CBD… for kids? What?
Well, it’s not actually as insane as it might sound. CBD may exist within the marijuana plant, but what few people know is that cannabinoids similar to CBD exist within the human body completely naturally. In fact, we have an entire health system specifically designed to interact with those cannabinoids, known as the endocannabinoid system.
And thanks to a few notable landmark cases, as well as more frequent studies in recent years (including the recent FDA-approval of Epidiolex), we have been able to find out exactly how CBD affects child epilepsy patients, as well as if there are any negative effects.
In this article, we look at the all-too-common question: “is CBD safe for kids?” While we emphasize the fact that we are NOT clinical practitioners (and thus NONE of the following information should be taken as medical advice), you may be surprised to learn just how safe CBD oil actually is — no matter the age of the person taking it.
What About THC?
First, it’s important to understand that CBD is indeed a natural component of the Cannabis sativa plant – the same plant that produces the iconic “marijuana high.”
CBD is not, however, the same as THC. THC is the notorious compound that allows users of marijuana to unleash the psychoactive high, and while CBD may exist alongside this mind-altering cannabinoid, it does not in any way share its psychoactive effects.
In short, CBD does not get you high. Administering CBD is essentially no different to taking any other medicine; it’s just that this medicine happens to come from the cannabis plant.
Now that that’s out of the way, what exactly is CBD — and what does it do?
What is CBD Oil?
As we’ve said, CBD is the non-psychoactive component of Cannabis sativa that exists alongside THC. In common strains, CBD generally exists at about one tenth the amount of THC.
The extracted oil has a number of useful medical properties, thanks to the way that it interacts with the endocannabinoid system.
This system exists throughout the body and helps regulate a variety of functions, including the incredibly vital task of cellular regrowth and the release of particular brain chemicals. CBD interacts primarily with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which in turn encourage the body to produce more naturally-occuring cannabinoids.
The endocannabinoid system is used by our body to kickstart cellular healing and trigger inflammation or other body responses to infection. By essentially tricking the endocannabinoid system, we can help mitigate painful symptoms – and could potentially even modulate and control a variety of diseases.
How, though, can we know that CBD is safe for kids? It’s all well and good that it’s being used to help adults, but how we do we know it won’t harm a children’s development?
CBD and Child Safety
A good deal of research has been conducted into the effects marijuana has on young people, both in regard to brain development and healthy bone growth.
Interestingly enough, conclusions of most these studies are still ambiguous, as one study conducted by Meier et al. found that many previous studies demonstrating danger to children actually failed to take into account alcohol and cigarette usage as well.
This is significant because, if a teenager smokes marijuana illegally, they are more likely to also be smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol. These two substances have long been established to be detrimental to a child’s development – especially alcohol.
That being said, studies into the benefit of CBD specifically for children are lacking.
There was one recent study, however, conducted by Dr. Scott Shannon, that examined the potential for CBD oil to help children deal with pediatric anxiety and insomnia as a result of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). In the study, Shannon administered CBD to his ten year old subject who had suffered sexual abuse and PTSD.
During this trial, Shannon discovered a maintained decrease in anxiety and a continuous improvement in the quantity and quality of the young girl’s sleep. This was accompanied by a complete lack of serious side effects, in contrast to the various pharmaceutical medications that were used previously to treat her psychological condition.
This study is significant in that it provides concrete clinical data to support the use of CBD as a safe and stable treatment for PTSD symptoms and anxieties in children.
Thanks to Shannon, we know that CBD can work to combat anxiety in children, but what about with other conditions?
The Case of Charlotte Figi
It is likely that, at some point in the last several years, you’ve heard mention of the name Charlotte Figi. Charlotte was a normal girl born to a suitably normal family, who was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome – one of the most serious and frequently seizure-dense forms of epilepsy. Dravet syndrome is particularly terrible because it can cause upwards of 300 grand mal seizures every month.
Obviously, Charlotte suffered hugely from her condition. The mix of different drugs she was taking was beginning to cause a myriad of developmental damage – she was swiftly approaching a point of no longer being able to grow as a person.
However, when she was 5-years-old and facing a daily risk of death due to grand mal seizures, it was decided to go ahead and try CBD. Thankfully, marijuana growers in Colorado developed a strain of high CBD/low THC Cannabis, from which they were able to extract a suitable oil.
They began by applying it to Charlotte’s food and, amazingly, it worked. The young girl’s seizures went from 300 intense, dangerous, and painful grand mal episodes a month, to just 2-3 – most of which took place in her sleep.
Charlotte Figi has now faded into relative obscurity as a medical case, because she is no longer significant – her seizures have been managed. She is now living a relatively normal life, and has demonstrated no long-term side effects or negative consequences due to her frequent CBD oil usage.
However, what are the risks for CBD? Even if Charlotte doesn’t have long-term side effects, there must be a few issues still present?
CBD Side Effects in Children
Indeed, CBD does express a few side effects. Realistically, whenever you take any form of medication, there’s pretty much always going to be a side effect due to the fact that you are administering a foreign substance into your body.
In a study conducted by Kerstin Iffland and Franjo Grotenhermen for the International Cannabinoid Research Society, scientists explored survey data from the perspective of the side effects of CBD, using thousands of individual cases wherein CBD was used medicinally.
The researchers found that the most widely reported side effects were tiredness, diarrhea, and small fluctuations in appetite and weight. Iffland and Grotenhermen were especially looking at CBD as compared to other medications used to treat epilepsy, and they found that when compared to the invasive multitude of drugs necessary to treat chronic seizures, CBD was far and away more preferable than any other drug.
In fact, symptoms were reduced when paired with specific drugs, as in the famous example of combining CBD and Clobazam for epileptic patients (demonstrated in a study conducted by Geffrey et al).
The researchers did list one caveat, however: There was an insufficient amount of research conducted into hormonal development. That isn’t to say that children’s hormonal levels are in danger from CBD, just that there currently aren’t any scientific publications demonstrating – with certainty – that there are no long-term hormonal changes.
Final Thoughts: Is CBD Safe for Kids?
CBD has the potential to help a huge number of children. It has been demonstrated to be useful in combating a variety of psychological conditions, including anorexia and depression. It has also shown to be helpful for cellular regrowth, and thus combating skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
Sadly, for many people CBD is still stigmatized due to its association with marijuana. It is fair and understandable to not want your children smoking actual marijuana, due to its characteristic high (as well as the potential side effects for psychosis and other undesirable conditions).
However, CBD bears no similarity to THC in regard to its psychoactive properties. It appears to help in healing your body, and works to encourage the immune system to get over diseases and heal more quickly, all by simply encouraging your natural defense and repair systems.
As with most medicines, CBD appears to work just as well in children as it does with adults. Though the relative quantities and dosages change, CBD can have the same benefits for a child’s health as it does an adult, as demonstrated by the innumerable cases of CBD successfully helping children with diseases – particularly in the form of epilepsy.
Most importantly of all, CBD does not appear to bring with it any kind of long-term side effects, nor does it force addiction or dependence on the user.
In terms of a child-friendly medication with a wide variety of applications, CBD is easily administered, easily bought (from the right US state) and easily understood.
That being said, always make sure to speak with a doctor or other clinical practitioner before giving your child any form of CBD oil or other CBD-based supplement. As we mentioned in the intro, we are NOT medical professionals, and as such none of the information contained in this article should be taken as clinical advice.