Use of CBD oil (cannabidiol, extracted from marijuana) for kids is growing in popularity
Could CBD (cannabidiol) oil — which is extracted from pot plants — be the new go-to for calming kids down? With states green-lighting the green stuff one after another, marijuana-using millennials are more curious than ever before about giving it to their kids and babies.
In a private moms group on Facebook, an honest conversation unfolded between parents about an article that featured a CBD-infused hot chocolate recipe. Moms wanted to know if it was safe or not to serve it to their kids before bedtime.
The general consensus in our culture is "don't give pot to tots," but how harmful is CBD oil, really? And in what cases do the benefits outweigh the potential negatives? We chatted with cannabis expert Dr. Frank Lucido, of Berkley, California, and pro-cannabis parent Melissa Hilt, of Albany, New York, to find out the real deal on reefer oil for kids.
Here are 12 things you should know:
1. THC and CBD are different.
They're the two main compounds in the marijuana plant, but THC is psychoactive and CBD is not, so you can get high and maybe feel paranoid after using THC, but you can't after using CBD. The oil used to medically treat a child will often be legally sold through a dispensary and contain a CBD-to-THC ratio like 19-to-1. The oil sold over the internet doesn't contain THC. Keep in mind that plenty of medical professionals argue that CBD loses its efficacy when it's not used in conjunction with THC.
2. CBD oil can change lives.
There are incredible testimonials from families who have found relief after incorporating CBD oil into their daily lifestyle. Hilt's 10-year-old daughter, Haley, was suffering from seizures over 100 times daily. Haley underwent surgery, tried alternative diets and attempted taking over 15 medications to slow down her seizing. A dose of 19-to-1 (CBD-to-THC) oil is given to her at breakfast and dinnertime, and Hilt told us she finally feels like she's "met" her real daughter. Her child is no longer in a constant "haze" from all of the different medications she was trying. Now, Haley smiles and plays with her sister. Hilt told us, "It's been the greatest gift to our family to be able to finally 'meet' her."
3. It's not cheap to use CBD oil on a regular basis.
Parents like Hilt can pay around $500 monthly for the oil out of pocket because it's the only thing that'll provide real relief for her daughter. The price will vary depending on what you're getting, from where and what the state tax is.
4. Families move across state borders to legally access it.
For the families who have a child with a medical diagnosis, like a form of epilepsy or autism, and CBD oil is one of the only things that seems to help, it's worth it for them to move their lives to a state where they can access it legally. Hilt told us she would "absolutely" move if she no longer had access to the oil in Albany, New York. She had considered Colorado at one point.
5. Families are dealing with CPS issues where it's not legal.
Hilt's family depends on CBD oil for treatment, but when Lelah Jerger's 2-year-old daughter, Jaelah, was diagnosed with epilepsy in Huntingburg, Indiana, they had no idea that a nightmare was about to unfold. Jerger was offered CBD oil during an appointment with a chiropractic neurologist to treat her daughter. She purchased the oil from him while simultaneously getting other opinions from doctors and surgeons at traditional treatment centers. The CBD oil was the only thing to bring her daughter's visible seizing down from 30 times each day to twice each day. She purchased more CBD oil from a company online to continue treating her child. One of the hospitals she was seeking treatment from alerted Child Protective Services about the alternative treatment, and an invasive investigation was conducted, including blood tests.
Jerger said, "We were terrified to have any allegation of abuse or neglect. I've got four other kids (the oldest is 15), and we've never been questioned. The fear is indescribable — it's an agency that has the power to take your children away." The family is currently suing CPS and awaiting their court date.
6. There's still research that needs to happen.
Back to the Hilts: Haley's seizures did return after slowing down tremendously for one month, but she's still making wonderful progress developmentally. Normally, seizures can prevent Haley from reaching new, important milestones. Hilt says it seems like there's almost something protective about the CBD oil that keeps her child hitting new milestones, and her daughter's doctors in New York and Boston agree. At the same time, Hilt insists that for kids without any medical issues, there might not be enough long-term research to safely use CBD oil on young children regularly. She suggests that parents use it with caution. Lucido says the oil shouldn't be used unless it's to treat a medical disorder in a state where it's legal.
7. You shouldn't buy CBD online to treat your kid.
For parents, it's tempting to read about the effects of non-psychoactive CBD oil and mix some into their kid's hot chocolate at night before bed, but the truth is, it's better to stay away from the online options, especially when the intentions are for a small child to ingest it regularly.
Lucido says that what's in the CBD oils sold online is even more obscure than vitamins, which aren't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, because the ingredient list isn't often fully disclosed, nor is the concentration. According to Lucido, without accurate dosing and ingredient information, it's just not the safest thing to use. He also reminds us that companies are incorrect in claiming that CBD oil extracted from hemp is legal under federal law, and the FDA officially sent warning letters to these companies.
8. CBD oil can be used to treat autism, ADHD, depression and anxiety for kids.
Lucido cautions against giving children CBD oil without a recommendation from a doctor, but he says if it's legally purchased from a dispensary with a doctor's recommendation, CBD oil can be highly effective in treating seizures, autism, ADHD, depression and anxiety in children. The CBD-to-THC ratio may differ based on the child and what's being treated.
9. You can serve it mixed into food.
Lucido says the best way to give the oil to your child is in a tincture placed right under the tongue or on the side of the cheek. If the child is fussy, he recommends mixing it into food. Because it's fat-soluble, Lucido advises that dropping a dose into a glass of water will be less effective, as the oil can stick to the side of the glass. The oil mixes better with milk, for example.
10. Shaming is preventing sick children from getting help.
There are many children with medical diagnoses who suffer daily, rotating different treatment plans, medications and even surgeries, like Hilt's daughter. Hilt insists that parents need to not be afraid to talk.
She says, "Parents are afraid. There are benefits out there for epilepsy, autism, ADHD and cancer pains. Parents are simply afraid to ask their doctor, and the best thing I ever could have done was ask my daughter's neurologist about it."
11. Parents are trying to figure this out on their own.
Check your judgement at the door. There are parents who are desperately looking for healthy answers for their children, and there are other parents who are just curious. The internet has been a source of experience sharing for parents. From Facebook groups to Reddit threads, parents are trying to figure this out together. Here's a Reddit thread on the topic of finding relief for children with autism using CBD oil.
12. Conservative medical doctors acknowledge the benefits and need for studies.
Dr. Alexander Kolevzon, clinical director of The Seaver Autism Center at Mount Sinai Hospital, told us he has a conservative stance and doesn't think CBD oil should be clinically recommended for kids with autism until studied in the context of rigorous clinical trials.
He went on to say, "There are several groups interested in studying CBD-related compounds in ASD (autism spectrum disorder). The pharma company, Zynerba, recently released positive top-line results in fragile X syndrome. The CBD pathway can regulate nerve-cell excitability, which can theoretically be a good thing, but it's the very early days, and we need to be cautious about getting enthusiastic about the 'next thing' and not fall into the trap of many, many other medications that failed in ASD once studied systematically."
What we've learned:
Kids with different diagnoses can genuinely benefit from CBD oil to relieve their negative symptoms. The problem is, there aren't enough solid, long-term studies to know what kind of effect daily use will have later on in life in someone whose use started at a young age. The other problem? Kids who get serious relief from the CBD oil, like Hilt's daughter Haley, need to live in a state where it's legal. Plus, parents need to be able to afford it.
Meanwhile, buzz is floating around the internet that might lead other parents to start giving their kids daily doses of CBD oil before bed when there's still much more to be found out about the long-term effects of the oil. It's also apparent that some of the CBD oil online contains obscure ingredient lists and doesn't always inform the consumer of accurate dosing measurements.
If you want ideas on how to get your kid to fall asleep faster, use some lavender essential oil for relaxation, and consult your pediatrician if that's not cutting it.