Is CBD Safe for Children? The Growing Debate
Is CBD Safe for Children? The Growing Debate
A rising trend in America sees parents turning to hemp or marijuana extracts like CBD for their children. However, the scientific community remains undecided on its efficacy.
Priscilla Batista, a mother from Charlotte, N.C., is grappling with her highly emotional 4-year-old daughter. Suspecting an attention deficit disorder, without an official diagnosis, Batista has resorted to CBD (cannabidiol) for assistance.
CBD is among the renowned compounds found in cannabis, with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) being another. THC induces a high, while CBD does not, though it might make some users feel relaxed. Products containing CBD have soared in popularity, ranging from oils and gummy candies to soaps and pet treats.
A 2019 Gallup poll revealed that 14% of over 2,500 Americans use CBD products for issues like pain, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Though statistics regarding children's usage are scarce, many parents are discussing the use of CBD for conditions such as autism and ADHD in online communities. A survey even found that 40% of more than 500 parents have used CBD products for autism-related behaviors.
Controlled research involving CBD and children is limited. Only one CBD-based drug has been approved for rare types of epilepsy in children, and though there are promising signs, solid evidence is lacking for its effectiveness in other conditions, such as other seizures, autism, or anxiety.
John Mitchell, a clinician at Duke ADHD Clinic, sympathizes with parents seeking options but warns that the current excitement surpasses the scientific backing. He's hesitant to promise anything, labeling it an "open question."
CBD is generally considered safe by the World Health Organization, with no evidence of recreational abuse or public health issues. However, risks do exist, especially for children. The FDA has stated that CBD may cause liver injury and could affect developing brains. Additionally, the unregulated nature of most CBD products means they might contain hazardous additives.
Hints of Potential Benefits
The only FDA-approved drug containing CBD, Epidiolex, treats two severe forms of childhood epilepsy. Early evidence also suggests that CBD might control seizures from other conditions.
Studies have hinted at CBD's potential benefits for autistic children. In one 2019 study, over 80% of parents of 155 autistic children reported significant or moderate improvements after using CBD oil for six months.
Despite the lack of controlled trials for ADHD, many parents are trying CBD products for this condition, though the scientific proof is still lacking. Mitchell advocates for proven stimulant-based medications, recognizing the appeal of CBD as a seemingly milder alternative.
Batista's experience reflects this sentiment. She wants to avoid medicating her daughter with something that might dull her personality, yet she doesn't want her to fall behind academically. She has opted for CBD and remains hopeful about its potential benefits.
Some studies and anecdotal reports also suggest that CBD might alleviate anxiety, a symptom that often accompanies autism and ADHD. Contrarily, there isn't much evidence to support CBD's reputation for improving sleep.
No Universal Solution
CBD's effectiveness varies among individuals. Kelly Cervantes, a mother from Chicago, used CBD for her daughter's severe spasms but saw her symptoms worsen. Additionally, signs of liver failure appeared. Cervantes emphasizes that CBD is not without side effects and isn't a one-size-fits-all solution.
Quality control is another concern. Independent testing has revealed inaccurate ingredient concentrations and even the absence of cannabinoids in some products. There can also be contaminants like pesticides and heavy metals.
While it's nearly impossible to overdose on pure CBD, synthetic versions can be toxic. Concerns over CBD products led to an alert from the American Association of Poison Control Centers in 2019.
Healthcare Communication is Key
Parents like Cervantes who have tried CBD often resort to online purchases. More regulation and open doctor-patient communication might alleviate concerns about its association with marijuana.
Mitchell urges healthcare professionals to be open to discussing options, while Batista's experience with doctors has been one of caution without endorsement.
Batista continues to use CBD for her daughter, choosing a company that verifies its contents through independent testing. She's still uncertain about its effectiveness but clings to the hope that this gentle substance with limited side effects might help her child. "I want to think that it's helping," she reflects.
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