Is CBD Oil Safe For Children With Anxiety And ADHD?
Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist and toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and. more
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If you are unaware of using Cannabidiol or CBD oil for kids, you should be reading this post. CBD oil is a component found in the Cannabis Sativa family’s hemp and marijuana plants, making individuals feel high. (1). The oil has gained popularity in recent years for treating various conditions, including chronic pain, stress, insomnia, nausea, and vomiting.
Different procedures are used to extract the oil, including carbon dioxide extraction, ethanol extraction, and hydrocarbon extraction (2). After extraction, the oil is refined and marketed as tinctures, capsules, topicals, chewable gummies, beverages, and other products.
This post discusses the safety of CBD oil for children, including its advantages, age-appropriate dosage, and potential side effects and hazards associated with its use.
Is CBD Oil Safe For Children?
There’s no scientific evidence to prove the safety and efficacy of CBD oil for children. However, one CBD product, namely Greenwich Biosciences’ Epidiolex, has been approved for use as a part of a regulated medication to treat epilepsy in children by the US FDA (3). This prescription drug contains a purified form of CBD that helps treat seizures in children that occur in rare and severe epilepsy forms, such as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome (4).
Since these epilepsy forms do not respond to anti-seizure medications, CBD use becomes crucial. However, remember that using CBD oil as a standalone medication to treat epilepsy in children isn’t well-researched. Thus, if you want to use CBD oil for treating epilepsy or any other ailment in your child, consult a pediatrician.
Note: CBD is often confused with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), another cannabinoid found in hemp and marijuana. THC is a psychoactive compound that makes a person feel “high” and causes addiction and psychosis. However, CBD doesn’t have these effects and affects separate brain regions than THC (5).
Uses Of CBD Oil For Children
Apart from treating epilepsy, the FDA doesn’t approve CBD oil’s use to treat any ailment in children. However, studies suggest that CBD oil may be an effective treatment for the treatment of several ailments.
- Anxiety: Some recent studies show that CBD oil use may help reduce anxiety (6) (7). Preclinical evidence from animal studies demonstrates that CBD oil use can reduce anxiety associated with multiple disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized stress disorder, and social anxiety disorder (8 ). However, there’s a need for further study to make any recommendations for children.
- Autism: A 2019 study on 188 autism spectrum disorder (ASD) patients showed that the use of cannabis oil containing 30 percent CBD and 1.5 percent THC appears to be a “well-tolerated, safe, and effective option to relieve symptoms associated with ASD” (9). Another study involving 60 children also showed some promising results (8 ). However, these results aren’t sufficient for clinical validation as the research samples are quite small.
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD): A systematic review conducted in 2020 highlighted that CBD could help alleviate symptoms of ADHD (10). However, currently, no targeted research studies are available to support the use of CBD oil for treating or managing ADHD in children.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS): A 2019 study by Thorsten Rudroff and Jacob Sosnoff suggests that CBD use may be associated with less pain and spasticity, ultimately leading to improved mobility and proper sleep (11). Yet, more research is warranted to derive any conclusions for CBD oil use for MS treatment in children.
Side Effects Associated With CBD Oil Use
CBD oil use for children isn’t well-researched, and its unguided use may cause certain side effects, such as
- Gastrointestinal disturbances: Upset stomach and abdominal pain are common side effects of CBD oil use in sensitive individuals. So, always consult a doctor or alternative medicine expert before using CBD oil for children.
- Toxicity: If CBD oil isn’t used under guidance, there’s a potential risk of overdose and toxicity. Therefore, it’s essential to use CBD oil only after consulting an expert. Some of the symptoms you may see in CBD toxicity are severe nausea or vomiting, high blood pressure, anxiety, paranoia, rapid heart rate, and hallucinations (12).
- Possible drug interaction: CBD is a bioactive compound that can interact with other chemicals and compounds in the medications. Since CBD affects the brain and the central nervous system, antidepressants and antipsychotics are the most obvious drugs that can interact with CBD.
Some other drugs that can interact with CBD are blood thinners and thyroid and heart medications (13). Therefore, if your child is on any medication, consult your doctor before using CBD for any purpose.
Besides these, CBD oil can also cause headaches, drowsiness, dry mouth, and low blood pressure (14).
Note: Milk and foods containing high amounts of fats can increase the absorption of CBD in the body, thus increasing the effects and side effects of CBD on an individual (12).
Possible Risks Associated With CBD Oil Use In Children
Baring Epidiolex, which contains CBD, CBD oil isn’t regulated by the US FDA, making its use in children and teens risky as (5) (8 )
- The ingredients of CBD oil can’t be determined accurately, meaning the products can have ingredients that aren’t mentioned on the label. For instance, several products that claim to contain only CBD may also contain high doses of THC, a psychoactive compound.
- CBD oil’s quality can’t be ascertained, as there are chances that the oil may be contaminated with microorganisms, pesticides, and heavy metals. Consuming contaminated CBD oil can cause severe effects in sensitive individuals.
- The efficacy and safety of CBD oil in children and teens are unclear, and research on this subject is still in its early stages. Also, existing studies have been either done on animals or human adults and not on pediatric patients. Further, the studies that involve children have small sample sizes.
- The dosage guidelines aren’t clear, except for CBD used in the drug Epidiolex to treat Epilepsy. Thus, using CBD oil at home is tricky, especially when you aren’t aware of how much CBD oil you can administer to a child to get the desired effect. Also, there is no way to know which mode of use is best and how much CBD would be absorbed in the body based on the method of administration.
Besides these, the legality of the use of CBD oil varies from one country to another and state to state. For instance, according to the US FDA, THC or CBD can’t be sold legally as a dietary supplement, food, or therapeutic product (4). Instead, it can only be included in cosmetics when its THC content is less than 0.3 percent (14). So, check your state’s legal requirements for CBD oil purchase and use before you make any purchases.
How To Choose CBD Oil?
Proper selection of a CBD oil brand can be tricky as it’s manufactured by several companies globally. So, here are some tips that could help (15).
- Buy the product from a trusted manufacturer and seller. It will ensure the product you’re buying is of good quality and is not contaminated. Some manufacturers may dilute CBD isolate with hemp seed oil, which can make the product comparatively ineffective as they lack the balance of beneficial components found in broad-spectrum CBD oil (2).
- Read the product label carefully and determine the
- Oil source: The oil should be extracted from hemp or marijuana. Typically, hemp has a significantly less amount of THC when compared to marijuana. THC is a psychoactive chemical that can create dependence over long-term use. So, ensure you buy CBD oil extracted from hemp plants cultivated by domestic farmers. Domestic hemp is typically free of toxins and pesticides.
- Extraction method: The extraction method indicates how the oil has been extracted from the hemp plant. Typically, CBD oil is extracted using carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction or by using solvents such as ethanol, propane, and butane. Out of these, propane and butane extraction isn’t considered safe as these solvents are toxic and hazardous for children. On the other hand, ethanol and CO2 extraction techniques are safe and potent as they leave no harmful chemicals in the oil.
- Chemical composition: It signifies whether the oil is full-spectrum or isolate. Full-spectrum CBD oil will contain several phytonutrients, such as flavonoids, terpenes, and trace amounts of THC. If THC’s presence concerns you, look for CBD isolates, which are the pure form of CBD oil.
But, while you make that choice, consult an expert as concentrated CBD has high amounts of CBD per serving, increasing the chances of overdose.
- Product certification: Ensure the product has been certified by a reputable third-party testing lab or organization. The lab will test the oil quality and certify that the oil is true to its claim about its chemical composition. It’s best to buy oil that has testing information attached.
CBD oil for children and adults is the same. However, since children weigh less and are comparatively sensitive, using CBD oil with lower potency is advisable.
CBD Oil Dosage For Children
The appropriate dosage of CBD oil for children depends on their body weight, metabolism, medical condition, overall health, and intent of use. For instance, the US FDA has approved the daily oral use of 25mg per kg of body weight for Epidiolex, the prescription drug that contains CBD (14). Its use is approved for children aged one and above.
However, this dosage may or may not be suitable for every child. So, consult a doctor or alternative medicine expert to determine the appropriate CBD oil dosage and suitable mode of use for a child.
While CBD oil has gained popularity over the past few years as a remedy for various ailments, it is important to remember that the FDA does not approve CBD oil for kids. More research is needed to support and establish the safety of CBD oils in the treatment of ailments such as anxiety, autism, and ADHD. In addition, it is advisable to refrain from using these oils if your children are on any other medications. Further, consult your pediatrician before using this oil on your child.
- CBD oil or Cannabidiol, a derivative of the cannabis plant, is reportedly used to treat certain neurological ailments, such as epilepsy, in children.
- It is essential to use this oil only when prescribed by an expert since it poses the risk of side effects such as CBD toxicity, gastric problems, and drug interactions.
- The oil is not approved for use in children in some countries. Therefore, seek professional advice before using it.
MomJunction’s articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
CBD Oil for Kids: Is It Safe for Children with ADHD & Anxiety?
If you’re a parent, you’ll go above and beyond to keep your child healthy.
You may have heard your friends saying they’re using CBD oil with their kids. If you don’t know what CBD is, don’t worry — I’ll explain everything in this article, including why you may want to consider using the supplement with your children too.
Long story short, CBD stands for cannabidiol, a natural compound in cannabis plants with an array of positive effects on the body and brain but is non-psychoactive, unlike THC.
CBD is becoming increasingly popular for various negative symptoms, from anxiety to pain and inflammation (read more here).
It comes in many different forms, including CBD oil, capsules, edibles, beverages, vaping liquids, and topical products.
But which CBD oil will be the best for your little one?
In this guide, you’ll learn about 3 brands that, I believe, deserve your attention as a parent.
I’ve also mapped out several areas where CBD oil appears to be particularly effective, as well as what to look for when searching for the best CBD oil products for kids.
How to Find the CBD Oil for Your Kids
Several steps are involved in the production of CBD oil; each of them is a make-or-break factor.
Quality is paramount when buying CBD oil for kids, so if you want to rest assured your money goes in the right hands, I suggest researching the following information:
1. Hemp Source
It all starts in the soil.
Hemp is an effective bioaccumulator. What does this mean?
It means it absorbs everything from the environment it’s cultivated in.
In essence, when grown in clean and fertile soil, hemp will pull all the good nutrients to grow strong, healthy, and produce plenty of CBD.
But when the growing conditions are inferior and the soil polluted, the plant will draw every contaminant, resulting in very poor sourcing material.
With that said, I strongly recommend buying CBD from domestic farmers who grow organic hemp plants, even if they aren’t certified organic.
This ensures you’ll only get pure CBD oil that is safe for your kid.
2. Extraction Method
The method by which CBD oil is processed can tell much about its quality.
Some manufacturers use toxic solvents like propane and butane for extraction to avoid higher production costs and sell cheap CBD oil. The toxic residue in such products is what you want to steer clear of. I, for example, couldn’t imagine myself purposefully exposing my children to hazardous substances.
Two extraction methods yield clean and potent extracts without leaving any harmful chemicals behind — Ethanol and CO2 extraction.
Ethanol is used in making CBD tinctures. The high-CBD bud is soaked in high-proof alcohol like Ethanol, so the cannabinoids and other hemp compounds can be extracted.
CO2 extraction calls for using pressurized CO2 at varying temperatures to obtain an oily extract suspended in a carrier oil (most often MCT oil). This method is the golden standard in the industry.
3. Is It Full-Spectrum CBD Oil or Isolate?
Full-spectrum CBD oil contains all phytonutrients from hemp, including cannabinoids (with trace amounts of THC), terpenes, flavonoids, and essential oils, whereas CBD isolate carries only pure, isolated cannabidiol.
While isolates offer the highest dose of CBD per serving and are more versatile than full-spectrum CBD (it has no odor and no flavor), it lacks the synergy achieved by other hemp compounds in the full-spectrum extract.
CBD oil obtained from the whole plant is believed to have a greater therapeutic value than isolate-based products, and the user needs less CBD to achieve the desired effect. More scientific evidence supports the theory about the synergy between cannabinoids, especially when it comes to pain and inflammation.
I, too, believe that full-spectrum CBD oil is a better choice, but if your child is allergic to certain constituents of the hemp plant — or you don’t want even a negligible amount of THC in their system — isolates might be your only option.
4. Third-party Testing & Lab Results
Once a CBD oil is manufactured, companies can submit their products for third-party testing conducted by non-company staff to ensure the product is safe for consumption and consistent with the bottle’s label.
CBD oils should always feature information about third-party tests; if they don’t, it should raise some red flags.
It’s all the better if the actual lab results accompany that information. As a rule of thumb, companies that include lab results are generally better than those that aren’t open about them.
When buying CBD oil for your kid, it’s essential to choose the one that will suit their dosage needs. I would always go for the lower potency with children unless there’s a specific reason you want to give them CBD.
CBD Oil Effects on Kids
CBD has coined its fame thanks to its anticonvulsant properties in children with rare forms of epilepsy. Still, this cannabinoid can also alleviate less severe conditions, too — not to mention it’s a great supplement to keep your little pumpkin in good health in a natural way.
Below I go over the most common uses of CBD oil in kids and how it may improve selected health problems. Keep in mind that both the amount of CBD intake and the time of the day can affect how your kid responds to CBD oil.
CBD Oil for Kids With ADHD
If your child has an attention disorder — they quickly get overstimulated and have problems maintaining focus — CBD can help with symptom management.
Research on CBD as a potential treatment for ADHD is sparse. We know most of what we know about the link between these two stems from studies on cannabis as a whole, not the specific CBD compound.
However, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence from parents giving CBD to their kids that CBD oil helps manage their hyperactivity symptoms.
Moreover, a 2014 study published in Current Neuropharmacology suggests that CBD can be a wake-promoting agent at low doses, making users more alert throughout the day (1).
Interestingly, our sleep-wake cycle largely depends on our level of alertness during the day, so CBD oil may also help when your kiddo has problems falling asleep at night.
CBD Oil for Kids With Anxiety
CBD exerts several actions in the brain that regulate our brain’s response to feelings of fear and anxiety. The research in this subject is mostly preclinical or based on animal studies, but there are thousands of testimonies from parents whose children found relief from anxiety in CBD oil.
But how exactly does CBD work for anxiety disorders?
Research suggests that cannabidiol inhibits serotonin reuptake in the brain. In other words, it makes serotonin more available for the body (2). With better control of your serotonin resources, CBD could help stabilize mood and reduce anxiety.
The second benefit is associated with CBD’s ability to prompt the endocannabinoid system to produce more natural cannabinoids (3). This includes anandamide — the endocannabinoid regulating emotions such as fear, bliss, and euphoria.
Insufficient anandamide production has been linked to low mood or overreaction to anxiety triggers.
As with serotonin, CBD stimulates the release of anandamide and helps it stay in the body for a longer duration — assisting the user in maintaining sanity.
Last but not least, CBD may stimulate the hippocampus (a critical brain area playing a vital role in an array of brain functions) to regenerate neurons (4). These findings are particularly interesting because brain scans of patients suffering from anxiety and depression often show a smaller hippocampus.
CBD Oil for Kids With Autism
A study led by the director of pediatric neurology at Jerusalem’s Shareek Zedek Hospital, Dr. Adi Aran, treated 60 autistic children with CBD oil for at least seven months.
After the treatment period, parents were asked to fill out assessment questionnaires about changes in their child’s condition. The researchers asked questions about behavioral changes, anxiety levels, and communication skills.
According to the collected data, 80% of parents noted a decline in problematic behaviors, with 62% reporting great improvements. Half of the examined children showed improved communication, and 40% of parents reported significant decreases in their children’s anxiety (5).
While these are some really promising results, we need more longitudinal studies on larger groups of patients for the research to be conclusive.
Top 4 CBD Oil Brands
I’ve tested plenty of CBD brands in my life, and I have a list of my personal favorites. It turns out that three of them are a perfect match for my children’s needs.
I always base my product recommendations on extensive testing and thousands of verified customer reviews to give you a full picture of any given product I tackle. I would never suggest any product that fails to meet my quality and safety criteria.
Below you’ll find the top 4 brands selling CBD oil.
1. Royal CBD (Best Overall)
Get 15% off all Royal CBD products. Use code “CFAH” at checkout.
- Full-spectrum of phytocannabinoids
- Made from 100% natural ingredients
- Extracted with supercritical CO2
- Contained in premium-quality MCT oil
- Lab-tested for potency and purity
- The 500mg bottle is easy to dose
- They also sell CBD infused gummies
What I Like About Royal CBD:
I remember receiving a press release from Royal CBD shortly before their launch, so I couldn’t help but try their products — as I do with any new brand that grabs my attention.
I’m a visualizer, so I was instantly bought with the minimalistic design of their products. Of course, I did some solid research to not rely solely on my gut, and it turned out this company has an unparalleled level of transparency.
They explain everything about how they source their hemp and what extraction they use for their CBD oil. Not only that, but they were also able to prove it with the lab results. I ordered two bottles — the 1000mg (for me) and 500mg (for my two boys).
What I love about Royal CBD is that their full-spectrum oil does what it’s advertised to do — it brings relief. My children sleep better, they don’t get irritated so easily, and I can finally get them focused on their homework for longer than 3 minutes, which is a blessing for me.
Oh, and it doesn’t leave that botanical aftertaste on the tongue. I’m a fan of everything related to hemp, but my boys don’t share my enthusiasm to that extent. Thankfully, the MCT oil does a stellar job at masking the natural hemp flavor.
2. Gold Bee (Best Organic CBD Oil)
- Made from US-grown, organic hemp
- Contains full-spectrum CBD
- 1200 mg of CBD per bottle (40 mg/mL)
- Extracted with supercritical CO2
- Delicious Kiwi flavor
- Sweetened with organic honey
- Third-party tested for cannabinoid content and purity
- Only one concentration available
- Limited flavor options
What I Like About Gold Bee CBD Oil for Kids
Gold Bee offers craft-quality CBD oils that are well suited for kids, both in their potency and ingredients. The company sources its CBD from organic hemp grown in Colorado, which is then gently extracted using pressurized CO2. Gold Bee’s farming and processing practices yield pure CBD extracts that maintain consistent potency throughout all batches.
The CBD oil contains full-spectrum CBD, meaning there are other cannabinoids and terpenes to support the health benefits of CBD. These compounds contribute to the much-desired entourage effect. As a result, your kid needs less oil than they would if you gave them isolated CBD, making this product very affordable compared to competitor brands.
Even though Gold Bee only carries 2 potencies, 1200mg, and 2400mg, but their oils have proven to be much more effective than other brands. So if you are giving your child GB’s 1200mg CBD Oil, you should start with a quarter dropper, around 10mg of CBD.
I especially like Gold Bee because its product contains only organic ingredients, including the honey in the CBD oil and the cane sugar in the gummies. The brand is a safe pick for health-conscious parents.
3. Hemp Bombs
- Sourced from 100% certified organic hemp from Europe
- Extracted with CO2
- Lab-tested for purity and potency
- Highly versatile — you can use it as is or add it to food and drinks
- Available in 5 potencies
- Less expensive than full-spectrum CBD oil
- Lacks the entourage effect from other cannabinoids
- Your children usually won’t need anything stronger than the 300mg bottle
What I Like About HempBombs CBD:
HempBombs specializes in making 99% pure CBD products. These isolates are available as tinctures, capsules, vape oils, or gummies.
I know that some parents — especially those new to cannabis — tend to freak out about any THC in hemp products they give to their kids, so if you’re one of those parents, isolates might be a good starting point. Your child may be allergic to some plant compounds; CBD isolate might be the only option here.
Isolates are highly versatile. Given this, if your pumpkin hates the taste of natural CBD oil, the isolate should do the trick as it’s odorless and flavorless. Because of that, you can also mix CBD with foods and drinks to smuggle some CBD into your kid’s favorite muffins or a fruit salad dressing.
Remember that CBD isolate is purged from any cannabinoids other than CBD, so there’s no entourage effect. But as I said, with parents using isolate-based products, the potency of CBD is likely more important than the whole-plant synergy.
- Sourced from non-GMO, pesticide-free hemp
- Extracted with CO2
- Available as full-spectrum CBD or pure CBD oil (broad-spectrum, zero THC)
- Lab-tested for purity levels and consistency in potency
- Available in 5 different potency options
- Very affordable
- Only available in the natural flavor
- Not certified organic
What I Like About CBDistillery:
A veteran to the scene, CBDistillery never fails to deliver the highest quality and safety standards — both for adults and children.
Their oil is sold in five different potencies, from 250mg to 5000mg of full-spectrum or broad-spectrum (THC-free) extract. The 250mg CBD oil (my recommended potency for most kids) costs as little as $20, so it’s a perfect product for parents shopping for CBD on the budget.
I love the fact that you can also get a THC-free version of this oil but still enjoy the benefits of the other cannabinoids that have been preserved during extraction. I must admit it’s not as effective as Royal CBD, but it’s still a decent product. And for many young moms, this can be a golden mean between full-spectrum CBD oil and CBD isolate.
Using CBD With Children 101
I receive lots of questions from parents who would like to try CBD oil for their kids, but there’s so much confusion on the Internet that they get even more confused in the end.
So, my fellow moms, I’ve selected the 4 most frequently asked questions about CBD oil for kids, and I’m going to explain everything in the simplest way possible.
Is CBD Oil for Kids the Same as CBD Oil for Adults?
Yes, it’s precisely the same product. Companies don’t distinguish between CBD oil for kids or adults.
However, because children weigh less than adults, I suggest that you operate on lower potencies. Kids usually need lower amounts of CBD to feel the difference.
Besides, with a low-potency CBD oil (e.g., 250mg CBD per bottle), it’s easier to gauge the dosage in the dropper because you can use a few drops instead of having to measure out, say, one-tenth of the syringe for accurate dosing.
What Are the Benefits of CBD Oil for Children?
CBD is a highly versatile supplement that has a special relationship with our endocannabinoid system.
If you’re giving CBD oil to your kid for general supplementation purposes, you can expect the following benefits:
- Improved focus
- Higher alertness throughout the day
- Better quality of sleep
On a practical note, CBD is easy to use, has a long shelf-life, and you can administer it to your child in many different ways.
What’s the Best Way to Use CBD With Children?
It goes without saying that your kids won’t be vaping CBD oil or dabbing CBD concentrates because first, they’re too potent, and second — the very consumption method is out of the question for children.
Most parents choose the sublingual method, which involves placing a few CBD oil drops beneath the kid’s tongue. Once there, they need to hold it for about 30–60 seconds until the oil gets absorbed into the bloodstream, then swallow.
It may happen that your tot isn’t a fan of CBD oil’s distinct taste and will turn its head away each time you try to administer it sublingually.
If that’s your story, I recommend CBD gummies. Each gummy comes with a fixed dose of CBD — you can skip that nasty dropper part — and they are sold in many delicious flavors.
I don’t need to tell you how much children love gummies, so this form of cannabidiol is a great way to give your little one the best of both worlds.
CBD Oil Dosage Guidelines for Kids
The optimal dosage for any given CBD user — including children — depends on their weight, metabolism, unique body chemistry, and desired effects.
For the pediatric population of CBD users, experts suggest starting with 0.5mg of CBD per pound and taking this dose three times a day.
Starting low and slow allows you to adjust the dosage to how your child reacts to CBD without causing any side effects (e.g., dry mouth or lightheadedness).
Quick Reference Chart for Children’s Dosages:
Weight (lbs) Low Strength Medium Strength 30 lbs (13 kg) 2.6 mg 7.8 mg 40 lbs (18 kg) 3.6 mg 10.8 mg 50 lbs (23 kg) 4.6 mg 13.8 mg 75 lbs (34 kg) 6.4 mg 19.0 mg 100 lbs (45 kg) 7.5 mg 22.5 mg
Final Thoughts on CBD Oils for Kids
CBD oil is an excellent tool for enhancing the quality of one’s life, not only for adults but also for children. Because of the non-psychoactive nature of CBD, this compound is doesn’t impact their mental development and comes with only a few mild side effects, such as dry mouth or dizziness when consumed in larger amounts.
I hope my guide has helped you understand what CBD oil is and how it can help your kid live a better life. Now you can make a well-informed decision and buy a high-quality product that will benefit the whole family.
- Murillo-Rodríguez, E., Sarro-Ramírez, A., Sánchez, D., Mijangos-Moreno, S., Tejeda-Padrón, A., Poot-Aké, A., … Arias-Carrión, O. (2014). Potential effects of cannabidiol as a wake-promoting agent. Current Neuropharmacology, 12(3), 269–272.
- Russo, E.B., Burnet, A., Hall, B., Parker, K.K. (2005). Agonistic properties of cannabidiol at 5-HT1a receptors
- Leweke, F. M., Piomelli, D., Pahlisch, F., Muhl, D., Gerth, C. W., Hoyer, C., … Koethe, D. (2012). Cannabidiol enhances anandamide signaling and alleviates psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. Translational Psychiatry, 2(3), e94.
- Beale, C., Boyd, S. J., Chye, Y., Suo, C., Schira, M., Galettis, P., … Solowij, N. (2018). Prolonged Cannabidiol Treatment Effects on Hippocampal Subfield Volumes in Current Cannabis Users. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 3(1), 94–107.
- Bar-Lev Schleider, L., Mechoulam, R., Saban, N., Meiri, G., & Novack, V. (2019). Real life Experience of Medical Cannabis Treatment in Autism: Analysis of Safety and Efficacy. Scientific reports, 9(1), 200.
Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.
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CBD: What Parents Need to Know
Parents are giving it to kids to combat anxiety and other problems. But there are risks, and little research to support it.
What You’ll Learn
- Is CBD safe for kids?
- What are the risks of giving kids CBD?
- Can CBD help kids who have mental health disorders?
- Quick Read
- Full Article
- What do we know about CBD?
- Concerns about CBD
- Is CBD safe?
- CBD oil for anxiety
- CBD and autism
- Research boom
These days, you can find CBD everywhere. Some people believe that it can treat everything from chronic pain and cancer to anxiety and ADHD. But is it safe for kids?
CBD is still pretty new, so there’s very little research about its safety or how well it works, especially for children. So far, there’s only one marijuana-derived medication that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It’s called Epidiolex, and it’s used to treat a rare form of epilepsy in patients who are at least two years old.
Because CBD is so new, there also aren’t a lot of rules about what can and cannot be included in CBD products. So, there’s a huge variety in the quality of products. You may even find different amounts of CBD in different packages of the same product.
Since there isn’t a lot of research about CBD, doctors say there are some risks with using CBD for kids. For example, CBD products may contain things other than CBD, and those things could be harmful. Plus, we don’t yet know if CBD works well with other medications or how much you should give your child.
Although a few studies have found that CBD oil might work for anxiety, they only looked at healthy people who were put in situations that made them anxious. There are no studies yet on people with chronic anxiety. Researchers are also exploring CBD for kids with autism spectrum disorder. The results are good so far, but more research needs to be done before we can know if it’s safe and effective.
CBD is everywhere. From corner stores and bars to medical marijuana dispensaries, it’s being offered for its reputed ability to relieve pain and make people feel better.
Though CBD — full name cannabidiol — is extracted from marijuana or hemp, it doesn’t contain THC, the chemical in marijuana that has psychoactive effects, so it doesn’t make you feel high.
Available in the form of vaping, oils, lotions, cocktails, coffee, gummies — you name it — CBD has been touted as a treatment for complaints as far-reaching as chronic pain, cancer, migraines, anxiety and ADHD. You know it’s gone mainstream when even Consumer Reports has issued guides on how to shop for CBD and tips for safe CBD use.
Not only are adults experimenting with CBD for whatever is bothering them, increasingly parents are turning to CBD to help their kids focus, sleep, calm down and more.
But popular use of CBD is blowing up with very little research into its safety or its efficacy, especially in children. The first and only marijuana-derived drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Epidiolex, is used to treat a rare, severe form of epilepsy in patients two years of age and older. And since cannabis is in the early stages of legalization and regulation, there is a huge variety in the quality and dosage of products — risks associated with using products that have not been vetted by the FDA.
What do we know about CBD?
For millennia, hemp plants have been used for medicinal purposes around the world. In 1851 marijuana was classified by the United States Pharmocopeia as a viable medical compound used to treat conditions like epilepsy, migraines and pain. But since marijuana and cannabis-related products were made illegal in the US in 1970, there has been a dearth of research about either marijuana or CBD. Its classification as a Schedule 1 drug made it nearly impossible to get federal funding to study cannabis.
“The biggest problem is there’s a lot that we still need to know, especially in kids,” says Paul Mitrani, MD, a clinical psychiatrist at the Child Mind Institute. “In regards to treating mental health disorders in children and adolescents, there’s a lack of evidence to support its use.”
Dr. Mitrani, who is a pediatrician and child and adolescent psychiatrist, says it’s an area worthy of investigation but recommends that parents wait until further research is done before giving a child CBD.
Concerns about CBD
While anecdotal evidence of the benefits of CBD is common, there are risks associated with using these products, especially in children. Some of the concerns:
- Products are unreliable in delivering a consistent amount of CBD. They could have less, or more, than advertised, and most do not offer independent verification of active contents. Analysis of products for sale show that many do not have the amount of CBD that they advertise. “So you can’t depend on the quality of what you’re getting,” notes Dr. Mitrani.
- How much is absorbed? Very little is known about how much CBD is actually delivered to the brain in a given product. Various delivery systems — vaping, taking it orally, eating it in baked goods, etc. — have different rates of delivery. Even the oils that the CBD is dissolved in can result in varying effects. “Effects can vary a lot based on the delivery system used and the amount people are exposed to can be inconsistent,” Dr. Mitrani says.
- Products may contain things other than CBD, and they could be harmful. Lab testing — which provides information about CBD levels, THC levels (if any), and contaminants in the product — isn’t mandatory for CBD products in every state. Without a CoA (Certificate of Analysis) it’s that much harder to verify the safety of the product. Bootleg CBD may be connected to recent lung illnesses and deaths that have been attributed to vaping. The CDC and the American Medical Association recommend avoiding vaping entirely while the cause of these illnesses is determined.
- CBD may be safe itself, but it may interact with other medications a child is taking, that are also metabolized in the liver.
- If it’s used for sleep, Dr. Mitrani worries that while it may potentially help with sleep, “your child may become tolerant to it and possibly experience worsening sleep problems if stopped.”
- Since CBD use — especially for kids — is a still so new, few people are familiar with dosing for children, so determining how much to give your child would be tricky. Clinical doses versus what you might find at a coffeehouse could vary dramatically.
- The legality of cannabis products and CBD is still murky. CBD derived from hemp is federally legal, while CBD derived from marijuana plants is subject to the legal status in each state — and remains federally illegal. Meanwhile, the FDA issued a statement making clear that products that contain CBD — even if they are derived from legal, commercial hemp — cannot claim to have therapeutic benefits or be sold as dietary supplements unless they have been approved by the FDA for that use.
Is CBD safe?
Last year the World Health Organization, acknowledging the explosion in “unsanctioned” medical uses of CBD, reviewed the evidence for its safety and effectiveness. The WHO report concluded that “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.” Any adverse effects could be a result of interactions between CBD and a patient’s existing medications, the WHO noted.
The report found no indication of potential abuse or dependence. “To date there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”
As for effectiveness, the WHO noted that several clinical trials had shown effectiveness for epilepsy, adding: “There is also preliminary evidence that CBD may be a useful treatment for a number of other medical conditions.”
CBD oil for anxiety
In 2015 a group of researchers led by Esther Blessing, PhD, of New York University, investigated the potential of CBD for treating anxiety. In a review of 49 studies, they found promising results and the need for more study.
The “preclinical” evidence (ie from animal studies) “conclusively demonstrates CBD’s efficacy in reducing anxiety behaviors relevant to multiple disorders,” Dr. Blessing wrote. Those include generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and OCD.
The review notes that the promising preclinical results are also supported by human experimental findings, which also suggest “minimal sedative effects, and an excellent safety profile.” But these findings are based on putting healthy subjects in anxiety-producing situations and measuring the impact of CBD on the anxiety response. Further studies are required to establish treatment with CBD would have similar effects for those who struggle with chronic anxiety, as well as what the impact of extended CBD use may be.
“Overall, current evidence indicates CBD has considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders,” Dr. Blessing concludes, “with need for further study of chronic and therapeutic effects in relevant clinical populations.”
CBD and autism
A group of Israeli researchers have been exploring the use of CBD to reduce problem behaviors in children on the autism spectrum. A feasibility study involving 60 children found substantial improvement in behavioral outbreaks, anxiety and communication problems, as well as stress levels reported by parents.
The researchers, led by Adi Aran, MD, director of the pediatric neurology unit at Shaare Tzedek Medical Center, went on to do a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial with 150 participants with autism. In this trial, just completed but not yet analyzed, patients were treated CBD for three months.
In the US, research has been given a boost by changing guidelines and laws. In 2015 the DEA eased some of the regulatory requirements that have made CBD, as a Schedule 1 substance, difficult to study. “Because CBD contains less than 1 percent THC and has shown some potential medicinal value, there is great interest in studying it for medical applications,” the DEA said in announcing the change.
And in approving the first CBD-based drug, Epidiolex, last year the FDA expressed enthusiasm for the research boom that is sure to come, paired with stern words for the flood of marketers of products claiming unsubstantiated health benefits.
“We’ll continue to support rigorous scientific research on the potential medical uses of marijuana-derived products and work with product developers who are interested in bringing patients safe and effective, high quality products,” the FDA pledged. “But, at the same time, we are prepared to take action when we see the illegal marketing of CBD-containing products with serious, unproven medical claims.”