The only drug containing CBD that has been approved for adults or children is Epidiolex, which is currently the only known treatment for two rare and devastating forms of childhood epilepsy: Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Epidiolex, approved in 2018, was developed after the high-profile case of Charlotte Figi, whose desperate mother used CBD to dramatically control her debilitating seizures.
That matches Batista’s experience. “My daughter has a beautiful personality; she’s sweet, she’s spunky. I don’t want to medicate her with something that’s going to turn her into a zombie,” she said, referring to parent complaints that some stimulant-based drugs can make their kids seem spacey.
Hints of help
Furthermore, it’s impossible to know what’s in a CBD product without independent testing. One of Hazekamp’s studies in the Netherlands analyzed 46 cannabis oils made by patients or sold online. Only 21 products even advertised the ingredient concentrations and many of those were wildly wrong. Seven didn’t contain any cannabinoids at all. One of them had more than 50 percent more THC in it than the product claimed.
There are also hints CBD might work for some autistic kids. Dr. Gal Meiri, M.D., clinical director of the National Autism Research Center of Israel at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, has studied CBD oils and autism. In a study that Meiri co-authored in 2019, 155 autistic kids aged 18 years and younger tried CBD oil for at least six months. More than 80 percent of the parents reported significant or moderate improvement in their kids. “Some of the parents reported benefits not just with seizures but also behaviors, like self-harm,” he noted.
A 2019 Gallup poll found 14 percent of more than 2,500 Americans surveyed use CBD products, mostly for pain, anxiety and sleep problems. Statistics for kids are much harder to come by, but there are Facebook groups with thousands of followers where parents discuss giving CBD to their kids for conditions including the autism spectrum and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In April, a cannabis-focused magazine published a survey of more than 500 parents and found that 40 percent had given CBD products to their children for behaviors related to the autism spectrum.
CBD is thought to work on something in the body called the endocannabinoid system, which is involved in maintaining homeostasis, or balance. There are receptors for this system in many parts of the body, including the brain, which is why it's believed to help a host of different conditions.
If you're wondering whether it could help your child, find someone knowledgeable to consult. "I typically advise people to check with their child's doctor," says Bissex, noting that in some cases, the oil may interact with certain medications. "But there are many doctors who are not educated in the use of CBD for various conditions in kids so you may need to broaden your search." Lowry noted that pediatric neurologists may be more familiar with it. Finding a "cannabis consultant" such as Bissex is also an option for figuring out the right dosing, which varies for each person.
As for whether CBD is legal, that's still a bit fuzzy. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), these states have approved legislation allowing its use: Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Other states have legalized recreational marijuana: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington plus D.C. Some states allow CBD oil as long as it's derived from hemp, but not from marijuana.
First things first: Though it's derived from cannabis, CBD oil is not the same as recreational marijuana (or medical marijuana) and doesn't contain meaningful amounts of THC, the compound in marijuana that produces a "high". The oil, which is not physically addictive, is typically taken as a liquid under the tongue, via gel capsule, or as a cream. It can also be mixed with food.
Some parents are using CBD oil to treat seizures, pain, and even autism in their kids. Before you try it, learn the facts.