Is CBD safe for your child, or is it putting your child at risk?

May 8, 2020

CBD hit the mainstream media earlier this month when the New York Times ran the controversial headline “Should You Give Your Kids CBD?” The article, which interviewed parents that dose their children with cannabidiol, noted that CBD has become the latest craze around the mommy-blog set these days. Yet, researchers are still not sure of its efficacy. 

The article opens with Charlotte, N.C. mom Priscilla Batista. She believes her 4-year-old daughter has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — though the kid doesn’t have an official diagnosis as of yet — and gives her CBD for help. “Every toddler obviously is emotional, but she’s a pretty constant, volatile child,” Batista told the Times. “It doesn’t allow her to focus. She’s just struggling.”

However, as the Times notes, there has been very little research done into the effectiveness of CBD for kids. To date, only one drug has been approved by the FDA — Epidiolex, the CBD medication developed by GW Pharmaceuticals for two rare forms of epilepsy. 

John Mitchell, a clinician at Duke ADHD Clinic in Durham, N.C. told the Times that parents need to be cautious when giving their kids anything without first speaking with a doctor, especially something as unproven as CBD. “When you’re desperate, you want options,” he said. “I’m a parent myself. I get it.”

“I’m very hesitant to say anything promising about it. It’s an open question,” the article quoted him as saying.

According to the New York Times, a Gallup poll from last year found that nearly 14 percent of Americans, out of almost 2500 surveyed used CBD. The top reasons given were for pain, anxiety, and sleep issues. While it is more difficult to discern how many parents are giving their children CBD, the Times found that, according to at least one survey, nearly 40 percent of parents claim to have given it to their children on the autism spectrum.

And although the World Health Organization states that CBD is relatively safe to use, with no negative consequences or potential for abuse, the FDA has cautioned that it may cause liver problems. One researcher told the Times that “[these] are still kids,” arguing that it is unsafe to give them something untested. He also explained that many CBD products are of lower quality and made with unknown substances.

Some research has shown positive results when it comes to CBD and children on the autism spectrum. Dr. Gal Meiri, M.D., clinical director of the National Autism Research Center of Israel at Ben Gurion University of the Negev co-authored a study last year that found that 80 percent of children responded well to CBD according to their parents the Times reports. However, researchers caution that the study measured parents' perceptions rather than the actual results of the drug itself.

“I’m trying to be very cautious about it,” said Meiri to the Times. “We still don’t have enough research about safety and efficacy.”

Some parents, however, have had less success with CBD. The Times interviewed Kelly Cervantes, a mother and health activist in Chicago who claimed to have given her daughter CBD for help with a neurodegenerative condition with severe infantile spasms.

“We were desperate, and we wanted to try anything we could,” she told the Times, noting that CBD made her child’s condition worse. “It entirely depends on the child. There is no one pill, one oil, one treatment that is going to cure everyone.”

Right now, doctors agree that parents should consult with a medical professional before giving their child anything, let alone CBD. As Mitchell told the Times, “parents may assume that a doctor will respond in a negative way.” However, she noted, a doctor is only concerned with the best interests of the child.

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