What is CBD?
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a compound originally found in marijuana. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the major constituent of marijuana, CBD does not have any psychoactive properties, so it does not get you “high”. CBD-rich drugs and supplements have been thoroughly studied for their effectiveness in treating many medical conditions, and strong evidence suggests that CBD has many therapeutic properties in treating pain, sleep disorders, inflammatory conditions, and nausea, particularly in the adult population. However, the use of this compound in children is questioned, and many parents are worried that CBD oil could negatively affect their children’s health. Therefore, in this article, we will discuss the different uses of CBD in children and whether or not CBD is considered a safe therapeutic option.
Is CBD of Therapeutic Benefit in Children?
In the previous decades, the medical uses of CBD have increased dramatically. However, the beneficial effects of CBD were mainly tested on adults, with limited evidence regarding their efficacy in the pediatric population (children). That being said, the potential therapeutic applications of CBD have recently been tested in children with certain neurological conditions.
CBD Use in Epilepsy
CBD is widely used as supplementation to treat different medical conditions or to boost the health status and immune system of CBD users. However, the drug forms of CBD are very limited. That being said, “Epidiolex” is the only CBD-rich drug that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used in children with certain types of epilepsy, known as Lennox Gastaut syndrome.
Based on a recent clinical trial of children (1-17 years of age) with refractory epilepsy (seizure that is irresponsive to standard treatment), CBD has shown great benefit in reducing the frequency of seizure attacks. The kids that were enrolled in this trial were on various antiepileptic drugs, and CBD was given to them orally as add-on therapy at a dose of 5 mg/kg/day, which was further increased every week by 5 mg/kg/day to reach a final dose of 25 mg/kg/day. This trial was continued for a period of 4 years, and CBD successfully reduced the frequency of seizures by 50% as compared to baseline (before enrollment into the trial). However, it was noted that the majority (80.8%) of enrolled children experienced some sort of side effect, of which decreased appetite and diarrhea were the most common. That being said, it should be noted that these children were also treated with standard antiepileptic drugs, which are associated with many side effects, and this could explain why most children in this trial experienced at least one side effect.
In the same context, a review of all of the available evidence regarding the use of CBD in children with epilepsy was published in Feb 2020. The researchers concluded that recent evidence supports the beneficial effects of CBD in reducing the frequency of seizures in children with refractory or drug-resistant epilepsy.
CBD Use in Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a medical condition that is characterized by significant burdens on social interactions, verbal and non-verbal communications, and repetitive movement. These effects are long-lasting, with no available cure for this condition. There are many children that are affected by ASD; based on the recent report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 1 in every 54 children is diagnosed with ASD. Since this condition is incurable, most of the used drugs are aimed at alleviating the associated symptoms.
A large number of research studies indicate that the use of CBD oil can help reduce the symptoms of ASD among affected children. In a recent study, oral drops of CBD oil were administered to children with ASD, and it was shown that CBD was effective in improving the symptoms of ASD with no serious side effects. Therefore, it is highly suggested that CBD can minimize the burden associated with ASD in affected children.
Other Uses of CBD in Children
The medical applications of CBD in children in increasing over time, with more research being conducted in this context. For example, a recent clinical study among children (1-17 years of age) with complex motor disorders reported that CBD resulted in significant improvement in the following parameters: spasticity and dystonia, sleep problems, severe pain, and quality of life.
Furthermore, CBD has been studied in many pediatric medical conditions; however, the evidence that supports its benefits in treating these conditions remains limited. The other potential therapeutic applications of CBD in children include the following:
- Neuropathic pain
- Major depressive disorder
- Sleep problems in post-traumatic stress syndrome
- Tourette syndrome
Is it Safe to Use CBD in Children?
Despite the promising effects of CBD in treating many medical conditions in children, parents are still worried about the safety of CBD in children, and they often have the following question in mind: “can CBD be harmful to my child in any way?”
The answer to this question depends on many factors:
- For which condition is CBD used?
- What is the dose of CBD?
- How is CBD given?
- For how long is CBD given?
Recent evidence highlights that pure CBD is completely tolerable and safe in children, particularly when it is used to treat epilepsy. However, children might experience some side effects that are not serious at all, such as diarrhea, constipation, and weight loss.
Finally, it is advised to consult a physician prior to using CBD in children because the effective dose of CBD in children is different from that in adults.