Is It Safe to Give Teens CBD?
We are living in an anxiety-riddled world and it’s affecting our children. Last year a poll found nearly half (48 percent) of U.S. teens are worried about experiencing social anxiety in transitioning back to a post-pandemic world while 43 percent reported they are concerned about mental health challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With CBD being big business for treating stress — a survey found more than 60 percent of CBD users were taking it for anxiety — then is it safe for teens?
“The most common reasons American adults report trying CBD are to potentially benefit issues with pain, sleep, stress, or mood,” Dr. Jeff Chen, MD, CEO and Co-founder of Radicle Science, which recently completed history’s largest longitudinal study on CBD, tells SheKnows. “Much fewer studies have been done on why teens are using CBD, but the preliminary results of one study (yet to be published) presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2020 showed that some 40 percent of teens had tried using CBD oil.”
While Dr. Chen says some of the teens reported trying it “just for fun,” others stated their reason to try it was the hope that CBD “can help to treat my medical illness.”
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid in the family of cannabinoids that can be found in marijuana. Unlike THC — which is marijuana’s most active ingredient that leaves you feeling high — CBD is touted for its medicinal usage without leaving you feeling buzzed or addicted.
“CBD is classified as not psychoactive, meaning there is no high involved, and it is not physiologically addictive. Rather, people get used to it and depend on its action,” says Dr. Lynn Parodneck, a medical marijuana expert and medical advisor with TribeTokes.
Why you might consider having your teens try it
“Research has shown that CBD can help with anxiety, inflammation and many other ailments without the potential for abuse,” says Laurel (Lo) Friesen, founder, CEO, and Chief Extractor of Heylo, tells SheKnows.
While there isn’t enough evidence among the scientific community to fully prove that CBD is risk-free, according to Frisen, current research shows that side effects are minimal and the benefits far outweigh the risks.
“Because of this, CBD is a great option for teens to address anxiety, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and other medical needs. Anxiety is rising in the adolescent population and CBD could dramatically improve outcomes without the risks of pharmaceuticals.”
What parents need to know before giving the go ahead
“Parents who are thinking about providing CBD to their children should consult with their primary care doctor to determine if it’s appropriate to take CBD in conjunction with other medications if their teen is currently prescribed any,”says Friesen.
Additionally, Friesen recommends ensuring you’re buying a high-quality CBD product by reviewing test results from the manufacturer as the quality of the product can dramatically impact the efficacy and safety of the product. “High-quality and vetted sources are best. Initially, follow dosing instructions, but continue to monitor your teen to make decisions regarding changes to their dosage.”
Friesen also believes parents should be aware of the potential side effects of higher doses of CBD “so that they can understand how to dial in dosing for their child, the best method of administration, and the best time of day to administer the CBD product.”
If this all sounds a bit too much to take in, Dr. Parodneck recommends working with a trusted physician. “A physician should know how to dose correctly. Additionally, medical marijuana practitioners are trained to dose and understand how this works. They also are aware of all the meds that compete for the cytochrome p450 system in the liver. That said, CBD can be used for just about anyone, but it helps to journal effects.”
As for which types of CBD adolescents should use, Dr. Parodneck says tinctures are recommended “because they can be closely dosed, and gummies are a popular option.”
As for side effects, Dr. Parodneck says because CBD isn’t FDA regulated, “it is important that reliable brands are utilized. Side effects can occur if the dose is too high. Common side effects include diarrhea and sleepiness.”
But is it safe?
According to Dr. Chen, there’s a lack of research when it comes to CBD and teens. “Regardless of what adults or teens report using CBD for, the reality is that there are few rigorous clinical trials on CBD outside of for pediatric epilepsy (a disease for which CBD is FDA-approved to treat). Some preliminary areas where oral ingestion of CBD has demonstrated benefit in at least one blinded placebo controlled clinical trial include: the treatment of social anxiety disorder, opioid addiction, schizophrenia, and sleep disorders.”
While Heather Hanks, MS CAM, says CBD is “generally very safe” it needs to be watched on a case-by-case basis “as the activation of the endocannabinoid system affects everyone differently,” citing one study that found that CBD significantly reduced social anxiety disorder (SAD) in teens, “but the researchers did not look at side effects of CBD.”
Ultimately, says Dr. Chen, “We need many more and much larger studies on these areas before making any definitive conclusions. Lastly, there are preclinical studies demonstrating potential benefits of topical CBD for acne, but human studies are still lacking.”
What can teens take instead?
Hanks suggests turmeric for those who want an alternative to CBD but with similar benefits. “I like turmeric because it has been studied for many years now and is safe to use as recommended by a health professional. Interestingly, some spices, including turmeric, may stimulate the endocannabinoid system, similar to CBD. This anti-inflammatory response seems to be what helps heal anxiety in people.”
She also recommends adopting other healthy habits into your teen’s life as well.
“Many teens don’t eat a balanced diet or get proper amounts of exercise. These elements are key in helping your teen feel your best. Taking a CBD supplement alone may help, but consider that it will help more when combined with other healthy habits.”
Before you go, check out our favorite mental health apps to give brains a little more TLC:
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.”