Is CBD Safe for Teens?
it’s not common to question the effects of CBD on teens, but its something that should be considered before giving your teen CBD. Image Credit: By Ollyy on Shutterstock
Thirty percent of adolescents 13-16 years old have an anxiety disorder. Twenty percent of all teens experience depression before adulthood, and close to 5,000 young people 14-24 die by suicide each year. The autism rate in the United States today is 1 in 6 children, up 15 percent in just two years, and 470,000 children have epilepsy, including 1 in 100 teenagers. Add to that acne and general teenage angst and itвЂ™s no wonder that desperate parents are ditching the chemical compounds of traditional medicationsвЂ”especially when they donвЂ™t seem to be working or the side effects are too severeвЂ”and turning to alternative treatments like CBD products instead.
CBD and Teenagers
But more and more parents today are turning to CBD products with their pediatrician or physicianвЂ™s guidance due to proven positive results in general studies about CBDвЂ™s effectiveness in treating adult ailments that teens suffer from, too. And with dry mouth and drowsiness being the most common effects of CBD, itвЂ™s appealing to both parents and teens when prescription drugs for acne and anxiety in particular can have unpleasant side effects.
WhatвЂ™s the Difference Between CBD and Marijuana?
Marijuana is the ground up mix of the dried bud flowers of cannabis sativa, the cannabis plant. CBD is cannabidiol, one of the cannabis plantвЂ™s natural phytocannabinoid compounds that works with our bodyвЂ™s natural endocannabinoid system which regulates essential functions like mood, pain and sleepвЂ”issues that teens often struggle with in general. It also helps stimulate our вЂhappy hormones,вЂ™ serotonin and dopamine, which help regulate stress, reduce anxiety, make you more socially agreeable, and in a calmer state.
CBD and THC
Marijuana contains THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the substance in cannabis that gives the intoxicating high and can aggravate anxiety. CBD contains less than 0.30 percent THC, so has no mind-altering effectвЂ”another reason why CBD is proving a good alternative choice for teenagers.
CBD Is Proven in Reducing Inflammation
If your teenager has ADD, ADHD, or an ASDвЂ”autism spectrum disorderвЂ”CBD is also a valid choice of treatment for young people because it has the capability of reducing inflammation. People often donвЂ™t realize that these conditions are associated with inflammation, but cognitive function studies are finding that inflammation has a significant impact on the brain.
CBD, Epilepsy and Seizures
The most research studies on CBD as a treatment have been in the field of Epilepsy, and in June 2018, an epilepsy drug called EpidiolexвЂ”which in clinical trials reduced seizures by 39 percentвЂ”was the first drug with CBD to be FDA approved.
WhatвЂ™s The Best Way to Give CBD to My Child?
Cannabidiol comes in the form of CBD oil and is best taken orally as the oil (the CBD oil from the cannabis plant is usually mixed with another oil such as coconut or olive oil and flavored, though it can still have an unpleasant smell), or as a tincture or gel capsule. CBD oil is edible so it can be mixed in foods and drinks.
Is CBD Oil Expensive?
Yes, it can be pricey. But when a teenager is taking ongoing and often expensive medications for their health condition, most parents will pay the expense to help their teen be healthier and happier. Many parents are even going to the expense of moving to states when cannabis and CBD are legal or they can get a medical marijuana card for CBD oil products.
How Do I know If My Teen Is Using CBD Recreationally?
Because the side effects of taking CBD oil are minimal, it can be hard to tell if your teen is taking it. But if youвЂ™re concerned, get educated on CBD, and start a conversation with your kid about why theyвЂ™re taking it and how it makes them feel. If they are, perhaps talk to your childвЂ™s doctor together so you can make healthy decisions.
And donвЂ™t worryвЂ”CBD is not addictive. The World Health Organization has concluded that вЂњin humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential,вЂќ and declared CBD as non-addictive. However, be sure to consult with your doctor before making any medical or treatment decisions вЂ” particularly regarding a childвЂ™s health.
CBD is becoming increasingly popular with parents around the country вЂ” but should we be giving it to teenagers?
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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.
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 Dr. Paul Mitrani, clinical director 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 Dr. Adi Aran, 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.”
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Katherine Martinelli is a journalist who has published internationally on a variety of topics including parenting, food, travel and education. She is also mom to an inquisitive toddler.
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. Parents are giving CBD to kids to combat anxiety and other problems. But there are risks, and little research to support it.