Child Development

CBD Oil for ADHD: Is It Safe for Kids?

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Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD is a very common condition that affects individuals of all ages across the globe. Prescription medication is the most frequently used treatment to address ADHD, whether on its own or alongside other tools, but some individuals seek alternatives to medication for a variety of reasons. 

CBD oil has a number of potential benefits, and it has continued to gain popularity throughout the years. CBD products are relatively easy to obtain in the United States, and individuals may use products such as CBD oil for a range of concerns that impact their life or wellbeing. 

When it comes to CBD oil for ADHD, however, parents might wonder - is it safe to give CBD oil to their child? Let’s talk about what CBD oil is, what it does and does not do, the possible risks and side effects, and whether or not CBD is safe for children.

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD is short for cannabidiol. CBD oil is a derivative of the cannabis plant. However, it is legal across the US, albeit with different levels of restriction, and unlike products with significant amounts of THC, it does not get you high

Alongside other impacts, such as pain relief, CBD is often recognized for its calming effects, which may appeal to some individuals with ADHD and other medical conditions.

If you are a parent who has considered or is considering CBD for your child, you’re not alone. It is said that around 7% of parents have considered giving their children CBD. 

The most common reasons for this include but are not limited to anxiety, sleep problems, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), ADHD, and other mental health conditions. Furthermore, 14% of adults in the US report that they’ve tried CBD themselves.

Many individuals who are drawn to the use of CBD for concerns such as ADHD, anxiety, and chronic pain feel this way due to the potential side effects that are affiliated with other treatments and supplements that one may use for these concerns. There is also a level of appeal in the accessibility of CBD products such as CBD oil. But, does it really work?

Can CBD Oil Help with ADHD Symptoms?

You may have come across claims that state CBD can help with ADHD symptoms. However, depending on the source, these may not always be backed up by research. Let’s look at what the research says about CBD oil for ADHD. 

Research on CBD for ADHD

Unfortunately, there is not much research on CBD alone for children with ADHD. For example, one study released in 2020 found that CBD was affiliated with a lower need for ADHD medication in a small sample of adults with ADHD. 

Currently, there is a Grade B recommendation for the use of CBD as a treatment for ADHD. In other words, a moderate recommendation. However, it is noted that this recommendation exists within the confines of a need for additional research. Central nervous system stimulants, on the other hand, carry a Grade A recommendation for the treatment of ADHD and are recommended as the first choice in medication for those who live with ADHD. 

It is relevant to note that some people use CBD oil or other cannabis products for conditions and concerns that may affect people with ADHD disproportionately and that there is research on CBD for the use of many of these concerns. 

So, even if an adult or their child isn’t interested in CBD for ADHD symptoms specifically, they may be interested in the use of CBD for co-occurring conditions which cause symptoms that affect a child’s life. For example, multiple studies have found that CBD is effective in the reduction of seizures in children with treatment-resistant epilepsy. It is indicated that 30% to 40% of children with epilepsy also live with ADHD, whereas in the general population, the percentage is significantly lower. 

Also worth discussing is the role CBD can play in helping those with anxiety and other disorders. Research shows that CBD can lead to the reduction of anxiety behaviors in individuals who live with generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Similar to what we see with seizure disorders, anxiety disorders are prevalent among those who live with ADHD, as are mood disorders, ASD, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Still, it hasn’t been determined that CBD is as effective in treating these conditions as other treatments, such as medication and therapy, are.

Risks and Side Effects

Many over-the-counter products may cause adverse effects or come with risks. If you look at the back of any dietary supplement or over-the-counter medication you own, you will likely see that this is true. CBD products aren’t considered dietary supplements, but they are not immune to this rule. 

Save for whether or not it is or might be an effective treatment for individuals who live with ADHD, the next question most parents have when it comes to the consideration of CBD for ADHD for their children relate to the potential risks and side effects. What are the possible risks and side effects associated with the use of CBD? Here is what we know. 

Risks 

Possible risks in the use of CBD for ADHD may include:

  • Lack of efficacy in comparison to ADHD medication. Whereas central nervous system stimulants, like Adderall and Dexedrine, are known as the golden standard treatment for people with ADHD and improve symptoms in up to around 80% of people who use these medications to treat ADHD, there is very little research confirming that CBD can help treat ADHD symptoms specifically. It is unlikely that CBD measures up equally.
  • Potential medication or supplement interactions. Some medication interactions can occur when a person takes CBD. Interactions may be seen in those who take Lithium, Celexa, Topamax, Tegretol, Warfarin, and other medications. If relevant, discuss any possible medication interactions with your child's doctor, and make sure to keep their doctor updated on any medications or supplements they stop or start. 
  • There may be side effects. Though side effects are generally nominal and mild when it comes to CBD, some people do report side effects when they take CBD. 

Studies indicate that CBD does not run the risk of dependency that THC does. CBD products must contain 0.3% THC or less. Legally, this percentage is what differentiates hemp from marijuana. THC causes psychoactive effects, and it is important to ensure that you are buying the correct product when you purchase CBD. Make sure to keep CBD products out of the reach of kids to avoid over-consumption. 

Side effects

Possible side effects associated with CBD can include:

  • Dry mouth.
  • Gastrointestinal distress 
  • Diarrhea.
  • A decrease in appetite.
  • Changes in alertness.
  • Fatigue, sleepiness, or drowsiness.

Certain effects, such as drowsiness, may actually be desired depending on why and when a person takes CBD. The side effects of CBD should dissipate when an individual stops taking it. You want to look for CBD products that are FDA approved if you choose to use it, as the FDA is aware that some selling of non-approved products containing CBD does occur. CBD oil may be consumed via drops under the tongue. Additionally, CBD gummies may be more palatable than the oil for some. Both CBD oil and products such as CBD gummies are commonly available in health food stores and supermarkets. 

Is It Safe for Kids?

The good news about CBD is that it’s generally well tolerated. Epidiolex, a medication containing CBD that is used for seizures, is approved for those who are at least one year old

However, we do not have enough research yet to know whether or not CBD will cause long-term effects in kids. The fact that we have such limited research and some questions that remain unanswered in relation to the use of CBD may be considered a risk. 

Should your child try it? The answer is that it’s up to their doctor. To determine whether or not CBD is recommended for your child, and to find out what dosage of CBD to use, it is vital to speak with your child’s pediatrician. 

They will be able to provide individualized advice and medical guidance for your child and address any concerns you might have as a parent, thus providing you confidence and safety in your choice. Your child’s doctor will also be able to determine whether they are on any medications or supplements that may cause a negative interaction. 

If you are interested in other treatments and forms of care for those who live with ADHD, such as behavior therapy or medication, your child’s doctor may be able to prescribe these treatments or provide a referral to another professional who can help. 

Other interventions, such as those at home and school, can also be beneficial. Many people find that a combination of approaches, such as a combination of central nervous system stimulant medication and therapy, is most helpful.

Takeaway 

Sometimes, people opt for alternatives to traditional ADHD treatments. The research on CBD for ADHD is limited, and we may learn more about CBD for ADHD as literature continues to emerge. As for whether or not it is a safe and viable option for your child, it is crucial to ensure that you discuss CBD with your child’s doctor before they try it.

CBD can change the ways that some medications or supplements work (IE, the effects of certain medications might be stronger or less strong when paired with CBD), which is another factor to consider and discuss with a professional prior to trying CBD.

This article is for informational purposes and is not a substitute for individual medical or mental health advice. Please consult with your or your child's prescribing doctor before changing, starting, or stopping a medication routine.