Can CBD help kids with anxiety?
- Published in Neurotherapeutics Journal, a 2015 review of 49 studies demonstrated CBD’s efficacy in reducing anxiety behaviors linked to multiple disorders(1).
- A 2008 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry suggested some therapeutic benefits from the use of CBD oil due to its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and sleep-inducing effects(2).
- A case report published in The Permanente Journal in 2016 noted the effectiveness of CBD oil for pediatric anxiety and insomnia as part of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD(3).
- Several types of anxiety disorders can affect children and adolescents, and getting an accurate diagnosis is a crucial first step toward treatment.
- While CBD is considered generally safe, according to a 2011 review in the Current Drug Safety Journal, the long-term effects are yet to be examined further(4). Thus, speaking with a medical professional is a crucial first step before proceeding with a treatment plan that includes CBD.
Best CBD Oils for Kids with Anxiety
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CBDistillery’s Full Spectrum Oil Tinctures combine the powers of CBD oil and other naturally occurring plant proteins, minerals, vitamins, and more so that you can get all of the benefits of the cannabis plant without any potentially intoxicating effects.
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Natural remedy for various illnesses. NuLeaf Naturals’ CBD oil is a whole-plant extract containing a full spectrum of naturally occurring synergistic cannabinoids and terpenes.
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cbdMD’s CBD oil tinctures are made using only CBD sourced from medical hemp and MCT oil as a carrier oil. Tinctures are offered in orange, mint, natural, and berry flavors. Safe for daily use, the oil tinctures are packaged with a built-in rubber dropper to adjust CBD dosage easily. The packaging is made to be easy to transport and discreet to use.
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Super Good Vibes CBD Oil provides the purest and highest quality Cannabidiol (CBD) on the market as well as other high quality phytocannabinoids, terpenes, vitamins, omega fatty acids, trace minerals, and other beneficial for your health elements, which all work together to provide benefits.
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Why People are Turning to CBD for Kids with Anxiety
CBD has become a popular OTC treatment that parents give their children, says Doris Trauner, M.D., professor of neurosciences and pediatrics at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and a physician at San Diego’s Rady Children’s Hospital. She also notes that some parents report seeing significant improvement(5).
Orrin Devinsky, M.D., director of NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center in New York City and a principal investigator in the Epidiolex trials, says there is growing evidence that CBD can ease anxiety. This disorder sometimes accompanies attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)(6).
Scott Shannon, M.D., assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and author of Mental Health for the Whole Child, agrees. He says that while he does not routinely recommend CBD for ADHD, children that have an anxious variety of ADHD may get some benefits(7).
Antonio Zuardi, a psychiatrist at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, together with his team of researchers, used a 2011 study that simulates public speaking to demonstrate that a single dose of CBD can decrease the discomfort in people with a social anxiety disorder(8). The said study was published in the Neuropsychopharmacology journal.
Another review, which was published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry in 2019, yielded similar effects on healthy people in anxiety-inducing situations(9).
Meanwhile, researchers are exploring CBD as a means of soothing anxiety in people with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
In a study, which was published in the Frontiers in Pharmacology in 2019, the authors found an increase in the use of cannabidiol in children with ASD(10).
Based on the parents’ reports, the findings suggest that CBD may be effective in improving ASD symptoms, such as anxiety, aggression, and hyperactivity.
However, the authors also note that CBD’s efficacy and safety need large-scale clinical trials and further evaluation in children with ASD.
Orrin Devinsky is also involved in two clinical trials that aim to test whether CBD can meaningfully reduce the irritability and anxiety of those with autism(12).
Parents may want to keep their children on CBD, because according to the studies, CBD improves sleep.
A 2008 study, which was published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, suggests some therapeutic benefits from the use of CBD oil due to its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and sleep-inducing effects(12).
Results of an animal study, which was published in the Neuropharmacology Journal in 2012, support the use of CBD treatment. The findings suggest that CBD may block anxiety-induced sleep disturbances through its anxiolytic effect on the brain(13).
A case report in The Permanente Journal notes the effectiveness of CBD oil for pediatric anxiety and insomnia as part of PTSD(14). The authors of the 2016 study found that CBD oil improved the feelings of anxiety and reduced the insomnia of one 10-year old girl.
The strength of this particular case is that the child was receiving no pharmaceutical medications other than nonprescription diphenhydramine.
With only nutritional supplements and the CBD oil to control her symptoms, her scores on the sleep and anxiety scales consistently and steadily decreased over 5 months.
Ultimately, she was able to sleep on most nights in her room, behave appropriately, and become less anxious at school and home.
There have been other studies conducted by researchers to understand the anxiolytic characteristic of CBD better.
Esther Blessing, Ph.D. of New York University, led a group of researchers in 2015 and investigated the benefits of CBD in treating anxiety. Their review of 49 studies yielded promising results(15).
Blessing noted that animal studies conclusively demonstrate CBD’s efficacy in reducing anxiety behaviors linked to multiple disorders, including anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and panic disorder.
Blessing added that the results are supported by human experimental findings, which also suggest CBD’s minimal sedative effects and an excellent safety profile.
Still, the results could not confirm that treatment with CBD would have comparable effects for those with chronic anxiety. She said further tests are needed to determine the impact of prolonged CBD use on individuals.
Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), another well-known compound of the cannabis plant, CBD (cannabidiol), is non-addictive and does not get users high, making it an appealing option for children.
How CBD Oil Works to Alleviate Anxiety
A 2005 research published in the Neurochemical Research Journal indicates that cannabidiol inhibits the reuptake of serotonin in the brain, making serotonin more available for the body(16).
Serotonin occurs throughout the body, and it impacts a variety of body and psychological functions. In the brain, serotonin influences levels of anxiety, mood, and happiness.
The authors of the said research believe that with better regulation of serotonin, CBD could help stabilize mood and reduce anxiety.
In the Translational PsychiatryJournal, a 2012 study demonstrates CBD’s ability to trigger the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the body to produce more of its natural cannabinoids, including anandamide, which regulates emotions(17). Results showed that anandamide levels were higher in subjects exposed to CBD.
The ECS plays a vital role in the human body due to its ability to maintain the homeostasis or state of balance, as explained in a 2018 research published in the Journal of Young Investigators(18).
Increased anandamide production in the brain is believed to guard against the effects of stress and reduces behavioral signs of anxiety and fear, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience(19).
In another 2019 study published in the journal Current Psychiatry Reports, results indicate that CBD has the potential to help elevate anandamide levels for the treatment of anxiety-related disorders in the future(20).
Studies show that CBD may stimulate the hippocampus, a part of the brain important for memory, to regenerate neurons (nerve cells)(21).
Preclinical studies have shown some evidence suggesting that the proneurogenic action of CBD through the hippocampus may trigger its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects(22).
The Pros and Cons of Using CBD for Children with Anxiety
- Results from a 2012 study, which was published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, suggest an anxiolytic-like effect of CBD(23). The authors also found that CBD may be beneficial in alleviating anxiety in people with a social anxiety disorder.
- Unlike the commonly prescribed medications for anxiety, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and benzodiazepines, CBD oil may be purchased without a prescription in locations where they are legally available.
- CBD is non-addictive, says Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in a 2015 article(24). This characteristic makes CBD an appealing option for children with anxiety.
- CBD “is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile,” as the World Health Organization (WHO) states in a critical review(25).
- In a 2017 review, which was published in the Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research Journal, CBD has been shown to be well-tolerated at doses of up to 1,500 mg per day(26).
- Studies are too limited to determine whether or not CBD is an effective treatment for conditions other than the ones approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The FDA has only approved Epidiolex, a drug for seizures that has CBD as its main ingredient(27).
- CBD has not been extensively tested for use in children, and no longitudinal studies on its effects have been done.
- As with the use of any natural chemical compound, there are risks involved in using CBD. Possible side effects of CBD use include diarrhea, fatigue, and changes in appetite and weight. CBD can also alter how the body metabolizes certain medications(28).
Research published in Medicines Journal in 2019 indicates that the CYP450 family of enzymes is responsible for metabolizing several phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids that exist naturally in the cannabis plant), including CBD(29).
Parents are advised not to give CBD to their children with anxiety if they are taking medications that have a grapefruit warning(30).
- Dr. Doris Trauner cautions that CBD products marketed online and in dispensaries are mostly unregulated, making it difficult to determine whether the tinctures, gummies, balms, and gelcaps contain what the product label claims(31).
A 2107 review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed labeling inaccuracies among CBD products(32). Some products had less CBD than stated, while others had more.
How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Kids with Anxiety
Several types of anxiety disorders can affect children and adolescents, and getting an accurate diagnosis is a crucial first step toward treatment.
In 2008, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study that shows treatment integrating Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with pharmaceuticals is most probably going to help children with anxiety disorders, but either treatment is also useful(33).
SSRIs are commonly prescribed for children with depression and anxiety because they are non-addictive and have relatively few side effects.
Benzodiazepines, which are used less often than SSRIs for children, can be used to treat acute anxiety, such as panic attacks and symptoms of PTSD.
However, CBD oil may interact with several medications, including SSRIs and benzodiazepines, so look for the grapefruit warning. More importantly, always consult with a doctor before using CBD oil.
There are also non-pharmaceutical therapies for anxiety.
According to an article posted by Harvard Health Publishing of the Harvard Medical School of Harvard University, yoga functions like other self-soothing techniques, such as relaxation, exercise, meditation, or even socializing with friends(34).
By decreasing levels of perceived stress and anxiety, yoga modulates stress response systems, which consequently leads to a decreased heart rate, reduced blood pressure, and easy respiration.
Like yoga and other other self-soothing techniques, CBD is a natural alternative to relieve anxiety.
How to Choose The Right CBD for Children with Anxiety
Full-spectrum CBD oil contains all phytonutrients from hemp, including trace amounts of THC, terpenes, flavonoids, and essential oils. Meanwhile, CBD isolates carry only pure, isolated cannabidiol.
If a child is allergic to specific components of the hemp plant, or if parents do not want any amount of THC in their child’s system, CBD isolates are the only option.
The following factors are essential to ensure the safety and reliability of the CBD products purchased:
- Research on the exact legal stipulations applicable to CBD in the area where it would be purchased and used.
- Purchase only high-quality CBD products from legitimate and reliable brands. The majority of companies that manufacture the best CBD oil products grow their own hemp from their own farm, or they purchase from licensed hemp producers.
- When buying from an online store, research product reviews. When buying from a physical store or dispensary, check whether the store is authorized by the government to sell CBD.
- One important thing to look for in CBD products is certification codes. Several certification authorities approve certain products only after some thorough screening tests.
- Compare company claims about their products’ potency with that of the third-party lab reports.
- Consulting with a trusted medical professional who is experienced in CBD use is ideal before one purchases his or her first bottle of CBD.
CBD Dosage for Children with Anxiety
The guidelines for CBD oil dosage for children are still unclear. Thus, it is advisable for parents to start their children with small doses, according to Dwight Blake, a Mental Health counselor at Long Island Psychotherapy & Counseling in Westbury, New York, for more than 15 years(35).
Blake also advises parents to increase the doses gradually if the lower dosage fails to achieve the desired results.
Despite the lack of clear guidelines, the amount of CBD a user takes in is determined by the same factors that are considered when taking conventional medicines, Blake says. Matters like general body health, level of physical activity, and weight are among these factors.
However, in their experience, the CBD supplement given in 12 mg to 25 mg doses once daily appears to offer relief of key symptoms, such as anxiety and sleep problems, with nominal side effects. The subject of their study did report any complaints or discomfort from the use of CBD.
While CBD is considered generally safe, as the 2011 review in the Current Drug Safety Journal suggests, the long-term effects are yet to be examined further(37).
How Children with Anxiety can Take CBD Oil
Parents or caregivers may directly discharge the CBD oil under the child’s tongue by using a dropper, allowing the oil to be absorbed into the bloodstream.
Sublingual (under the tongue) absorption is efficient. In a 2010 review, published in the International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, researchers found that peak blood levels of most substances given sublingually are achieved in 10 to 15 minutes, which is faster than when those same drugs are ingested orally(38).
Blake suggests that, to ensure absorption, keep the CBD oil under the child’s tongue for 60 to 90 seconds before swallowing it.
Many children have an understandable aversion to the taste of many of the CBD oil brands. If the taste is an issue, CBD gummies are an option, Blake says.
Each gummy comes with a fixed dose of CBD, and CBD gummies are sold in many delicious flavors that children may find appealing.
CBD oil can also be mixed with other foods and beverages that children consume. However, keep in mind that oil and water do not mix.
Given that CBD is a highly lipophilic (soluble in lipids or oils) molecule, it may dissolve in the fat content of food, increasing its solubility and absorption, according to a 2018 study published in the Frontiers in Pharmacology Journal(39).
Thus, when giving CBD oil to a child who finds the natural taste of CBD oil unappealing, an additional fat, like milk, may be necessary for the oil to bind and dissolve completely, maintaining the smooth consistency of the drink.
It is also worth repeating that CBD does not contain the same psychoactive properties that THC does, meaning CBD does not make the user high.
A Closer Look at CBD
The Cannabis sativa plant produces both hemp and marijuana. The difference between the two plants is the percentage of THC that they contain.
THC is the primary component of marijuana that causes psychoactive effects on the user.
A cannabis plant that has 0.3 percent or less of THC content classifies as hemp, while a cannabis plant containing over 0.3 percent of THC is considered marijuana.
CBD oil is extracted from the cannabis plant’s flowers, stalks, and leaves. The extraction process involves the use of either ethanol or CO2. On the other hand, hemp seed oil (also called hemp oil) is extracted by cold-pressing the seeds of the hemp plant.
CBD has been advertised as a treatment for medical conditions as far-reaching as chronic pain, migraines, and cancer.
Available in the form of vaping, oils, cocktails, coffee, gummies, and lotions, CBD has become mainstream that even Consumer Reports has issued guides on tips for safe CBD use and how to shop for CBD(40).
However, there has been very little research into CBD’s safety or efficacy, especially in children.
To date, Epidiolex has been the only marijuana plant-derived drug approved by the FDA. This cannabidiol oral solution is given to patients two years of age and older to treat seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and Dravet syndrome.
The Legality of CBD Oil
Meanwhile, confusion arises due to regulations that vary depending on whether the CBD is hemp-derived or extracted from marijuana. The former is legal at the federal level, while the latter is not.
Many states and Washington, D.C. have passed cannabis-related laws, making medical marijuana with high levels of THC legal(41). Still, marijuana may require a prescription from a licensed physician.
Also, several states have made recreational use of marijuana and THC legal. Anyone can buy CBD in states where marijuana is legal for recreational or medical purposes.
There is not enough evidence to support the use of CBD to treat mental health disorders in children and adolescents, says Dr. Paul Mitrani, a pediatrician and clinical director at the Child Mind Institute(42).
Mitrani, who is also a child and adolescent psychiatrist, recommends that parents who are contemplating on giving a child CBD to wait until further research is done.
CBD treatment is an area worthy of investigation. Questions, including whether, when, or how CBD should be used on children, need definite answers based on scientific evidence as CBD becomes legal across several legal jurisdictions.
Meanwhile, the best course of action for parents and caregivers is to consult with a doctor experienced with cannabis to see if and how CBD could be used to help children with anxiety.
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NIDA. Researching Marijuana for Therapeutic Purposes: The Potential Promise of Cannabidiol (CBD). National Institute on Drug Abuse website. https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2015/07/researching-marijuana-therapeutic-purposes-potential-promise-cannabidiol-cbd. July 20, 2015. Accessed January 31, 2020.
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U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2020, Jan 15). FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd.
Iffland et al. op cit.
Alsherbiny MA, Li CG. Medicinal Cannabis-Potential Drug Interactions. Medicines (Basel). 2018;6(1):3. Published 2018 Dec 23. doi:10.3390/medicines6010003.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2017, July 18). Grapefruit Juice and Some Drugs Don’t Mix. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/grapefruit-juice-and-some-drugs-dont-mix.
Peachman. op cit.
Bonn-Miller MO, Loflin MJE, Thomas BF, Marcu JP, Hyke T, Vandrey R. Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708–1709. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11909.
Walkup JT, Albano AM, Piacentini J, et al. Cognitive behavioral therapy, sertraline, or a combination in childhood anxiety [published correction appears in N Engl J Med. 2013 Jan 31;368(5):490]. N Engl J Med. 2008;359(26):2753–2766. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa0804633.
Harvard Health Publishing. Yoga for anxiety and depression. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression.
Blake, D. (2020, Jan 13). The Best CBD Oil for Kids in 2020 (It’s uses, benefits and Industry Trends). Retrieved from https://americanmarijuana.org/best-cbd-oil-for-kids/.
Shannon, S and Opila-Lehman, J. op cit.
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