THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the most well-known component of marijuana, and it is the one that “gets you high,” so to speak. But have you heard of CBD? Many parents haven’t, or even if they have, they aren’t sure what to make of it or even understand if their son or daughter is using it. What’s certain is that it’s becoming more and more available, and, like vaping, is often marketed to young people.
What is CBD?
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is the largest non-psychoactive component of marijuana, and interest in its effects is growing. The CBD industry has started to expand and market their products as “life promoting” to healthy individuals.
There are hundreds of online companies selling this substance, with the market estimated to grow to $2.1 billion in 2020. Tinctures, edibles, sprays, vaping liquid, capsules and items such as gels, hand lotions and shampoos are widely available, varying in price and cannabidiol content.
Some of these products are illegal, while others can be purchased in supermarkets and health stores by anyone. Legality varies by state, often based upon whether it is hemp-derived or marijuana-derived. Hemp and marijuana both originate from the cannabis plant, but cannabis crops grown for their flowers have high THC levels, while when grown for their fibers and stalks are usually called hemp. Regardless of how it is derived, it’s best to check your state laws with respect to legality as it’s a rapidly changing landscape.
Why is CBD so interesting to young people?
The U.S. in general is becoming increasingly interested in this substance because of its ability to produce the medicinal benefits of cannabis without the high. It’s seen as a potential medicine without the side effects typically associated with marijuana — especially for cancer, serious chronic pain and epilepsy. For the first time, the FDA approved a new drug based upon cannabidiol derived from marijuana called Epidiolex in June 2018. This provides patients with a concentrated dose to treat seizures in rare forms of epilepsy.
Teens and young adults are using this substance as a homeopathic remedy for pain, depression and anxiety symptoms, acne and insomnia, and for boosting productivity. However, there are significant differences between compounds studied in labs for medical conditions like epilepsy and products that are sold to consumers for well-being.
Is CBD Safe for Teens?
The biggest problem with CBD is that there is a lack of well-controlled trials and little understanding of the long-term effects. Further, the trials are focused on the action and benefits of the purified compound, not an extract, which is typically found in commercial products. These products are for the most part unregulated, so users have to rely on the quality assurances of the companies that manufacture and sell them.
Cannabidiol does not appear to be dangerous in and of itself for short-term use, but many products contain dangerous chemicals or synthetic cannabidiol oil. For example, there were 52 cases of serious adverse effects including seizures, loss of consciousness, vomiting, nausea and altered mental status in Utah from 2017 to 2018 after people ingested a CBD product. Surprisingly, no traces of the compound were found in blood samples, only 4-cyano CUMYL-BUTINACA (4-CCB), or fake CBD oil. There aren’t any known brands that include harmful ingredients, but many producers do not test their products in labs or share how they are produced. It’s difficult to know what you are getting.
For the most part, side are minor (dry mouth, dizziness, nausea), but they can be serious if the products interact with other medications. Cannabidiol and other plant cannabinoids can interact with many pharmaceuticals by hindering the activity of cytochrome P450, a group of liver enzymes, so other drugs don’t metabolize as expected. Steroids, antihistamines, calcium channel blockers, immune modulators, benzodiazepines, antibiotics, anesthetics, antipsychotics, antidepressants, anti-epileptics and beta blockers could all potentially cause an adverse reaction when taken with CBD.
How would I know if my kid is using CBD?
It may be hard to know if your child is consuming CBD because of the minimal side effects and absence of a psychoactive effect. If you learn that your child is using this substance without a doctor’s or your permission, you should question it, and may even want to discuss the health impacts of it with your child’s doctor.
The World Health Organization declared cannabidiol non-addictive, writing, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential.” They do not, however, recommend consumption. While it does not appear to be harmful by itself, CBD producers are largely unregulated, so it’s difficult to know what is in products and the level of concentration. Further, it may be worth questioning product claims in terms of capabilities as there are few studies demonstrating effectiveness for the host of problems cannabidiol allegedly addresses. Finally, if it isn’t hemp-derived, it may be illegal in your state.
The bottom line is that if you’re a concerned parent, the best thing to do is to talk with your child about cannabidiol just like about any other substance. Start a conversation about why they’re interested in it, how it makes them feel and why they feel the need to use it. Come from a place of understanding and patience, and work to help your son or daughter make healthy decisions.