August 11, 2021

Can Teens Use CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, has become a popular topic over the last few years. CBD is a cannabis-derived compound that does not get people high and contains no THC. 

It's been used as an alternative treatment for seizures in children with epilepsy and as an aid to help adults who have trouble managing chronic pain. Now that CBD oil is available on the market, many are wondering if teens can use it, too. 

Here we discuss what you need to know about CBD usage for those who are under 18. We’ll answer common questions like:

  • How old do you need to be to buy CBD?
  • Is CBD safe for teens?

 

What Is CBD?

CBD is a naturally-occurring compound that comes from the cannabis plant. It can be found in both the marijuana and hemp strains of cannabis. It's known as the non-psychoactive part of the plant — so it doesn't get you high. When CBD is derived from hemp, there are essentially no traces of THC. So, this means CBD does not cause any kind of mind altering effects when consumed. 

Many people use CBD as a health product to supplement their overall wellness routine. The anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties of CBD make it incredibly popular for pain relief and stress reduction among adults. 

CBD Laws & Legal Status

CBD products are legal in the United States as long as they are made from hemp-based CBD extract that contains less than 0.3% THC. These rules come from the 2018 Farm Bill, making CBD products federally legal. 

However, states have their own specific laws surrounding CBD products, and may be more restrictive than federal law. Check the laws of your own state for more guidance.

Can Teenagers Buy CBD?

Whether or not you can buy CBD in your state/local shop/online depends on several — sometimes complicated — factors. In most cases CBD is restricted to those either 18 and over (or 21 and over). 

So the short answer is, likely not. For the long answer, read on.

Federal Age Requirements To Buy CBD

The federal government has not given any sort of specifications on how old you need to be to buy CBD. This has complicated the legal landscape when it comes to CBD age requirements. Most of the laws around CBD have been left up to the states, and many have imposed their own restrictions. Let's take a look.

State Age Requirements To Buy CBD

Whether or not you can buy CBD depends on your state, but most require you to be either 18 or 21 years old. Take a look at your own state's laws around CBD and cannabis products for the most comprehensive and up-to-date info. 

CBD Retailer Age Requirements

Now things get even more complex. CBD retailers may impose their own age restrictions — even if your state has none. 

  • If your state allows for CBD to be sold in physical stores, the shop may ask for you to verify that you're 18 or over (or 21 and over, depending on the state and type of store).
  • Many online shops require buyers to be 21 or over. In fact, this is often a screener question before you’re even allowed onto their websites.

Generally, if a CBD retailer has an age restriction, it will either meet or be more restrictive than the mandates of the state. 

Research On Teens & CBD

There has been quite a bit of research on the impact of cannabis on teenagers. However, most of the attention has been placed on THC, not CBD. There’s a knowledge gap when it comes to CBD's long term impacts on adolescents. 

That said, the following gives you a sense of the direction of research.

  • Most research on minors and CBD has focused on CBD’s potential to reduce seizures in children.(1)
  • Additionally, a 2019 study with 18 and 19 year olds found that CBD helped improve their symptoms of social anxiety disorder.(2)
  • Less is known about CBD use among teenagers for conditions like pain and sleep issues, and the long-term impacts of CBD use.

Is CBD Safe For Teens?

The truth is, there isn't enough data to definitively say whether or not a certain amount of CBD is safe for teenagers. CBD is known to be well tolerated by adults.(3) But there haven't been enough studies on the teenage population for researchers to determine if it's OK for teens.

Again, most research has been done on either cannabis as a whole or THC specifically. We know that teenagers are still going through a stage of brain development and cannabis can cause neurocognitive impacts to this development.(4)

For instance, cannabis use is associated with memory deficits and a reduction in volume of the hippocampus. However, one study showed that higher CBD content in cannabis had a neuroprotective effect and higher concentration of gray matter in the hippocampus.(5) Thus, there’s some research to suggest that CBD doesn’t cause the neurocognitive deficits that THC can cause in a developing brain.(4) However, CBD research is still in its infancy.

The only CBD product that may be deemed safe — for its intended use and users — is the FDA-approved CBD medication Epidiolex. 

Epidiolex: An FDA-Approved CBD Medication

Epidiolex is the first and only FDA-approved drug derived from cannabis. It contains only CBD (no THC). 

This revolutionary CBD drug is used to treat Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, Dravat syndrome, and tuberous sclerosis complex. These conditions can cause severe seizures during infancy or childhood and often don’t respond well to other medications. The working theory is that the CBD interacts somehow with the endocannabinoid system to reduce the number of seizures.

Epidiolex is approved for children over 1 year old and is meant to be used as a long-term treatment. If you're prescribed Epidiolex as a treatment for your or your child's seizures, your doctor will give you specific dosage instructions.  

There have been many studies looking at the treatment potential of Epidiolex for other conditions like pain, anxiety, autism, and multiple sclerosis.(6) The medication shows some promise of alleviating other conditions but hasn't been approved for any of these other applications yet. 

Epidiolex vs. Other CBD Products

It's important to keep that distinction between Epidiolex and other CBD products in mind. They are regulated differently, which means there are different rules and standards applied to them.

  • Epidiolex is subject to FDA prescription medication oversight. As a pharmaceutical product, it’s regulated as a medication (as opposed to a dietary supplement or food). It’s the only CBD product that’s gone through the safety-clearance rigors of the FDA drug approval process.
  • Other CBD products exist as general wellness aids. They’ve helped many people with a variety of conditions — but they’re not federally regulated, nor are they approved treatments for any conditions. 

This means that consumers need to do their own research on retailers to discern the quality of their CBD oil products. 

CBD For Teens? An Age-Old Question

There aren’t many studies providing insight into the safety or efficacy of CBD for minors.

There’s no set country-wide age requirement to purchase CBD. In the absence of federal rules, retailers and/or states have set age requirements for buying CBD. Chances are that either states or stores will require buyers to be at least 18+. So, you may be asked to verify your age with a government-issued ID when purchasing CBD products in store.

The only CBD product currently approved for minors (over the age of 1 in the US) is the prescription medication Epidiolex. It’s used to treat certain conditions that cause seizures. 

The more research that comes out, the more information we'll have about the effects of CBD for different populations, including teenagers.

Sources

  1. Campbell, CT, et al. (2017). Cannabinoids in Pediatrics. The journal of pediatric pharmacology and therapeutics. https://doi.org/10.5863/1551-6776-22.3.176
  2. Masataka, N. (2019). Anxiolytic Effects of Repeated Cannabidiol Treatment in Teenagers With Social Anxiety Disorders. Frontiers in psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02466
  3. Larsen, C, et al. (2020). Dosage, Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol Administration in Adults: A Systematic Review of Human Trials. Journal of clinical medicine research. https://doi.org/10.14740/jocmr4090
  4. Lisdahl, KM, et al. (2014). Considering Cannabis: The Effects of Regular Cannabis Use on Neurocognition in Adolescents and Young Adults. Curr Addict Rep. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40429-014-0019-6
  5. Demirakca, T, et al. (2011). Diminished gray matter in the hippocampus of cannabis users: possible protective effects of cannabidiol. Drug and alcohol dependence. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2010.09.020
  6. Slowiczek, L. (2020). Epidiolex (cannabidiol). Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/epidiolex


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