Is It Safe to Give Teens CBD?

by Natalie Kiser

We are living in an anxiety-riddled world and it’s affecting our children. Last year a poll found nearly half (48 percent) of U.S. teens are worried about experiencing social anxiety in transitioning back to a post-pandemic world while 43 percent reported they are concerned about mental health challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With CBD being big business for treating stress — a survey found more than 60 percent of CBD users were taking it for anxiety — then is it safe for teens?

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“The most common reasons American adults report trying CBD are to potentially benefit issues with pain, sleep, stress, or mood,” Dr. Jeff Chen, MD, CEO and Co-founder of Radicle Science, which recently completed history’s largest longitudinal study on CBD, tells SheKnows. “Much fewer studies have been done on why teens are using CBD, but the preliminary results of one study (yet to be published) presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2020 showed that some 40 percent of teens had tried using CBD oil.”

While Dr. Chen says some of the teens reported trying it “just for fun,” others stated their reason to try it was the hope that CBD “can help to treat my medical illness.”

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid in the family of cannabinoids that can be found in marijuana. Unlike THC — which is marijuana’s most active ingredient that leaves you feeling high — CBD is touted for its medicinal usage without leaving you feeling buzzed or addicted.

“CBD is classified as not psychoactive, meaning there is no high involved, and it is not physiologically addictive. Rather, people get used to it and depend on its action,”  says Dr. Lynn Parodneck, a medical marijuana expert and medical advisor with TribeTokes.

Why you might consider having your teens try it

“Research has shown that CBD can help with anxiety, inflammation and many other ailments without the potential for abuse,” says  Laurel (Lo) Friesen, founder, CEO, and Chief Extractor of Heylo, tells SheKnows.

While there isn’t enough evidence among the scientific community to fully prove that CBD is risk-free, according to Frisen, current research shows that side effects are minimal and the benefits far outweigh the risks.

“Because of this, CBD is a great option for teens to address anxiety, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and other medical needs. Anxiety is rising in the adolescent population and CBD could dramatically improve outcomes without the risks of pharmaceuticals.”

What parents need to know before giving the go ahead

“Parents who are thinking about providing CBD to their children should consult with their primary care doctor to determine if it’s appropriate to take CBD in conjunction with other medications if their teen is currently prescribed any,”says Friesen.

Additionally, Friesen recommends ensuring you’re buying a high-quality CBD product by reviewing test results from the manufacturer as the quality of the product can dramatically impact the efficacy and safety of the product. “High-quality and vetted sources are best. Initially, follow dosing instructions, but continue to monitor your teen to make decisions regarding changes to their dosage.”

Friesen also believes parents should be aware of the potential side effects of higher doses of CBD “so that they can understand how to dial in dosing for their child, the best method of administration, and the best time of day to administer the CBD product.”

If this all sounds a bit too much to take in, Dr. Parodneck recommends working with a trusted physician. “A physician should know how to dose correctly. Additionally, medical marijuana practitioners are trained to dose and understand how this works. They also are aware of all the meds that compete for the cytochrome p450 system in the liver. That said, CBD can be used for just about anyone, but it helps to journal effects.”

As for which types of CBD adolescents should use, Dr. Parodneck says tinctures are recommended “because they can be closely dosed, and gummies are a popular option.”

As for side effects, Dr. Parodneck  says because CBD isn’t FDA regulated, “it is important that reliable brands are utilized. Side effects can occur if the dose is too high. Common side effects include diarrhea and sleepiness.”

But is it safe?

According to Dr. Chen, there’s a lack of research when it comes to CBD and teens. “Regardless of what adults or teens report using CBD for, the reality is that there are few rigorous clinical trials on CBD outside of for pediatric epilepsy (a disease for which CBD is FDA-approved to treat). Some preliminary areas where oral ingestion of CBD has demonstrated benefit in at least one blinded placebo controlled clinical trial include: the treatment of social anxiety disorder, opioid addiction, schizophrenia, and sleep disorders.”

While Heather Hanks, MS CAM, says CBD is “generally very safe” it needs to be watched on a case-by-case basis “as the activation of the endocannabinoid system affects everyone differently,” citing one study that found that CBD significantly reduced social anxiety disorder (SAD) in teens, “but the researchers did not look at side effects of CBD.”

Ultimately, says Dr. Chen, “We need many more and much larger studies on these areas before making any definitive conclusions. Lastly, there are preclinical studies demonstrating potential benefits of topical CBD for acne, but human studies are still lacking.”

What can teens take instead?

Hanks suggests turmeric for those who want an alternative to CBD but with similar benefits. I like turmeric because it has been studied for many years now and is safe to use as recommended by a health professional. Interestingly, some spices, including turmeric, may stimulate the endocannabinoid system, similar to CBD. This anti-inflammatory response seems to be what helps heal anxiety in people.”

She also recommends adopting other healthy habits into your teen’s life as well. “Many teens don’t eat a balanced diet or get proper amounts of exercise. These elements are key in helping your teen feel your best. Taking a CBD supplement alone may help, but consider that it will help more when combined with other healthy habits.”

Before you go, check out our favorite mental health apps to give brains a little more TLC: 

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