Priscilla Batista is stranded at home with her emotional 4-year-old in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Every toddler is certainly emotional,” she added, “but she’s a fairly consistent, explosive child.” “It prevents her from concentrating. She’s just having a hard time.” Batista’s kid has yet to get an official diagnosis, but she suspects she has attention deficit disorder and has turned to Cannabidiol (CBD) for aid.
Cannabidiol, along with THC, is one of the most well-known components of cannabis (tetrahydrocannabinol). Both molecules have an effect on the brain, but THC produces a high, whilst cannabidiol does not, though it does help some people feel more relaxed. Cannabidiol products have grown extremely popular all around the world, ranging from edible oils to soaps, gummy candies, and even pet treats.
According to Gallup research conducted in 2019, 14 percent of the more than 2,500 Americans polled use cannabidiol products, mostly for pain, anxiety, and sleep issues. Children’s statistics are more difficult to come by, however, there are Facebook groups with thousands of members where parents discuss providing cannabidiol to their children for illnesses such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A study of more than 500 parents released in April by a cannabis-focused magazine revealed that 40% had administered cannabidiol products to their children for behaviors associated with the autistic spectrum.
There has been a very little controlled study on cannabidiol and children. Only one cannabidiol-based medication has been authorized for any age group, and it is used to treat uncommon types of epilepsy in children. There are encouraging clues — but no confirmation — that the chemical might help youngsters with a variety of different illnesses, including seizures, autism, and anxiety.
“You want alternatives when you’re desperate,” said John Mitchell, a physician at Duke ADHD Clinic in Durham, N.C. “I’m a mother and father. “I understand.” But, he added, the excitement is currently outpacing the science. “I’m hesitant to make any guarantees about it. It’s a hypothetical situation.”
Pure cannabidiol is considered generally safe by the medical community: the World Health Organization, for example, has said that there is no evidence of anybody misusing cannabidiol recreationally or of any public health issues. However, there are still certain dangers, particularly for children.
Cannabidiol has the potential to induce liver damage (in users of any age), according to the Food and Drug Administration, and it may have an impact on children’s developing brains. According to Arno Hazekamp, Ph.D., a pharmaceutical researcher and cannabis consultant in the Netherlands, no one understands the long-term consequences of providing cannabidiol to children. He responded, “Those youngsters are still kids.” To determine long-term consequences, researchers will have to wait until kids are older. He also warned that because most cannabidiol products aren’t regulated, they might be contaminated with harmful chemicals.
Epidiolex, which is presently the sole known therapy for two rare and catastrophic types of juvenile epilepsy: Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, is the only Cannabidiol-containing medication that has been authorized for adults and children. Epidiolex was created following Charlotte Figi’s high-profile case, in which her frantic mother utilized cannabidiol to drastically reduce her severe seizures.
There are also signs that cannabidiol may help certain autistic children. Cannabidiol oils and autism have been researched by Dr. Gal Meiri, M.D., clinical director of Israel’s National Autism Research Center at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Meiri co-authored a research in 2019 in which 155 autistic children aged 18 and younger tested cannabidiol oil for at least six months. More than 80% of parents said their children had improved significantly or moderately. He said, “Some of the parents observed advantages not only with seizures but also with behaviors like self-harm.”
The majority of this research relies on parents’ opinions rather than measurable differences in contrast to placebo groups. Because parents usually want to see results, the placebo effect may be quite significant. The Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Israel performed a placebo-controlled study of cannabidiol for autistic children, although the findings have not yet been published. At the University of California, San Diego, another is in the works.
When it comes to cannabidiol and autism, Meiri says, “I’m trying to be extremely cautious.” “We still don’t have adequate safety and effectiveness research.”
Similarly, many parents are experimenting with cannabidiol products for children with A.D.H.D., despite the fact that no controlled trials with children have been published. The findings of a small trial involving 30 individuals and a mouth spray containing both cannabidiol and THC were unclear.
Mitchell believes that stimulant-based medicines like Adderall are a better alternative than cannabidiol because there is no scientific evidence that it helps and is safe for youngsters. “We know a lot more about one than the other, so it’s a no-brainer,” he explained. However, he understands why a parent may choose cannabidiol as an option, citing its reputation as a mild medication with few adverse effects.
That is consistent with Batista’s background. “My kid has a lovely personality; she’s kind and feisty. She added, “I don’t want to dose her with something that would turn her into a zombie.” She was alluding to parent complaints that some stimulant-based medicines can make their children look jittery.
She stated, “I don’t want her to fall behind.” Batista has witnessed other children with A.D.H.D. struggle at school. “It can completely engulf a child, resulting in a launch failure.”
There are hints that cannabidiol might assist with anxiety, which is a symptom that can accompany autism and A.D.H.D., according to Mitchell. Anxiety improved in more than a third of the 60 patients in a 2018 study of cannabidiol for youngsters with autism.
Despite its reputation for producing sleepiness in recreational users, there is no evidence that cannabidiol assists with sleep. “Something can make you drowsy without affecting the quality of your sleep,” Hazekamp explained.
There are no silver bullets.
Even if cannabidiol is authorized for additional types of seizures, autism, or A.D.H.D. in the future, it is unlikely to work for everyone.
Kelly Cervantes, a Chicago mother and health activist, administered cannabidiol to her daughter Adelaide, who had severe infantile spasms due to undiagnosed neurological disease. “We were desperate, and we were willing to do anything,” Cervantes said. She claims she acquired the product online rather than via her doctor when her kid was around a year and a half old and before Epidiolex was available. Adelaide’s symptoms unfortunately worsened. “It is all dependent on the child. “There is no single drug, oil, or therapy that can cure everyone,” she explained.
Adelaide’s physicians also began to see symptoms of liver impairment. Cervantes escorted her away from the cannabidiol. “Cannabidiol does not come without side effects,” she explained, “which I believe is a huge misperception about it.” A modest dose of Epidiolex caused adverse effects in at least 10% of children in clinical studies, including increased liver enzymes, reduced appetite, diarrhea, tiredness, sleep difficulties, and malaise.
Furthermore, without independent testing, it is hard to tell what is in a cannabidiol product. In the Netherlands, one of Hazekamp’s research looked at 46 cannabis oils produced by patients or sold online. Only 21 items listed the chemical concentrations, and several of them were completely inaccurate. Seven was completely devoid of cannabinoids. One of them had more than twice as much THC as the package stated.
Pesticides, heavy metals, and microorganisms might all be present in the plants, according to Hazekamp. He added it’s unclear if such ingredients make it into cannabidiol oils.
Pure cannabidiol cannot be overdosed, however, manufactured knock-offs can be deadly. The American Association of Poison Control Centers issued a warning in 2019 citing “increasing worry” about cannabidiol products, citing a jump in national cannabidiol calls from little over 100 in 2017 to over 1,500 last year.
“The labels aren’t always correct,” Hazekamp added. “Make sure it’s what you believe it is if you attempt it.”
Consult your physician.
Cervantes tried cannabidiol after purchasing it online from what she thought was a trustworthy business, but she has no idea what was in it. She believes that if cannabidiol products were better regulated and parents felt comfortable talking to their doctors about it, rather than fear about its link to marijuana, it would benefit parents of suffering children.
Mitchell explained, “I had a patient start using cannabidiol and I just discovered out a month later.” “Parents may anticipate an unfavorable response from a doctor.” He believes it is a doctor’s obligation to be open to discussing possibilities. “Shutting down a patient doesn’t mean you won the debate; it just means they won’t talk about it.”
Batista claims that her daughter’s physicians advised her to use cannabidiol with caution and did not advocate it.
Despite this, she’s been using it for several months, starting with a modest dose and purchasing it from a company that promises independent testing to validate the product’s ingredients. She said she can’t tell if it’s working, but she’s hopeful that a gentle medicine with little adverse effects would work for her daughter. “I’d like to believe it’s assisting.”
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