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Is Cannabis a Safe Pediatric Option?

Christine Kielhorn PHD
Sick kids IV in hand

Current research says that, yes, CBD is safe for pediatric use. 

Every parent fears a day they will see their child suffer and be unable to fix the problem. For parents of children with severe childhood diseases, like the various forms of treatment-resistant pediatric epilepsy, this is their waking reality.

Naturally, these parents are eager to try any promising new treatment, including cannabis. For epilepsy, many parents have found success using strains with high CBD content.  You will find many testimonials on the internet, but does the clinical data back up the anecdotal evidence?

Is cannabis safe for use in children?

There has been more than one trial demonstrating that cannabis gives an improvement in the quality of life for children with severe epilepsy. However, these were not able to give statistical evidence verifying to a reduction in seizure frequency or severity.

A new pharmaceutical, however, promises to do just that. Scientists call it call Epidiolex (GW Pharmaceuticals) – It is a purified CBD extract from Cannabis sativa. Epidiolex has successfully seen FDA approval in June of 2018.

Safety is always a concern when developing of a new medication. Especially when it is for pediatrics. Current data, however, is reassuring. Cannabis, especially CBD, is well tolerated in children and there are few adverse events.

Cannabis shows promise in other pediatric treatments. In children with behavioral disorders, such as those that accompany Autism, CBD has been shown to help. Many of the studies to date, however, have been very small and uncontrolled. This means we need more data. There is one large, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial studying the effect of CBD on children on the autism spectrum that began in January 2017, in Israel. The study will end in 2019.

Sick kid in hospital bed, pediatric

More Research

In infants who have sustained a perinatal brain injury, studies in animal models suggest that CBD can restore some of the resulting brain damage. The anti-inflammatory response of CBD dampens all the major pathways that lead to brain damage as a result of injury.

Finally, THC and CBD kill cancer cells and cut the growth of tumors in children with neuroblastoma. CBD could also mitigate the aggressiveness and invasiveness of neuroblastoma tumors.

The use of cannabis in pediatrics may seem controversial. However, an increasing body of evidence is pointing to its effectiveness and safety.  It is likely that CBD will have approval to treat epilepsy. This should encourage additional research into the effectiveness of cannabis medicine to treat other ailments, such as behavioral disorders and brain-related disease and injury.

Christine Kielhorn
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