC). Your doctor will look at your white blood cells, including whether any of them are unusual or whether you have more than usual.
  • Antibody tests. Your doctor will look for proteins that your immune system creates in response to EBV.

Mononucleosis Complications

Complications from mono can be serious. They might include:

  • Swollen tonsils. They might narrow your airway, making it harder to swallow or breathe through your mouth.
  • Enlarged spleen. If it becomes severe, your spleen can burst. This causes a sudden sharp pain on the left side of your upper belly. If you have pain like this, it’s an emergency. Get medical care right away. You may need surgery.
  • Liver problems. You might have hepatitis or jaundice.
  • Blood problems. Your body might destroy too many of your red blood cells (hemolytic anemia). Or your blood might not have enough platelets (thrombocytopenia).
  • Heart problems. Your heart muscle might become inflamed (myocarditis), or you might have an uneven heartbeat.
  • Nervous system problems. This can include seizures, brain inflammation (encephalitis), or inflammation of the tissues covering your brain (meningitis).

You’re more likely to have serious complications from mono if your immune system is weakened because of an illness like HIV or AIDS, or because you take certain medications.

Mononucleosis Treatment

No medications treat mono. Antibiotics and antivirals don’t work on EBV. Things that may help you feel better include:

  • Lots of rest
  • Lots of fluids
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers, like acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, for fever and pain
  • Corticosteroid medication for swelling in your throat

Mononucleosis Prevention

There’s no vaccine to prevent mono. EBV can stay in your saliva for months after you’re infected, so even if you don’t have symptoms or feel sick, you may be able to spread it.

To lower your chances of getting mono, wash your hands often and try not to share things like drinks, silverware, or toothbrushes with other people.

Show Sources

Photo Credit: Biophoto Associates / Science Source

Mayo Clinic: “Mononucleosis.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Mononucleosis.”

CDC: “About Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV).”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Infectious Mononucleosis.”

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Mononucleosis (Mono).”

American Association for Clinical Chemistry: “Mononucleosis (Mono) Test.”

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