The Definitive Guide to CBD for Children

CBD is creating a lot of buzz within medical and parental circles. It started with parents looking for a more effective, natural way to treat epilepsy, but children are now receiving CBD for ADHD and many other medical conditions. If you’ve heard about potential benefits that you would like to achieve for your child, this guide will answer all of your questions regarding the safe application of CBD for children.

CBD vs THC vs Marijuana vs Hemp – What’s the Difference?

Some people will react with shock when you mention treating children with CBD oil. This is typically due to a lack of CBD knowledge and the many myths and misconceptions about CBD. They equate CBD with marijuana and assume that these products will get kids high. They may also believe that consuming CBD oil will lead to a severe drug addiction that ruins the child’s life. In reality, the opposite is true as many adults use CBD oil to help with addiction recovery. There is some scientific proof that it can reduce the risk of relapse.

Understanding the following CBD terms will make it clear why carefully selected CBD products are an appropriate treatment for children with a variety of medical and behavioral issues:

  • Cannabis is a family of plants that includes marijuana and hemp. Plants within the family are classified as either Sativa or Indica, depending on their natural growing patterns and cannabinoid concentration. Cannabinoids are natural components of the plant that are associated with health benefits. THC and CBD are the most popular cannabinoids.
  • Marijuana is a plant within the cannabis family. It’s classified as a Sativa plant and is illegal in many states due to its widespread use as a recreational drug. Marijuana plants are up to 40 percent THC.
  • Hemp is a Sativa cannabis plant with a low concentration of THC. This plant is rich in CBD and won’t get you high.
  • CBD stands for cannabidiol and is a cannabinoid found naturally within the cannabis plant. It won’t cause a psychoactive response and will not get you high. Pure forms of CBD oil are most commonly used in scientific research.
  • THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol and is a cannabinoid found naturally within the cannabis plant. It causes the psychoactive response that humans associate with getting high and is what satisfies recreational marijuana users. It also has medicinal benefits.

An understanding of these terms makes it clear why CBD oil without THC is commonly administered to children. The oil is often derived from the hemp plant and will not produce a high or is extracted from the marijuana plant with low THC concentration. It still has tremendous medicinal power.

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How Can CBD Help Children?

Many parents turn to CBD oil when prescription medication and other standard treatments fail to work for their children. Most kids receiving CBD suffer from serious medical conditions that interfere with their quality of life. Some kids can’t focus in school while others are medically prohibited from attending school at all. CBD can make the difference between a life of suffering and an enjoyable childhood.

Epilepsy

The movement of treating children with cannabis started with desperate parents trying to control seizures in kids. While many epilepsy patients can control their symptoms with medication, the ketogenic diet and lifestyle changes, those with intractable epilepsy may suffer for a lifetime. They live with the worry that their next seizure can come at any moment, and they often fall, hit their heads and suffer injuries during seizures.

For some children with epilepsy, CBD oil is a life-changing and potentially life-saving treatment. It’s often last hope when surgery isn’t an option.

In 2018, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the Federal Drug Administration approved one CBD-based medication for patients aged two and older suffering from Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome or Dravet Syndrome. This came after the release of a scientific study that showed CBD can reduce incidents of convulsive and drop seizures in patients with these rare seizure disorders.

There have also been some scientific studies that prove CBD is effective for the treatment of epilepsy. One review of the research published in the journal Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology found that CBD could reduce seizure activity by a median of approximately 40 percent. The studies also revealed a responder rate close to 50 percent, which means that close to half of study participants reduced their seizure rate by 50 percent or more.

ADHD

There isn’t much research into the use of CBD for ADHD, but there is a growing body of anecdotal evidence. People around the world are trying CBD oil to control hyperactivity and improve focus in children as well as adults. It’s estimated that about half of all people trying this method of treatment will notice improvements in ADHD symptoms. The other half won’t notice improvements, but they also won’t suffer serious side effects or negative outcomes.

When considering anecdotal evidence, it’s important to consider the quality of CBD products used. Some products are purer, and the concentration of CBD can vary. The amount of CBD taken varies between anecdotal accounts as well. Those experiencing no effect from CBD may not have access to a high-quality, pure CBD oil or tincture with an adequate dose of cannabinoids.

One study published in a 2017 issue of the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology provides some evidence that CBD does work for many ADHD patients. 15 adults with ADHD were treated with Sativex Oromucosal Spray, which contains cannabinoids. The study compared the results against a placebo group of 15 adults also diagnosed with ADHD. The results showed greater improvements in hyperactivity/impulsivity and inattention for the group receiving the cannabinoid spray.

Like many studies related to CBD use in children, there are concerns with this study. Researchers involved in the study have noted that participants may not have discontinued use of other medications or alcohol, which could impact the results recorded.

There are no significant studies that show clear benefits for ADHD patients, so more research is needed before medical professionals start prescribing CBD for children with ADHD. In the meantime, many parents are trying CBD oil with mixed results.

Nausea and Vomiting

The treatment of nausea and vomiting is one of the traditional uses of the cannabis plant before it became widely known as an illegal drug. This use is backed up by at least four modern scientific studies that found it effective for children suffering from nausea and vomiting in response to chemotherapy. Researchers found that cannabinoids were more effective than several prescription medications for many children.

Pain

Seniors are investing heavily in CBD as a natural way to treat chronic pain from arthritis and other medical conditions. Since some children also suffer debilitating pain, it makes sense that parents may consider using CBD for the same purpose. Many over-the-counter and prescription pain medications can cause liver and kidney damage, and there’s always the risk of addiction for children prescribed some of the more effective pain medications.

CBD doesn’t come with those harsh side effects, and there is a growing body of scientific research that shows promise for its effectiveness in pain management. One study published in a 2016 issue of the European Journal of Pain found that the topical application of CBD gel effectively reduced pain and inflammation in rats suffering from arthritis.

Anxiety

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 25 percent of children between ages 13 and 18 suffer from anxiety disorders. About 80 percent of kids with diagnosable anxiety receive no treatment for their symptoms. Those that do seek treatment often end up on addictive prescription medications that come with serious side effects. They may also invest in psychotherapy, which often takes years to produce results.

Many parents are turning to CBD for children struggling to attend school, make friends and enjoy other activities that are natural to kids without anxiety. While more research is needed to prove that CBD relieves anxiety in children, there are some studies that give validity to that claim.

One study published in the January 2019 issue of the journal Pain found that CBD treatment reduced anxiety by activating the 5-HT1A receptor. That study was focused on the anxiety associated with neuropathic pain, so it also provides evidence for the use of CBD for pain management.

Another study published in a 2016 issue of the Permanente Journal found that 12-25 mg of CBD oil administered once daily is an effective treatment for anxiety and insomnia suffered by children with PTSD. It’s likely that the results will translate to children suffering from generalized anxiety and other anxiety disorders.

Insomnia

The Permanente Journal study mentioned above in regards to anxiety also provides evidence that a daily dose of CBD oil can help children suffering from insomnia. More research is needed to understand how CBD may help with various forms of insomnia, but preliminary studies do show some therapeutic benefits for people of all ages who feel tired during the day or struggle to sleep through the night.

Research has proven that CBD treatment has no harmful impact on healthy sleep-wake cycles.

Depression

According to the CDC, approximately two million children between the ages of three and 17 have been diagnosed with depression. This represents a noticeable increase since 2003. If you take into consideration that many depressed children never seek medical treatment, the statistics are probably much higher.

Treatment for depression often involves prescription medications that come with harsh side effects. Many of these medications are addictive, and it takes time to slowly wean off these medications to avoid severe nausea and other symptoms. Psychotherapy is helpful for many but doesn’t offer immediate benefits. That is why CBD oil is attractive for many children and teenagers suffering from depression.

While more research is needed to prove that CBD oil relieves depression, there are some studies that show promise. For instance, one study published in a 2014 issue of the journal CNS and Neurological Disorders showed that CBD produced antidepressant-like effects in animals.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Children with oppositional defiant disorder, also known as ODD, are excessively aggressive, defiant and argumentative with adults and authoritative figures. They are often angry, resentful and spiteful. Many children diagnosed with this disorder will end up in serious trouble that threatens their future as adults. That is why some parents are turning to CBD oil as a potential treatment.

While there is some anecdotal evidence that some children with ODD find CBD beneficial, more scientific research is needed to determine the most effective dose. It’s important to note that many children with ODD are also diagnosed with anxiety and/or autism, and there is some evidence that CBD can help with those conditions as well.

Autism

According to the CDC, approximately one out of every 59 children in the U.S. have some form of autism. This represents a shocking increase from about one in 150 in 2000. Treatments for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are aimed at improving symptoms because there is no known cure. Treatments typically focus on behavioral correction and dietary adjustment, but many autistic children continue to suffer uncomfortable symptoms daily. That is why many caregivers are putting a lot of hope in CBD.

Studies designed to prove the benefits of CBD for children with autism are still in the early stages. Many parents and medical professionals are excited about the FDA’s approval of a CBD medication for epilepsy because it paves the way for similar medications that may help with autism.

Some parents are already treating their autistic children with CBD, and a body of interesting anecdotal evidence of its effectiveness has surfaced as a result. Others are holding out for the results of upcoming clinical trials that will provide more evidence regarding the benefits and most effective dosage.

Is CBD Safe for Children?

Pure CBD oil is generally considered safe for most children. There is no scientific research to prove this for all children, but research is ongoing. One of the biggest concerns with CBD is potential interaction with some prescription medications.

Most medical doctors will state that there isn’t enough clinical research to show that CBD is safe for children. In fact, many will back away from making statements regarding the effectiveness of CBD for a variety of medical conditions because there isn’t much research to prove the benefits. It isn’t that the benefits aren’t there but that they aren’t yet proven.

Most evidence regarding the benefits of CBD for children rests on anecdotal stories without valid medical proof. While there have been some scientific studies completed with the intention of determining benefits, safety and side effects, most are considered unreliable for one or more of these problems:

  • Lack of control groups
  • Small sample size
  • Improper design
  • Lack of follow-up for long-term observation

In 2016, the journal Pediatric Child Health published a discussion of the therapeutic application of medical cannabis for children. The general conclusion was that additional research is needed and patients receiving any type of cannabis should receive close supervision from a trained medical professional. That is understandable for cannabis with THC, but what about a pure CBD oil without THC?

The Epilepsy Society recommends pure CBD oil only for epileptic children who don’t respond well to medication or dietary changes and aren’t eligible for surgery. They note that some research in animals has shown that THC may sometimes help with seizures but may also trigger seizures in some cases. More research is needed to determine which forms of epilepsy respond well to THC and which ones get worse with THC. In the meantime, CBD oil without THC is considered the best option for children.

The safety of CBD oil for other medical conditions often depends on the health of the child. It’s best to talk to a doctor familiar with your child’s medical condition first. Even if they won’t recommend CBD oil, they can tell you if there are potential interactions with other medications that your child takes.

Potential CBD Side Effects

Further research is needed to determine the long-term effects of CBD use. The potential short-term side effects are better understood and may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in weight

Not all children taking CBD will experience these side effects. For many people, these minor side effects are preferred to more severe side effects that come with prescription medication. Minor side effects are always better than going without treatment or taking medication that doesn’t work.

Treating Children with CBD

It’s difficult to find specific pediatric dosage and administration guidelines. A medical doctor from the Pediatric Neurology department of Children’s Hospital Colorado states that additional research is needed to determine the proper dose of CBD for children. She recommends that parents consult with a medical doctor before administering any CBD product to a child.

While this doctor was speaking to parents of epileptic children, it applies to anyone considering the use of CBD for children. The amount of a CBD product that a child needs for therapeutic benefits will vary, depending on the type of product used and the reason for treatment. For instance, a pure CBD isolate that contains no THC may require a higher dosage than a full-plant oil that contains some THC.

Dosing Guidelines

Some doctors won’t discuss CBD dosing for a child, stating that additional research is needed to determine dosage guidelines. The general recommendation is to start with the lowest dose possible and increase gradually until you achieve the desired therapeutic results. This is still best completed under supervision of a doctor familiar with the child’s medical history.

Methods of Administration

Children should never smoke a CBD product regardless of the THC content. Dropping CBD oil or tinctures under the tongue or on the tip of the tongue delivers fast absorption into the body. You can also mix CBD oil with foods or drinks, which is best if your child doesn’t like taking medication of any kind. There are many recipes for THC edibles online, or you can add the oil to any treat that your child loves. Some tinctures also come as mouth sprays.

You can buy edibles like CBD gummies, but this can get expensive for daily use. You can even buy water that contains CBD. Make sure that you know the purity of the CBD used, and verify that no THC is included. You should also know the amount of CBD in the product to ensure that it’s safe for your child.

Whether you make your own CBD foods or buy edibles, make sure that these treats are kept out of reach of all children and pets. A child may not understand that there is a medicinal ingredient, so they will find the treats tempting.

The Cost of CBD for Children

After going through the research and learning about the benefits of CBD for children, you likely have two questions on your mind. How much does CBD cost? Will my insurance pay for CBD?

Health insurance companies won’t cover CBD products, but that may change in the future as the Drug Enforcement Agency and Federal Drug Administration continue to approve CBD-based medication for specific medical conditions. For now, most insurance policies won’t even cover medicinal marijuana prescribed by a doctor.

It’s common for parents to spend hundreds of dollars a month on CBD for their children. For some, the cost can hit $1,000 per month. Pure CBD tinctures derived from the hemp plant are most commonly used for pediatric application, and the purest products are often the most expensive. The total cost for a child depends on the type of product used and the amount consumed each month.