Cannabidiol (CBD) Oil for Children with Anxiety

CBD oil is considered by many to be a medical and therapeutic superstar. In recent times, CBD, which is derived from the cannabis plant, has risen significantly in popularity, especially as CBD products have continued to become legalized in many states, and healthcare practitioners have found success in utilizing CBD with their patients.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring cannabinoid found in hemp and marijuana plants. It’s one of the 113 cannabinoids that have been isolated to date and, alongside THC, is amongst the most well known and most extensively studied. While both are phytocannabinoids, or compounds that occur naturally in plants from the Cannabis family, CBD does not elicit any psychoactive high while THC does. CBD is touted for its anti-seizure, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipsychotic, antitumor, chronic pain-relieving, and antidepressant benefits.

Key Points:

  • Cannabidiol oil is an effective anxiolytic cannabinoid derived from hemp, a Cannabis sativa plant containing less than 0.3% THC, though not to be confused with the Psychotropic cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or marijuana, which have both been linked to frequency of anxiety disorders and adverse reactions
  • CBD is completely legal and safe even in high doses
  • Always consult with your physician or your child’s physician before incorporating CBD into your or their supplement regime
  • CBD is effective for reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety disorder in both human models and animal models
  • Cannabis is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, and as a result, the FDA does not currently approve of CBD oil and CBD supplements
  • Several organizations do test for potency, purity, and quality of CBD supplements and when searching for high-quality CBD, consumers can look for those organizations’ seals for efficacy

What’s the difference between THC and CBD?

People often think of CBD and THC as marijuana. Are they both in hemp oil? Can they both make you high? Which is safe and legal?

THC and CBD both offer health benefits, and they both interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is present in most mammalian species, including humans, and it regulates a variety of physiological and cognitive functions to promote homeostatic balance. The endocannabinoid system primarily influences the homeostasis of sleep, mood, appetite, and pain regulation.

CBD, or cannabidiol, interacts with CB1 and CB2 receptors somewhat differently than THC or tetrahydrocannabinol –CBD does not induce a psychoactive high, but THC does merit psychoactive effects. Much of this has to do with a difference in their genetic makeup.

CB1 is a cannabinoid receptor, located within the peripheral nervous system and the central nervous system, and it is especially abundant within the brain. As part of the endocannabinoid system, it is activated by both endogenous neurotransmitters as well as naturally occurring exogenous compounds, such as the phytocannabinoids CBD and THC isolated from plants of the cannabis genus.

THC is a partial CB1 antagonist, meaning that it can stimulate the CB1 receptors and induce psychotropic effects –the “high” that marijuana is commonly associated with. CBD, on the other hand, is classified as a negative allosteric modulator of CB1 receptors, which means, in simpler terms, that is alters the shape of the CB1 receptors and makes it incredibly difficult for CB1 antagonists like THC to stimulate the receptors at all.

It is typically assumed that CBD potentially modulates the effects of THC by preventing THC from binding with the CB1 receptors, which is what partially makes CBD such an incredible anti-anxiety supplement with therapeutic benefits, especially if a patient has supplemented with medically approved marijuana in the past and noticed adverse effects such as paranoia and anxiety.

CBD has been used medicinally for thousands of years, dating back to the year 100 AD in Chinese texts. In the past several years, Cannabis (particularly CBD) has gained traction quite rapidly and can be found anywhere from coffee shops and juiceries as supplemental additives to prescription pharmaceuticals.

Does CBD Cause Anxiety?

One facet that has been questioned and warrants more explanation is the use of cannabinoids in the treatment of anxiety in children for their well-being. Does CBD have the potential to induce or reduce anxiety?

There is some level of controversy regarding whether or not CBD is effective for reducing anxiety – some have reported that anxiety disorders are more prevalent in frequent cannabis users. Those with anxiety disorders tend to use cannabis somewhat frequently. This could largely be due to the psychoactive properties of THC when not accompanied by CBD (i.e., that which is derived from smoking the marijuana plant or supplementing with an isolated form of THC). A 2011 study states, “The most frequently reported adverse effects are mental slowness, impaired reaction times, and sometimes an accentuation of anxiety.”

Other sources state that short-term marijuana in high doses may incur symptoms of paranoia and psychosis, while long term use of marijuana (particularly in adolescents) may alter brain development and increase the risk of psychosis disorders such as schizophrenia, especially in persons who are genetically or environmentally predisposed to such disorders.

CBD, on the other hand, is a different therapeutic entity entirely. First, it is important to address the difference between Hemp and Marijuana in the United States. Marijuana is defined as any Cannabis sativa plant containing THC at a concentration of 0.3 percent or greater. In contrast, Hemp is any Cannabis sativa plant containing a concentration of 0.3 percent or less of THC. As mentioned previously, it is likely that THC that is correlated to adverse effects such as anxiety and paranoia, not cannabidiol (CBD), which blocks CB1 receptors from absorbing THC.

Marijuana is commonly associated with adverse effects such as changes in visual perception, diminished sperm count, slowed pupillary light response, dry mouth, impaired coordination, dysphoria, dizziness, anxiety, and an altered sense of time. THC may cause similar (though more temporary) side effects such as increased heart rate, dry mouth, redness of the eyes, impaired coordination, delayed or slowed reaction times, and temporary loss of memory.

Meanwhile, CBD touts therapeutic benefits with minimized risk. CBD is well-tolerated, even at higher doses, and research has indicated that most (if not all) side effects associated with CBD supplementation are more likely results of interactions between CBD and pharmaceutical drugs or medicines and not results of CBD supplementation alone. Always, of course, contact your primary physician or naturopath before incorporating CBD into your or your child’s regimen to ensure that CBD is not contraindicated or prohibited by any of the supplements or pharmaceuticals within your current regime.

CBD for Reducing Anxiety

In both human studies and animal studies on Cannabidiol (CBD), CBD has been shown to offer anxiolytic properties. A 2014 study from the Institute of Psychiatry found that, in animal models, CBD exhibited anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and antidepressant benefits. Most studies also observed a positive interaction between CBD and the neuroreceptor 5-HT1A.  

A study published in October of 2015 states that cannabidiol (or CBD) is a pharmacologically broad-spectrum drug and that it has brought in an increasing interest as a neuropsychiatric disorder treatment. The purpose of the research study was to determine the potential that CBD has as a treatment for disorders related to anxiety, by way of assessing evidence found in preclinical, human experimental, clinical and epidemiological studies. The researchers found that existing preclinical evidence strongly supported CBD used as a treatment for social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder when it is administered acutely. Few studies have examined chronic CBD dosing, however. Furthermore, evidence from human studies does support an anxiolytic role of CBD. However, it is also limited to acute dosing, and these studies are few and only in clinical populations. Overall, evidence indicates the potential of CBD for treatment for anxiety disorders, with a need for further studies of therapeutic effects of the substance.

Furthermore, stress is a significant contributing factor to anxiety disorders, and research also finds that traumatic stress exposure is crucial to the onset and development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). When CBD is administered systemically, it has been shown to manage and reduce acute acceleration in heart rate and blood pressure. A sub-chronic animal study found that dosing CBD daily one hour after exposure to predator stress was able to effectively reduce the anxiogenic effects of chronic (repeated) predator stress. Interestingly, CBD was found to have anxiogenic (anxiety-inducing) effects when injected in unstressed animals, but when administered to animals following restraint-induced stressed, CBD offered anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) benefits.

The study goes on to state in summary,

Overall, existing preclinical evidence strongly supports the potential of CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorders.”

This is because  CBD exhibits a wide array of actions, including panicolytic, anxiolytic and anticompulsive actions, in addition to a decrease in autonomic arousal. Furthermore, a decrease in fear expression, reconsolidation blockade and even the prevention of the long term effects of stress are associated with CBD. The activation of 5-HT1ARs has proven to mediate panicolytic and anxiolytic effects, as well as reducing fear expression – although the CB1R activation may have a limited role in this process.

The 2015 study also cites,

While CBD predominantly has acute anxiolytic effects, some species discrepancies are apparent. In addition, effects may be contingent on prior stress and vary according to brain region. A notable contrast between CBD and other agents that target the eCB system, including THC, direct CB1R agonists and FAAH inhibitors, is a lack of anxiogenic effects at a higher dose. Further receptor-specific studies may elucidate the receptor specific basis of this distinct dose response profile. Further studies are also required to establish the efficacy of CBD when administered in chronic dosing, as relatively few relevant studies exist, with mixed results, including both anxiolytic and anxiogenic outcomes.

Overall, preclinical evidence supports systemic CBD as an acute treatment of GAD, SAD, PD, OCD, and PTSD, and suggests that CBD has the advantage of not producing anxiogenic effects at higher doses, as distinct from other agents that enhance CB1R activation. In particular, the results show potential for the treatment of multiple PTSD symptom domains, including reducing arousal and avoidance, preventing the long-term adverse effects of stress, as well as enhancing the extinction and blocking the reconsolidation of persistent fear memories.”

A 2016 case study published by the University of Colorado School of Medicine observed a 10-year old patient dealing with anxiety and altered sleep patterns resulting from the post-traumatic stress disorder. They found that pharmaceutical medicines offered only partial relief, though they also incurred major side effects and the benefits of the medications were not long-lasting.

With a trial of supplementation and use of CBD oil as an alternative treatment to prescription pharmaceuticals for anxiety reduction, it was found that treatment with CBD Oil resulted in an overall decrease in anxiety and improvement in the patient’s sleep patterns.

A 2016 study explains that CBD has been shown to impart anxiolytic benefits in animal models. 5-HT1A receptors partially mediate the anxiolytic effects, and additionally, CBD may affect autonomic responses to stress by interacting with neurotransmissions mediated by 5-HT1A receptors. In human models, CBD may reverse anxiety and has been shown to impart anxiogenic effects in stimulated public speaking tasks. [ref. 8]

Additionally, the same study found that CBD may modulate the sleep-wake cycle, though the evidence of this effect is still somewhat inconclusive and certain sources provide contradictory indications.

A preliminary study, published by the Department of Neuroscience and Behavior at the School of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, observed controls with social phobias and anxiety in a stimulated speaking environment. Their findings showed that by pre-treating the controls with CBD, the controls’ anxiety was reduced significantly and they experienced reduced cognitive impairment, reduced discomfort, and reduced alert levels when compared to the placebo control group.

CBD for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? PTSD is generally characterized as a poor adaptive response to one or numerous stressful experience(s). PTSD affects around 8 out of every 100 people (about 7-8% of the population) at some point in their lives. Approximately eight million people have PTSD within a given year – and that count is only for those who have been diagnosed, not accounting for those who have encountered trauma and poor adaptations that go undiagnosed.

Recent research has indicated that the endocannabinoid system is involved in the processing of emotional memories and that there is potential for CBD to play a possible therapeutic role in the treatment of PTSD. Pre-clinical studies of observing rodent behavior have found that CBD shows promising efficacy for the extinction of traumatic and adverse memories. Additionally, in studies on humans, CBD has been shown to alter the emotional effects of trauma that may trigger PTSD by improving neurological response and reducing the symptomatic prevalence of PTSD.

The same study states, “Human and animal studies suggest that CBD may offer therapeutic benefits for disorders related to inappropriate responses to traumatic memories. The effects of CBD on the different stages of aversive memory processing make this compound a candidate pharmacological adjunct to psychological therapies for PTSD. CBD also shows an action profile with fewer side effects than the pharmacological therapy currently used to treat this type of disorder. In addition, even at high doses, CBD does not show the anxiogenic profile of compounds that directly activate eCB transmission.

Is it safe for my child?

The clinical evidence is strong for CBD. While a small percentage of trials showed little to no effect, the vast majority points to the efficacy of CBD as a potent anxiolytic supplement when dosed properly with a high-quality CBD supplement.

Ensure that you work with your primary physician, naturopath, registered dietician, or nutritionist, herbalist or any licensed healthcare professional with appropriate credentials to determine what products and doses may be best for your child. Start with small doses to assess whether your child responds positively or negatively to CBD.

CBD has been shown to modulate stress response, prevent the development of or even modulate the effects of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and may potentially improve sleep patterns – nearly all of the clinical findings point to CBD being an excellent therapeutic supplement, and substantial at that. The caveat seems to be where to find high-quality CBD.

To date, the FDA has only approved four products associated with cannabis; one derived from cannabis and three related to cannabis, which are available only with a prescription. This is, in part, why it is so difficult to determine what CBD oil or CBD products are reliable, safe, and potent.

Without FDA regulation, most CBD products are subject to very little quality control. Nearly any company may bottle and sell “CBD oil”, but in order to find CBD products that are ensured to be safe and effective, you may have to consider more investigation.

The FDA warns,

“Unlike drugs approved by the FDA, products that have not been subject to FDA review as part of the drug approval process have not been evaluated as to whether they work, what the proper dosage may be if they do work, how they could interact with other drugs, or whether they have dangerous side effects or other safety concerns.”

Despite the FDA’s unwavering current stance to not approve CBD oil ,mainly due to legality over cannabis being classified as a Schedule 1 drug [ref 12], there are organizations that are working to provide the consumer market with higher CBD standards, such as The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), the U.S. Hemp Authority, and the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia. These organizations utilize quality control testing in the following facets:

  • Testing for potency

By testing the cannabinoid profiles of each supplement and product, these organizations measure the concentrations of active cannabinoids in each sample. The primary cannabinoids that they test for are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

  • Testing for Terpenes

Terpenes are strong aromatic compounds that offer additional therapeutic benefit. These organizations test to ensure that the Terpenes are active and undamaged.

  • Testing for potentially harmful contaminants

These organizations also test for residual solvents, pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals. Anything that could potentially harm the user rather than help is tested for, and items that do not pass these tests cannot get the seal. This ensures that the products on the market bearing these organization’s seals provide high-quality, tested, contaminant-free CBD that is more inclined to be of therapeutic benefit as a supplement.

What else should I know about selecting high-quality CBD?

While several organizations perform quality testing, controls, and approval, what are some other determining factors to look for when selecting the best CBD for your child?

  1. Make sure it’s organic.
    Hemp is a bioaccumulating organism. It means that it readily absorbs components from its environment. When grown in an ideal, organic, clean environment, this is to its benefit. However, when grown in polluted and pesticide-heavy soil, the product is more of harm than of benefit. The purest, safest CBD is organic.
  2. What’s the Extraction Method?
    CBD manufacturers draw out terpenes and cannabinoids utilizing different methods. Two clean extraction methods that are commonly used (and do not impart toxic residue on the finished product) are Ethanol extractions and CO2 extractions.
  3. Full Spectrum vs. Isolate
    A full-spectrum CBD supplement delivers all of hemp’s phytonutrients, terpenes, and likely also trace amounts of THC (though always below 0.3 percent), alongside flavonoid antioxidants. CBD isolate is also available, containing absolutely THC and only a pure isolate of cannabidiol.
  4. Potency
    While a high-quality, third-party tested and approved product is essential if you choose to incorporate CBD, keep in mind that you may need to deliver a lower dosage to your child. Most professionals and experts recommend beginning with 0.5mg (per pound of body weight) of high-quality CBD, dosed 3 times per day.

Childhood anxiety can be a serious problem. Parents of anxious children often find themselves worrying about their children’s mental and physical well-being. Although anxiety in children can be a normal phase of development in some kids as they begin to interact with their surroundings, some kids experience a heightened sense of fear and anxiety.

Studies show that one in eight children suffer from anxiety. Eighty percent of these children do not receive the treatment they need, or they go undiagnosed altogether. When feelings of anxiety consume a child’s thoughts and life, treatment should be sought. Some parents worry about the long-term effects of traditional anti-anxiety medications, which can be both short and long-term. More parents have begun to pursue more natural alternative treatment options, such as the use of CBD or medical marijuana. How effective is CBD in treating symptoms of anxiety in children?

Understanding CBD

CBD, also known as cannabidiol, has been used for ages for medical purposes across the globe. CBD, which is one of two primary cannabinoids found in hemp and marijuana plants, is used today as an alternative treatment for many medical conditions, including chronic pain, mental health, anxiety and more. The other main compound present in these plants is THC or tetrahydrocannabinol. Some people are leery about using CBD because they mistakenly associate it with the psychoactive high that is linked with marijuana, but this is due to the THC found in the plant – not CBD. CBD elicits no psychological effects and also is not associated with any known adverse side effects.

CBD and THC both work within a regulatory system in the body known as the endocannabinoid system, or ECS. The ECS is made up of numerous receptors that are found throughout the body. Two such receptors are CB1 and CB2 – both of which CBD and THC work alongside.

The CB1 receptors are mostly found within the nervous system and brain, while the CB2 receptors are found mostly in the immune system. Each of these receptors, in conjunction with other receptors in the endocannabinoid system, can be activated in more than one way. The naturally occurring cannabinoids may activate them in the body or by outside sources of cannabinoids, such as CBD and THC.

One significant difference between THC and CBD lies here: pure CBD does not bind directly to these receptors as THC does. This is why CBD does not elicit psychoactive properties. CBD instead stimulates the cannabinoids that naturally occur within the body to activate the important ECS receptors, encouraging them to act in a way that is beneficial to the body so the body can be brought back to a better state of health, from the inside out.

Concerns about CBD

Although there is much evidence that points to the benefits of CBD, there remain concerns among some parents and medical professionals regarding the use of these products, especially in children. Some of the concerns surrounding CBD use include:

  • That some products are not reliable when it comes to delivering a consistent amount of CBD. Some may have more or less than they advertise, and many manufacturers do not offer independent verification of the contents of their products. You can’t always depend on the quality of the CBD you are getting. This is why it is important to buy CBD from reputable brands.
  • Research is still being conducted regarding how much CBD is absorbed and how it is delivered to the brain. Various methods of consuming CBD have different rates of delivery. The effects of CBD may vary depending on how the CBD is administered, such as taking it orally (gummies or drops), vaping or eating it in baked goods.
  • Some products on the market contain more than CBD, including some ingredients that may be harmful. Lab testing is not currently mandatory in every state to determine if there are any contaminants in CBD products. Products such as these are often referred to as “bootleg CBD” and should be avoided. It is recommended that you talk with your child’s healthcare provider to determine which CBD product is best so you can avoid harmful ingredients in ill-tested products.
  • CBD may interact with other medications. Talk with your child’s doctor before giving CBD or any other medication.
  • The legality of CBD and cannabis products is still not entirely clear. Although CBD derived from hemp plants is legal on a federal level, the legality of CBD from marijuana plants is subject to the state to determine and remains illegal federally. Despite this, the Food and Drug Administration, or the FDA, issued a statement indicating that products that contain CBD may not claim to offer therapeutic benefits nor may they be sold as dietary supplements unless approved by the FDA for such use.
  • Because CBD use in kids is relatively new, research is not abounding. Determining the amount to give to your child may prove to be tricky. Clinical doses differ from the doses listed on the products you may find at marijuana dispensaries or other places you can purchase CBD.

CBD Safety

The World Health Organization has reviewed the evidence for the safety and efficacy of the medical uses of CBD. The report by the WHO concluded that CBD is considered to be “generally well tolerated with a good safety profile” and that any adverse effects experienced may be the result of interactions between existing medications and CBD. There was also no indication of potential dependence or abuse. Additionally, the WHO noted that there is evidence, based on several clinical trials, that CBD is effective in treating conditions such as some forms of epilepsy in kids. It also noted that CBD might be useful in treating several other medical conditions, based on preliminary evidence.

CBD for the Treatment of Anxiety in Kids

How effective is CBD in treating symptoms of anxiety in children? One study, which was led by researchers at the University Of Colorado School Of Medicine in Fort Collins, Colorado, researched the experience of a 10-year-old girl’s experience with CBD treatment for her anxiety. She had previously experienced several highly traumatic incidents, leaving her with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well as insomnia and severe anxiety. The patient had previously been on pharmaceutical medicines, but they had proven to be no longer effective in combating her anxiety. She also experienced adverse side effects to some of the drugs. This study was published in the fall 2016 issue of The Permanente Journal.

During the study, liquid CBD was administered to the girl each morning and night for 12 weeks. Her symptoms related to anxiety were monitored by a psychiatrist who helped with the study, as well as by her family when she was outside of a clinical environment. The results were astounding.

Almost immediately following her CBD dosage, the young girl appeared to be calmer and functioning better throughout the day. She began to complete her schoolwork, which was previously a struggle for her. She also started to engage more with her family as well as the researchers involved in the study.

The patient’s insomnia was also significantly improved by the CBD. Researchers found that she was able to remain in a deeper state of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep throughout the night with little to no periods of alertness or restlessness, which was previously an issue for her. This is important as many people who struggle with anxiety also tend to battle insomnia.

CBD is considered to be an effective treatment for anxiety and the symptoms associated with it due to the way it interacts with neurotransmitters in integral regions of the brain. When combined with CBD’s ability to stimulate CB1 receptors in the brain, it leads to a natural anxiolytic, or anti-anxiety, effect.

Many children experience anxiety after a traumatic experience. When a child develops feelings of anxiety, he is often covered in fear and loses some of his ability to enjoy the beauty and positive feelings of life. When CBD is used to treat anxiety, it can help to work by inhibiting neurotransmitter activity in the brain, leading to a calming effect on the patient that lasts. During this period, the brain is able to take a break from focusing on the trauma from before, while enabling the child to feel good about himself and the world around him. Research has found that using CBD oil for anxiety can also improve self-esteem in individuals who suffer from anxiety.

Using CBD with Children

The most common way to use CBD with children is the sublingual method, which involves putting a few drops of CBD oil under the child’s tongue. The child then needs to hold the drops there for approximately 30 to 60 seconds so that the oil may be absorbed into the bloodstream. Then the child may swallow.

Some children are not fans of the distinct taste of cannabidiol oil and will avoid taking it. Another option, then, is CBD gummies, which are sold in many delicious flavors.

CBD is proven to be able to work with the body, offering natural relief to people of all ages. Although more conclusive research is needed regarding the cannabis plant and its compounds, evidence supports CBD’s ability to support pediatric anxiety, as well as other anxiety disorders. As always, it is advised to speak with your child’s pediatrician before administering any form of treatment or therapy to your child with anxiety or any other condition.

How much should I give my child?

As mentioned before, you should always consult your primary physician or naturopath to determine if CBD is right for your child and to determine an optimal dose, however, if you wish to understand  better where to start and how much to use, some basic guidelines are:

Children 30lbs or less: 2.6mg (low strength) to 7.8mg (medium strength)
30-40lbs: 3.6mg (low strength) to 10.8 mg (medium strength)
40-50lbs: 4.6mg (low strength) to 13.8mg (medium strength)
50-75lbs: 6.4mg (low strength) to 19mg (medium strength)
75-100lbs: 7.5mg (low strength) to 22.5mg (medium strength)

It is best to start with a low dosage and assess the child’s response to the supplement and adjust the dose as needed with the guidance of your licensed healthcare professional.

Conclusion:

CBD oil shows promising results as an anti-anxiety (anxiolytic) supplement when dosed accurately in appropriate patients. CBD may also be effective for patients with PTSD and impaired sleep patterns.

There is substantial data from numerous studies in favor of CBD oil and its anxiolytic properties. But to reap its benefits, always ensure that you select high-quality, third-party tested and approved supplements.

Always consult your licensed healthcare practitioner to ensure that CBD oil is safe for your child (and not contraindicated by any of their existing conditions or current medications).

Susan Lindeman

Susan is a young mother and writer, passionate about cooking and blogging. She makes CBD-infused foods, like cookies and candies, to help her cope with anxiety and perform her daily tasks better.
Susan Lindeman

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