With the popularization of the story of Charlotte Figi—the little girl who successfully treated her symptoms of Dravet’s syndrome with cannabidiol (CBD) who has an entire hemp strain named after her—thousands of parents are exploring this cannabinoid as a viable treatment option for their children.
CBD has been touted as a panacea for everything from epilepsy to ADHD to autism, with many states green-lighting its use for children. But is it really safe? How do you decide on a CBD product for your child? What can it help your child with? How much CBD should you give them?
Here we explore the answers to these questions, but the information presented here should not be considered medical advice, and you should always consult a pediatrician before introducing your child to CBD of any kind.
Is CBD Safe for Children?
The first obvious question most parents have is whether CBD is a safe treatment option for their child, whether for a serious or chronic illness, or simply as supplemental wellness option.
The short answer is yes.
Despite some concerns by organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) about the recreational use of cannabis in children and adolescents, these organizations are revising their stance on the use of CBD and medical cannabis.
The reason for this change in consensus is largely due to an as yet limited but growing body of research that specifically investigates the use and safety of CBD in children. The results are promising, showing that well-monitored CBD usage may not only be effective for a variety of conditions, but also when administered correctly, it is also safe and well-tolerated by children.
One such example is a study published in Neurology that found that even increased servings of CBD oil in children ages 4 to 10 proved to be safe. Another 2017 peer-reviewed article also showed that, though there were some minor side effects such as changes in appetite, diarrhea and fatigue, compared to prescription drugs, CBD has a much better safety and side-effect profile. However, it’s noted that more and longer-lasting studies are necessary, as well as studies that focus on any potential hormonal effects in children.
CBD Products for Children
CBD products can come from a variety of sources and in many different servings, types and forms. There is still a lot to be learned about CBD as an alternative treatment, and which one product is best for your child will depend on a number of factors. If you are considering trying CBD as a treatment option, it is vital to discuss this with your doctor to help you make a decision that is in the best interests of your child.
To help you start the conversation, we’ve put together a short list of questions you can ask your doctor when talking to him or her about using CBD for your child.
1. Is prescription CBD oil an option for my child?
With pharmaceutically manufactured CBD such as Epidiolex hitting the market, getting CBD via a prescription might be an option for your child. Currently it has been FDA approved for use as a treatment for seizure control for children with Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes. Unfortunately, if your child suffers from another condition or is experiencing the side effects of chemotherapy, this may not be an option for you.
2. How can I choose a safe over-the-counter CBD product for my child?
Ideally, you should speak to your doctor about finding a CBD product that is right for your child and his or her symptoms. Resist the urge to go online and buy the first or most-raved-about CBD product. Look for high-quality, third-party laboratory tested products that are THC-free or low-THC, and ideally specifically formulated for use in children.
3. Will any of my child’s current medications negatively interact with CBD?
Again, it is important to speak to your doctor about possible drug interactions and CBD. There are some concerns about CBD being used with other anti-seizure medications.
Conditions That CBD Could Help Treat in Children
Although there is a lot of anecdotal evidence for using CBD to aid a wide range of children’s issues such as anxiety and attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), epilepsy and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are the most researched in children.
CBD has been shown to have powerful anti-seizure properties, often being as effective at reducing seizures as anti-epileptic medications. The evidence from three different studies in children show that especially in Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, CBD reduced all seizures by between 38 to 41 percent without many of the side effects of prescription drugs. Likewise, according to this survey of more than 155 physicians, CBD is now also increasingly being prescribed as a way to improve the quality of life of children with epilepsy.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Although the research is new, CBD for ASD is showing promise in helping to reduce many of the symptoms that make living with this disorder so difficult. In this review, scientists found that CBD may be helpful in promoting pro-social behaviors while helping to reduce the symptoms of comorbidities such as sleep difficulties, ADHD and anxiety.
Research Is Ongoing
According to this comprehensive review in The Journal of Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics as well as this one published in Pediatrics, researchers reported a number of cases in which CBD oil has been documented to help children suffering from a range of medical conditions. These include the following:
- Behavioral symptoms associated with ADHD
- Other forms of epilepsy and drug-resistant epilepsy
- Perinatal brain Injury
- Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
CBD Serving Sizes for Children
A major issue when it comes to CBD servings, regardless of age, is that every CBD product comes with different potencies, ingredients and therapeutic compounds, and everyone metabolizes CBD differently—there is unfortunately no known universal dose. Another issue facing parents who are considering CBD for their child is that serving size recommendations are created with adults in mind.
Your child’s pediatrician or doctor can help you find a serving size that’s safe and effective for your child through a kind of trial-and-error methodology called dose titration. During this process, the amount of CBD administered starts off low (usually around 0.5 mg CBD per pound of body weight, split across three doses per day), and is then gradually increased over several days or weeks. During this time, your child’s physician will monitor symptoms and improvements to help estimate the optimal dose for your child.
Although CBD is increasingly considered to be an effective and safe treatment option for a variety of diseases, research specifically aimed at investigating these in children is still limited. Always speak to your child’s physician before using CBD for your child and try to work with him or her during treatment. Similarly, always be on the lookout for side effects such as diarrhea or a loss of appetite, and evaluate the side effects carefully in order to decide whether they’ve become severe enough to warrant discontinued use.