Most parents say CBD for kids should require a doctor’s prescription, while 7% have given or considered giving it to children for medical reasons. Learn if it’s proven safe to give CBD to your child with ADHD, along with common concerns about it.
CBD and parents’ attitudes about giving it to children
Most parents say CBD for kids should require a doctor’s prescription, while 7% have given or considered giving it to children for medical reasons.
Products containing cannabidiol, or CBD, a chemical compound naturally found in marijuana and hemp, have been used in recent years to help adults manage medical issues like chronic pain and mood disorders.
While its use is much more limited in children, some CBD products have been marketed for minors as well.
But despite the wide availability of CBD, parents have limited knowledge about it, with a third thinking it’s the same as using marijuana, suggests the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health .
And while the majority haven’t even considered having their child use a CBD product, three in four parents appeared open-minded about the possibility, saying it may be a good option for medical care when other medications don’t work.
“There is very little data on how CBD may impact children’s developing brains and only certain types of situations when it’s considered for pediatric medical reasons. Still, CBD has become much more accessible and widely advertised, with some companies claiming benefits for kids,” said Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark, M.P.H.
The nationally representative poll report is based on responses from 1,992 parents of children 3-18 years surveyed in October 2021.
Seven percent of parents have given or considered giving their child a CBD product, with the most common reasons including anxiety (51%), sleep problems (40%), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, (33%), muscle pain (20%), autism (19%) and to make their child feel better in general (13%).
Among parents who say they’ve given or considered giving CBD to their child, less than a third have talked with their child’s health care provider about CBD use.
And while three quarters of parents felt CBD for children should require a doctor’s prescription, only 63% rated the recommendation of their child’s doctor as a strong factor in deciding whether to give their child a CBD product.
“Anecdotal stories of children benefiting from CBD may sound alluring but just because it’s a plant product doesn’t necessarily make it safe or effective in children.”
“Our poll suggests most parents have very limited knowledge about CBD products,” Clark said. “It’s important for parents to inform their pediatrician or other healthcare providers if they’re considering CBD use in kids so that they can discuss potential risks.”
Most parents cited side effects as the most important factor in deciding whether to give their child a CBD product. Other considerations included whether it was tested for safety in children, how well it works in children, approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and product reviews.
The majority of parents have never used a CBD product themselves, while 24% have tried it and 5% use a CBD product regularly, according to the poll report.
Many unknowns on side effects
CBD products are sold online and in stores that specialize in CBD products, as well as in supermarkets and drugstores and come in many forms, including oils, topical ointments, vaping, edibles and gummies.
The FDA has only approved one purified form of the drug substance CBD for children to treat rare seizures that don’t respond to medication. Studies have also looked at CBD use in children with hyperactivity, anxiety, sleep problems and depression but research remains limited.
Side effects could include sleepiness, fatigue, and diarrhea, and experts have raised concerns about CBD’s potential to interact with other medications and adversely impact the liver. But since CBD products have not undergone rigorous testing for FDA approval, the rate and severity of side effects remain unclear, particularly for children.
To be legal, CBD must have less than .3% of tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly referred to as THC, the chemical that produces most of marijuana’s psychological and “high” effects. Many manufacturers purport to contain close to 0% THC, but the lack of regulation of CBD products also raises questions about quality control in the production of various products, experts say.
“Parents who see promotional content claiming CBD benefits kids with certain conditions should be aware that products seen online or in stores are not regulated by the FDA and may be mislabeled,” Clark said. “This makes it difficult for parents to know exactly what they’re buying and what their child may be exposed to.
“Anecdotal stories of children benefiting from CBD may sound alluring but just because it’s a plant product doesn’t necessarily make it safe or effective in children. We need more evidence to understand CBD’s short- and long-term side effects in kids.”
Is it Safe to Give a Child CBD for ADHD?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is gaining widespread popularity. A 2019 Gallup poll found that 14% of Americans use CBD for issues such as sleep, anxiety, and pain. A medicine that contains CBD, Epidiolex, is used in children with a certain kind of epilepsy. CBD is being promoted as an alternative treatment for ADHD. You may be wondering if it’s a safe and effective treatment for your child with ADHD.
What is CBD?
CBD is a component of cannabis and medical marijuana, but it’s derived from the hemp plant, a cousin of the marijuana plant. CBD by itself won’t get you high. It doesn’t contain THC, which is the chemical in marijuana that causes you to get high.
CBD products are available in a wide variety of products, including oil, gummies, vaping, and lotion. Because marijuana and cannabis products have been illegal in the US since 1970, there haven’t been many studies done on them. CBD derived from hemp is now federally legal. However, CBD derived from marijuana is still federally illegal.
Does CBD Help ADHD?
The research into whether CBD helps ADHD is very limited. Most of the available research has focused on cannabis products that also contain THC.
A small study in 2017 found that adults treated with Sativex, which contains CBD and THC, experienced a small reduction in ADD symptoms with no cognitive impairment. However, the improvement was not significantly better than the improvement with placebo.
Another study that was done in 2020 found that adults who took higher doses of medical cannabis took fewer ADHD medicines and reported lower ADHD scores.
There is no scientific proof that CBD works or is safe for children. Until there is some proof that CBD is safe or effective to treat ADD, stimulant medicines such as Adderall are still a better option. There is some evidence that CBD oil may help with anxiety, which some kids with ADHD also have. A 2018 study done on 60 children with autism showed that anxiety improved in 39% of the children.
Is CBD Safe for Children?
There is no evidence that the CBD products on the market are safe or effective for children. The FDA has only approved one CBD product, a prescription drug called Epidiolex that treats seizures associated with certain types of epilepsy in patients older than 1. Epidiolex has been studied in clinical trials. While it has proven to be effective at reducing seizures, it has shown significant risks and side effects including:
- Elevated liver enzymes
- Decreased appetite
- Sleep problems
- Increase in suicidal thoughts
- Interference in how other medicines including propofol, bupropion, morphine, clobazam, lorazepam, and phenytoin work
The long-term effects of CBD are not known. CBD oil has not been studied adequately in clinical trials for problems such as ADHD. The American Academy of Pediatricians of Pediatrics does not support any use of medical marijuana products that haven’t been approved by the FDA.
Problems with Unproven Medical Claims
Any CBD products other than Epidiolex making medical claims have not been evaluated by the FDA. They have also not been evaluated to determine the proper dose or for any dangerous side effects or other safety concerns. The FDA has tested the chemical of CBD in some products and found that they did not contain the amount of CBD in which they claimed.
Other Safety Concerns
In addition to possible side effects and unproven medical claims, there are some other safety concerns with CBD oil including:
- Products deliver an unreliable amount of CBD. There is no way to know how much you’re getting.
- There is no way to know how much is absorbed. Different delivery methods such as vaping, taking it orally, and eating it have different rates of absorption.
- Products contain other ingredients that may not be safe.
- There is no way to know what dose to give your child.
Child Mind Institute: “CBD: What Parents Need to Know.”
Contemporary Pediatrics: “Examining cannabidiol use in children.”
European Neuropsychopharmacology: “Cannabinoids in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A randomised-controlled trial.”
Gallup: “14% of Americans Say They Use CBD Products.”
Harvard Health Publishing: “Cannabidiol (CBD) — what we know and what we don’t.”
Pediatrics Northwest: “Medical Use of Cannabis and CBD in Children.”
Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal: “Cannabinoid and Terpenoid Doses are Associated with Adult ADHD Status of Medical Cannabis Patients.”
Scientific Reports: “Real life Experience of Medical Cannabis Treatment in Autism: Analysis of Safety and Efficacy.”
US Food and Drug Administration: “What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD.”