Accumulated evidence indicates that cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychotomimetic and nonaddictive main component of the Cannabis sativa plant, reverses anxiety-like behaviour. The purpose of the present study was to assess the efficacy of CBD treatment for Japanese late teenagers with social anxiety disorder (SAD). Thirty-seven 18 – 19 years old Japanese teenagers with SAD and avoidant personality disorder receive, in a double-blind study, cannabis oil (n = 17) containing 300 mg CBD or placebo (n = 20) daily during 4 weeks. SAD symptoms were measured at the beginning and end of the treatment period using the Fear of Negative Evaluation Questionnaire and the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale. CBD significantly decrease anxiety measured by both scales. The results indicate that CBD could be a useful option to treat social anxiety. More and more adults are turning to cannabis for things from mental health to pain — but is it a fit for your teens? Effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of
Anxiolytic Effects of Repeated Cannabidiol Treatment in Teenagers With Social Anxiety Disorders
Accumulated evidence indicates that cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychotomimetic and nonaddictive main component of the Cannabis sativa plant, reverses anxiety-like behavior. The purpose of the present study was to assess the efficacy of CBD treatment for Japanese late teenagers with social anxiety disorder (SAD). Thirty-seven 18–19-year-old Japanese teenagers with SAD and avoidant personality disorder received, in a double-blind study, cannabis oil (n = 17) containing 300 mg CBD or placebo (n = 20) daily for 4 weeks. SAD symptoms were measured at the beginning and end of the treatment period using the Fear of Negative Evaluation Questionnaire and the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale. CBD significantly decreased anxiety measured by both scales. The results indicate that CBD could be a useful option to treat social anxiety.
The primary noneuphorizing and nonaddictive compound of cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD), has recently been shown to possess considerable therapeutic potential for treating a wide range of neuropsychiatric disorders (De Gregorio et al., 2019). They include chronic pain (Costa et al., 2007), nausea (Parker et al., 2006), epilepsy (Devinsky et al., 2016), psychosis (McGuire et al., 2018), and anxiety (Scuderi et al., 2009; Whiting et al., 2015). CBD in therapeutics is used within a large therapeutic window, which ranges from 2.85 to 50 mg/kg/day (Whiting et al., 2015; Devinsky et al., 2016). While this fact indicates that its therapeutic dose is still mostly unknown, clinical studies have revealed that CBD could produce analgesic and anxiolytic effects exerted through its interaction with 5HT1A receptors (De Gregorio et al., 2019). As a potential anxiolytic treatment, in particular, it has drawn increasing interest. A review (Blessing et al., 2015) concluded that existing preclinical evidence strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic disorder when administered acutely.
Clinical data showing therapeutic effects of CBD in patients with anxiety disorders, however, are still meager (Bergamaschi et al., 2011; Crippa et al., 2011). The purpose of the present study was to investigate these effects in patients with social anxiety disorder (SAD).
SAD is characterized by excessive anxiety in situations where a person might feel judged, such as performance situations, and situations involving interpersonal contact with others (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). This is the fear of social situations that may cause humiliation or embarrassment. While it is one of the common anxiety disorders (Craske et al., 2017), it is a relatively new area of research, and thus, its etiology, effects, and treatment are not clearly understood. Even prevalence rates reported in the literature vary across studies (Antony and Rowa, 2008). For instance, lifetime prevalence estimates for SAD based on large community samples in the United States range from 3 to 13%. In addition, some studies report that SAD has a higher incidence in females than in males (Kessler et al., 2005).
Developmentally, SAD is likely to not only begin in adolescence (mid to late teens) but can also occur earlier in childhood (Somers et al., 2006). A significant number of adults report that they have had problems with social anxiety for their entire lives or as long as they can remember (Brown et al., 2001; Masataka, 2003). A large-scale study of individuals presenting at an anxiety clinic found a mean age of onset of 15.7 years, a number that was younger than the onset of other anxiety disorders (Merikangas et al., 2011).
SAD is best treated with psychotropic medication and cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT), and the most effective treatments are a combination of both (Nordahl et al., 2016). They consist of monoamine oxidase inhibitors, the serotonin reuptake inhibitors, benzodiazepines, and individual cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT typically includes 10–15 weekly sessions and consists of a variety of strategies, such as self-monitoring, psychoeducation, cognitive therapy, exposure-based techniques, and social skills training. While this method has been proven to be effective for SAD if it is executed, it is also true that people with the disorder quite often show unwillingness (Ryan and Warner, 2012) to receive CBT. In fact, a study reported that 92% of individuals with SAD expressed concerns about starting treatment and that is the biggest barrier to treatment that should be overcome (Kessler et al., 2005).
In this regard, preliminary findings reported by a study (Bergamaschi et al., 2011) that investigated the efficacy of CBD with patients with SAD are noteworthy. In that study, 12 patients with SAD were provided with a single dose of CBD (600 mg). When the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking was compared between pretreatment and posttreatment, its level showed a significant decrease after the treatment, whereas no such change was observed in the placebo group of 12 other patients.
The purpose of the current study was to pursue this issue further and to investigate the possible efficacy of CBD as at least an adjunctive option for intervention in people with SAD. While SAD has been classified into several subtypes so far (Antony and Rowa, 2008), here, the author concentrated the research on that with avoidant personality disorder because this subtype is the most commonly diagnosed and is becoming a serious social problem in Japan, where the current study was conducted (Ogino, 2004; Saito, 2007; Teo, 2010). The author attempted to systematically assess the efficacy of CBD in a total of 37 18–19-year-old Japanese with SAD, all of whom had been naive to any form of treatment, by measuring the level of the symptoms of SAD with both the Fear of Negative Evaluation Questionnaire (FNE; Watson and Friend, 1969) and the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS; Liebowitz, 1987) using an exploratory double-blind parallel-group trial experimental paradigm.
FNE is a 30-item measure of apprehension and anxiety over anticipated social evaluations. This measure uses a true-false scale and is known to show good internal consistency and test-retest reliability (Watson and Friend, 1969). FNE has a range from 0 to 30, with high scores indicating higher levels of social anxiety. LSAS is a short questionnaire to assess the range of social interaction and performance situations feared by a person in order to assist in the diagnosis of SAD (Liebowitz, 1987). It has been commonly used to investigate outcomes in clinical trials and, more recently, to evaluate the effectiveness of psychological treatments (De Gregorio et al., 2019). The scale features 24 items, which are divided into two subscales. Thirteen questions relate to performance, and 11 relate to situations.
The author attempted to assess the efficacy of CBD by comparing the FNE and the LSAS scores measured before the commencement of the 4-week-long intervention (preintervention) and the scores measured after the completion of the intervention (postintervention) in the group of participants who were provided with CBD (the CBD group) and in the group whose participants were provided with placebo (the placebo group). The author hypothesized that CBD would significantly decrease anxiety measured by both of the two scales employed.
Materials and Methods
This investigation was conducted according to the principles expressed in the Declaration of Helsinki. All experimental protocols were consistent with the Guide for Experimentation with Humans and were approved by the Institutional Ethics Committee of Kyoto University (#2018-150), the regional committee for medical and health research ethics (#2018/1783), and the Japanese Data Inspectorate for clinical trials (JCT0018004564). The author obtained written informed consent from all of the participants involved in the study. Written informed consent was additionally obtained from the parent/legal guardian of all participants who were younger than the age of consent at the time of the study.
Design and Participants
A randomized, placebo-controlled, comparative study with a total of 37 Japanese adolescents was undertaken. Double masking was conducted, and the participants and the investigator were blinded regarding which condition (CBD oil or placebo) under which each participant was studied.
At the commencement of the study, 40 teenagers with SAD participated, and 20 of them were assigned to the CBD group and the other 20 to the placebo group. This sample size was determined because the current study had been approved by the ethics committee on the condition that, as a pilot study, no more than 20 teenagers take CBD oil. Of the 40 participants, three in the CBD group declined daily treatment with CBD oil during the study because they disliked the smell and the taste of the oil.
In all, 26 males and 11 females 18–19-year olds were included in the study (12 males and 5 females for the CBD group and 14 males and 6 females for the placebo group). They were all naive to cannabis and diagnosed by psychiatrists in several hospitals located in the vicinity of Osaka Prefecture, Japan, using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders (SCID-I/P; Di Nardo et al., 1994) and Axis II Personality Disorders (First et al., 1997). For all of the participants, symptoms had lasted for at least 6 months at the commencement of the study. Exclusion criteria were experience of receiving previous or concurrent psychological or drug treatment, any form of psychotic or organic illness, diagnosis of cluster A or B personality disorder, acute suicidality, and drug and alcohol dependence. They have not had a comorbid diagnosis of other anxiety or mood disorders.
The participants were invited to attend an assessment interview for possible participation in the present study. None of them were under CBT. Assessment of all of them was undertaken by psychiatrists who were trained in administering the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID I and II; Liebowitz, 1987; Di Nardo et al., 1994; First et al., 1997). The participants completed the first battery of self-report measures before attending the assessment interview. The baseline period for them was a minimum of 3 weeks showing stable FNE scores (Watson and Friend, 1969; the primary outcome measure). Subsequently, after the assessment interview, they rated themselves on the FNE and LSAS (Liebowitz, 1987) over the succeeding weeks (preintervention). All of the participants had a stable FNE score over the 3 consecutive weeks and were therefore scheduled for intervention within a week after the third-baseline measuring point.
When the 4-week-intervention ended, the FNE and LSAS were completed again by each participant (postintervention), and their scores were compared with those recorded at preintervention. Then, the SCID I and II were administered again by the same psychiatrists who met the participants at preintervention.
After the completion of the intervention, at the follow-up, the clinical psychologists who had been responsible for the intervention visited the participants briefly at their home once a week to check for any effect of it on their health. This follow-up continued for up to a 6-month-period.
All of the participants were randomly assigned into either the CBD group, in which they were to daily receive 300 mg of CBD administered in a single dose in the afternoon, or the placebo group, in which they were to daily receive a matching placebo. The CBD dose was based on that used in the first study showing acute anxiolytic effects in healthy subjects exposed to a simulated public speaking test (Zuardi et al., 1993). This assignment was conducted by an independent statistician who did not know about the purpose of the present research. The CBD used was RSHO-X Hemp Oil (the product of HempMeds, USA) that was produced from the stalk of hemp plants. A 236-ml bottle of the product that was for sale by the company contained 5,000 mg of CBD (21.4 mg/ml) but no delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It did not contain other cannabinoids or terpenes.
The placebo contained olive oil. The CBD oil containing 300 mg of CBD or the equivalent amount of the placebo was administered orally to each of the participants of the CBD group and each of the participants of the placebo group, respectively. For each participant, roughly 420 ml of the CBD oil or the same amount of the placebo was rebottled in a container that was different from that in which it had been originally bottled and that was identical in size and color as well as appearance to the oil administered to the other group.
The container was provided to a clinical psychologist who was employed by the principal investigator and was predetermined to be responsible for each participant. The psychologist who did not know whether the bottle contained CBD or not visited the home of the participant with the container every afternoon and administered the necessary amount of the prepared oil to the participant, using a syringe, during the 4-week intervention period.
While CBD oil had a characteristic smell and taste, all of the psychologists and the participants had been naive to the CBD oil as well as the placebo. The interview with them that was conducted after the completion of the study revealed that none of them noticed the difference between the two.
The results of the measurements with FNE of the level of the symptoms that were associated with SAD are shown in Figure 1. When the collected data were analyzed by a 2 (period of measurements: preintervention versus postintervention, MEASUREMENT) × 2 (participant group: the CBD group versus the Placebo group, PARTICIPANT) repeated-measures ANOVA (analysis of variance), the main effect was statistically significant for MEASUREMENT (F1,35 = 10.35, p = 0.003, η p 2 = 0.0228) but not for PARTICIPANT (F1,35 = 2.69, p = 0.11, η p 2 = 0.071). The interaction between these factors was significant (F1,35 = 44.81, p < 0.001, η p 2 = 0.561). The mean FNE score (SD) of the CBD group was 24.4 (2.7) in the preintervention measurement and 19.1 (2.1) in the postintervention measurement and that of the placebo group was 23.5 (2.1) in the preintervention measurement and 23.3 (2.9) in the postintervention measurement.
Figure 1. Scores of Fear of Negative Evaluation Questionnaire (FNE) in the participants who received the intervention with cannabidiol (CBD; n = 17) and in the participants who received the intervention with placebo (Placebo; n = 20). The participants were evaluated before (Pre) and after (Post) treatment. Error bars represent SDs. * indicates significant difference from pretreatment measurement.
Subsequent analyses of simple main effects (using Bonferroni correction), which were performed because of the significant interactions between MEASUREMENT and PARTICIPANT, revealed that the mean score of the CBD group was lower in the postintervention measurement than in the preintervention measurement (p = 0.02), while no such difference was found in the placebo group (p = 0.29). Scores of the participants in the CBD group were lower than those of the placebo group in the postintervention measurement (p = 0.0002), but the scores were not statistically significantly different from one another in the preintervention measurement (p = 0.71).
Figure 2 presents the results of the measurements with LSAS of the level of the symptoms that are associated with SAD. The results were strikingly similar to those shown in Figure 1. The main effect was statistically significant for MEASUREMENT (F1,35 = 10.35, p = 0.003, η p 2 = 0.023) but not for PARTICIPANT (F1,35 = 0.45, p = 0.57, η p 2 = 0.011). The interaction between these factors was significant (F1,35 = 39.16, p < 0.001, η p 2 = 0.528). The mean LSAS score (SD) of the CBD group was 74.2 (7.5) in the preintervention measurement and 62.1 (8.7) in the postintervention measurement and that of the placebo group was 69.9 (10.3) in the preintervention measurement and 66.8 (11.2) in the postintervention measurement.
Figure 2. Scores of Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS) in the participants who received the intervention with cannabidiol (CBD; n = 17) and in the participants who received the intervention with placebo (Placebo; n = 20). The participants were evaluated before (Pre) and after (Post) treatment. Error bars represent SDs. * indicates significant difference from pretreatment measurement.
Another post hoc test revealed that the mean LSAS score of the CBD group was lower in the postintervention measurement than in the preintervention measurement (p = 0.03), but no such difference was found in the placebo group (p = 0.42). Scores of the participants in the CBD group were smaller than those of the placebo group in the postintervention measurement (p = 0.0018), but the scores in the two groups were not statistically significantly different from one another in the preintervention measurement (p = 0.66).
At the follow-up conducted after the completion of the intervention, none of the participants had any significant health complaint, although no systematic evaluation of side effects was conducted. At that time, among the 17 participants included in the CBD group, nine reported that they decided to receive some form of treatment (medication and CBT) by regularly visiting hospitals, while none of the 20 participants in the control group was found to make such a decision. The participants of the CBD group were more likely to make such decision than those of the placebo group were (χ 2 (1) = 13.99, p < 0.001).
The anxiolytic effects of CBD have been extensively demonstrated in animal studies and in healthy volunteers subjected to anxiety induced by several procedures, including the simulation of public speaking (Zuardi et al., 1993; Blessing et al., 2015). A pioneering study that investigated the effects on SAD patients showed that CBD reduces anticipatory anxiety (Crippa et al., 2011). Moreover, CBD was found to exert a significant effect on increased brain activity in the right posterior cingulated cortex that is thought to be involved in the processing of emotional information. A subsequent study (Bergamaschi et al., 2011) experimentally demonstrated a reduction in the anxiety provoked by simulated public speaking by a single dose of CBD in patients with SAD, although the findings were preliminary. Based on these findings, the current study was conceived to extend the published research into a more systematic study on the effect of CBD on teenagers with SAD with avoidant personality disorder for a longer period. Its results are consistent with those obtained by the previous research and indicate that intervention with CBD for a 4-week period reduced the level of symptoms in teenagers with SAD, as measured by FSE and LSAS.
As an option for medication treatment for SAD, so far, the use of paroxetine has been reported to be most effective (Nordahl et al., 2016). That study reported that a 26-week daily treatment with paroxetine alone produced a 5.2-point decrease in the FNE score and a 10.2-point decrease in the LSAS score. Those reported decreases in symptoms were almost equivalent to the observed decreases induced by CBD here, although the treatment groups studied in the two studies were not closely compatible.
In children and adolescents, SAD is known to be among the most common mental disorders (De Gregorio et al., 2019). A survey conducted in the United States showed that the disorder starts as early as age 5 and peaks around age 12 (Merikangas et al., 2011). When untreated, it runs a chronic course into adolescence and eventually adulthood. In Japan, notably, the population of such teenagers with avoidant personality disorder who “seclude themselves for more than six months at home” (Saito, 2007) and “typically withdraw from most social activities and retreat into their living spaces” (Teo, 2010) is estimated to have reached 1,000,000 (Ogino, 2004), and this has become a serious social problem. When they are provided with a higher level of social support, their quality of life (QOL) is likely to increase, whereas it deteriorates with poor support. The teenagers with SAD in Japan who have higher levels of social withdrawal along with such poor support are likely to develop a stronger sense of loneliness and to suffer from poorer QOL (Teo, 2010).
Despite such negative impacts of the disorder, the majority of teenagers with SAD are likely to be untreated. Psychotropic medication and CBT are the most common therapeutic options for SAD. However, socially anxious teenagers rarely seek help due to the potential stigma associated with mental issues and fear of interacting therapists and psychiatrists (Ogino, 2004; Teo, 2010). As revealed by the follow-up conducted in the current study, many of the participants treated with CBD became positive in their attitude toward seeking treatment. To overcome the dilemma of teenagers with SAD described above, delivering interventions with CBD could be an effective option for reducing the barriers facing SAD patients in need of treatment.
In all, the results of the current study provide evidence for anxiolytic effects of repeated CBD administration in teenagers with SAD. At the same time, however, the author acknowledges several limitations of the current study. No assay of the blood level of CBD was undertaken. A more detailed baseline sociodemographic evaluation could have been performed to ensure the pretreatment similarity of the treatment groups. Measurements need to be performed at additional times between the baseline and the end of the study. These measures would be essential to show, for example, if CBD could produce rapid improvement of social anxiety (a putative advantage over paroxetine). Moreover, possible side effects should be evaluated systematically. Clearly, these are issues for future research that should also be long-term studies with a positive control (e.g., paroxetine) to better assess the potential usefulness of CBD in the therapy of SAD.
Data Availability Statement
All datasets generated for this study are included in the article/supplementary material.
The studies involving human participants were reviewed and approved by the Institutional Ethics Committee of Kyoto University (#2018-150), the Regional committee for medical and health research ethics (#2018/1783), and the Japanese Data Inspectorate for clinical trials (JCT0018004564). The patients/participants provided their written informed consent to participate in this study.
NM conceived the study, collected and analyzed the data, and drafted the manuscript.
This research was supported by a grant-in-aid (JSPS#25285201) as well as by the Grants for Excellent Graduate Schools program from the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports, and Culture, Japanese Government. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Conflict of Interest
The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
The author is grateful to Dr. Satomi Yamada, Yoshiyuki Nagai, Atsushi Ishige, Ryohei Tatsumi, and Koji Maki for their assistance in conducting experimentation and Elizabeth Nakajima for making comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.
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Keywords: cannabidiol, social anxiety disorder, cannabis, cannabinoid, social phobia, avoidant personality disorder, social withdrawal
Citation: Masataka N (2019) Anxiolytic Effects of Repeated Cannabidiol Treatment in Teenagers With Social Anxiety Disorders. Front. Psychol. 10:2466. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02466
Received: 14 June 2019; Accepted: 18 October 2019;
Published: 08 November 2019.
Changiz Mohiyeddini, Northeastern University, United States
Francisco Silveira Guimaraes, University of São Paulo, Brazil
Sagnik Bhattacharyya, King’s College London, United Kingdom
Copyright © 2019 Masataka. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Is It Safe to Give Teens CBD?
We are living in an anxiety-riddled world and it’s affecting our children. Last year a poll found nearly half (48 percent) of U.S. teens are worried about experiencing social anxiety in transitioning back to a post-pandemic world while 43 percent reported they are concerned about mental health challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With CBD being big business for treating stress — a survey found more than 60 percent of CBD users were taking it for anxiety — then is it safe for teens?
“The most common reasons American adults report trying CBD are to potentially benefit issues with pain, sleep, stress, or mood,” Dr. Jeff Chen, MD, CEO and Co-founder of Radicle Science, which recently completed history’s largest longitudinal study on CBD, tells SheKnows. “Much fewer studies have been done on why teens are using CBD, but the preliminary results of one study (yet to be published) presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2020 showed that some 40 percent of teens had tried using CBD oil.”
While Dr. Chen says some of the teens reported trying it “just for fun,” others stated their reason to try it was the hope that CBD “can help to treat my medical illness.”
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid in the family of cannabinoids that can be found in marijuana. Unlike THC — which is marijuana’s most active ingredient that leaves you feeling high — CBD is touted for its medicinal usage without leaving you feeling buzzed or addicted.
“CBD is classified as not psychoactive, meaning there is no high involved, and it is not physiologically addictive. Rather, people get used to it and depend on its action,” says Dr. Lynn Parodneck, a medical marijuana expert and medical advisor with TribeTokes.
Why you might consider having your teens try it
“Research has shown that CBD can help with anxiety, inflammation and many other ailments without the potential for abuse,” says Laurel (Lo) Friesen, founder, CEO, and Chief Extractor of Heylo, tells SheKnows.
While there isn’t enough evidence among the scientific community to fully prove that CBD is risk-free, according to Frisen, current research shows that side effects are minimal and the benefits far outweigh the risks.
“Because of this, CBD is a great option for teens to address anxiety, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and other medical needs. Anxiety is rising in the adolescent population and CBD could dramatically improve outcomes without the risks of pharmaceuticals.”
What parents need to know before giving the go ahead
“Parents who are thinking about providing CBD to their children should consult with their primary care doctor to determine if it’s appropriate to take CBD in conjunction with other medications if their teen is currently prescribed any,”says Friesen.
Additionally, Friesen recommends ensuring you’re buying a high-quality CBD product by reviewing test results from the manufacturer as the quality of the product can dramatically impact the efficacy and safety of the product. “High-quality and vetted sources are best. Initially, follow dosing instructions, but continue to monitor your teen to make decisions regarding changes to their dosage.”
Friesen also believes parents should be aware of the potential side effects of higher doses of CBD “so that they can understand how to dial in dosing for their child, the best method of administration, and the best time of day to administer the CBD product.”
If this all sounds a bit too much to take in, Dr. Parodneck recommends working with a trusted physician. “A physician should know how to dose correctly. Additionally, medical marijuana practitioners are trained to dose and understand how this works. They also are aware of all the meds that compete for the cytochrome p450 system in the liver. That said, CBD can be used for just about anyone, but it helps to journal effects.”
As for which types of CBD adolescents should use, Dr. Parodneck says tinctures are recommended “because they can be closely dosed, and gummies are a popular option.”
As for side effects, Dr. Parodneck says because CBD isn’t FDA regulated, “it is important that reliable brands are utilized. Side effects can occur if the dose is too high. Common side effects include diarrhea and sleepiness.”
But is it safe?
According to Dr. Chen, there’s a lack of research when it comes to CBD and teens. “Regardless of what adults or teens report using CBD for, the reality is that there are few rigorous clinical trials on CBD outside of for pediatric epilepsy (a disease for which CBD is FDA-approved to treat). Some preliminary areas where oral ingestion of CBD has demonstrated benefit in at least one blinded placebo controlled clinical trial include: the treatment of social anxiety disorder, opioid addiction, schizophrenia, and sleep disorders.”
While Heather Hanks, MS CAM, says CBD is “generally very safe” it needs to be watched on a case-by-case basis “as the activation of the endocannabinoid system affects everyone differently,” citing one study that found that CBD significantly reduced social anxiety disorder (SAD) in teens, “but the researchers did not look at side effects of CBD.”
Ultimately, says Dr. Chen, “We need many more and much larger studies on these areas before making any definitive conclusions. Lastly, there are preclinical studies demonstrating potential benefits of topical CBD for acne, but human studies are still lacking.”
What can teens take instead?
Hanks suggests turmeric for those who want an alternative to CBD but with similar benefits. “I like turmeric because it has been studied for many years now and is safe to use as recommended by a health professional. Interestingly, some spices, including turmeric, may stimulate the endocannabinoid system, similar to CBD. This anti-inflammatory response seems to be what helps heal anxiety in people.”
She also recommends adopting other healthy habits into your teen’s life as well.
“Many teens don’t eat a balanced diet or get proper amounts of exercise. These elements are key in helping your teen feel your best. Taking a CBD supplement alone may help, but consider that it will help more when combined with other healthy habits.”
Before you go, check out our favorite mental health apps to give brains a little more TLC:
Effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report
Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Fort Collins. E-mail: [email protected]
Naturopathic Physician at the Wholeness Center in Fort Collins, CO. E-mail: [email protected]
Anxiety and sleep disorders are often the result of posttraumatic stress disorder and can contribute to an impaired ability to focus and to demonstration of oppositional behaviors.
These symptoms were present in our patient, a ten-year-old girl who was sexually abused and had minimal parental supervision as a young child under the age of five. Pharmaceutical medications provided partial relief, but results were not long-lasting, and there were major side effects. A trial of cannabidiol oil resulted in a maintained decrease in anxiety and a steady improvement in the quality and quantity of the patient’s sleep.
Cannabidiol oil, an increasingly popular treatment of anxiety and sleep issues, has been documented as being an effective alternative to pharmaceutical medications. This case study provides clinical data that support the use of cannabidiol oil as a safe treatment for reducing anxiety and improving sleep in a young girl with posttraumatic stress disorder.
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is a naturally occurring constituent of industrial hemp and marijuana, which are collectively called cannabis. CBD oil is 1 of at least 85 cannabinoid compounds found in cannabis and is popular for its medicinal benefits. After tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD oil is the second-most-abundant component of cannabis. Other names for CBD oil include CBD-rich hemp oil, hemp-derived CBD oil, or CBD-rich cannabis oil. Considered to be generally safe, CBD has been used medicinally for decades. However, CBD is not medical marijuana and should be distinguished from high-CBD strains of medical marijuana, which do contain THC, such as “Charlotte’s Web.”
The most abundant compound in cannabis, THC is also a cannabinoid. The THC component induces the psychoactive effect, “high.” A cannabis plant has different amounts of CBD and THC depending on the strain and thus provides different recreational or medicinal effects. The cannabinoid profile of industrial hemp or medical marijuana is ideal for people looking for the medical benefits of CBD without the “high” of the THC.
The mechanism of action of CBD is multifold.1–3 Two cannabinoid receptors are known to exist in the human body: CB1 and CB2 receptors. The CB1 receptors are located mainly in the brain and modulate neurotransmitter release in a manner that prevents excessive neuronal activity (thus calming and decreasing anxiety), as well as reduces pain, reduces inflammation, regulates movement and posture control, and regulates sensory perception, memory, and cognitive function. a 2 An endogenous ligand, anandamide, which occurs naturally in our bodies, binds to the CB1 receptors through the G-protein coupling system. CBD has an indirect effect on the CB1 receptors by stopping the enzymatic breakdown of anandamide, allowing it to stay in the system longer and provide medical benefits.4 CBD has a mild effect on the CB2 receptors, which are located in the periphery in lymphoid tissue. CBD helps to mediate the release of cytokines from the immune cells in a manner that helps to reduce inflammation and pain.2
Other mechanisms of action of CBD include stimulation of vanilloid pain receptors (TRPV-1 receptor), which are known to mediate pain perception, inflammation, and body temperature.5 In addition, CBD may exert its anti-anxiety effect by activating adenosine receptors which play a significant role in cardiovascular function and cause a broad anti-inflammatory effect throughout the body.5 At high concentrations, CBD directly activates the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, thereby conferring an antidepressant effect.6 Cannabidiol has been found to be an antagonist at the potentially new third cannabinoid receptor, GPR55, in the caudate nucleus and putamen, which if stimulated may contribute to osteoporosis.7
Since the 1940s, a considerable number of published articles have dealt with the chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology, and clinical effects of CBD.8 The last decade has shown a notable increase in the scientific literature on CBD, owing to its identification for reducing nausea and vomiting, combating psychotic disorders, reducing inflammation, decreasing anxiety and depression, improving sleep, and increasing a sense of well-being.9–12 Findings presented at the 2015 International Cannabinoid Research Society at its 25th Annual Symposium reported the use of CBD as beneficial for kidney fibrosis and inflammation, metabolic syndrome, overweight and obesity, anorexia-cachexia syndrome, and modification of osteoarthritic and other musculoskeletal conditions.13–16
Although studies have demonstrated the calming, anti-inflammatory, and relaxing effects of CBD, clinical data from actual cases is minimal. This case study offers evidence that CBD is effective as a safe alternative treatment to traditional psychiatric medications for reducing anxiety and insomnia.17
A ten-year-old girl presented in January 2015 for a reevaluation of behaviors related to her diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) secondary to sexual abuse. Her chief issues included anxiety, insomnia, outbursts at school, suicidal ideation, and self-destructive behaviors. Her grandmother, who has permanent custody of the patient and her younger brother, accompanied her.
Our patient had been seen for an initial evaluation in January 2012 and received a diagnosis of PTSD secondary to sexual abuse on the basis of her history, clinical observations, and behaviors ( Table 1 ). Her father had died 6 months earlier in a motor vehicle accident, and our patient’s maternal grandparents became her permanent guardians. Before her father’s death, our patient had no supervision from her father and very little supervision from her mother. An 11-year-old boy had molested her when she was 3 years old. Her medical history included her mother having methadone addiction, alcoholism, bipolar disorder, and depression. Her mother used marijuana her entire pregnancy with the girl. The patient presented in January 2012 as displaying aggressive, disobedient, impulsive, and sexually inappropriate behaviors. She also demonstrated low self-esteem and anxiety and had poor sleep (restless, interrupted, and unable to sleep alone).
|January 31, 2012||New evaluation: 7.5-year-old girl. History of sexual abuse and neglect. Issues: Insomnia, sexual behaviors. Diagnosis: PTSD secondary to sexual abuse.||None||Melatonin, 1 mg/night||February 14, 2012, laboratory values: TSH, 2.46 mIU/L (reference range, 0.47–4.68 mIU/L); ferritin: 21 ng/mL (reference range, 10–150 ng/mL).
February 16, 2012, laboratory values: Vitamin D3: 39 ng/mL (reference range, 20–50 ng/mL)
|February 20, 2012||Sleeping 2–3 hours/night. Started counseling; Cooperative and good behavior at counseling session. Anxious, traumatized.||Clonidine, 0.05 mg (half tablet) at bedtime||Inositol, 3 g 3 times/d; EPA fish oil, 500 mg/d||Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy recommended|
|February 22, 2012||Did not do well with clonidine because of hallucinations, so she discontinued that treatment. Behavior still very rough; sleep poor.||Started imipramine therapy, 25 mg at bedtime||March 7, 2012: ECG was normal|
|August 8, 2012 a||Good summer. In play therapy. Overall better sleep and energy with imipramine therapy. Patient’s 6-year-old brother also now in therapy.||Imipramine, 25 mg at bedtime|
|January 21, 2015||Returned for evaluation and treatment after 3 years. Suicidal ideation; cut self on leg; defiant and stubborn. Had psychotherapy 3 years straight twice a month. Sleeps with brother; can’t sleep alone.||Off all medications for past 18 months||Melatonin, 5 mg; St John’s wort, 450 mg twice/d; magnesium, 300 mg/d; diphenhydramine, 25 mg/night|
|February 16, 2015||Hard to manage. Has outbursts at school.||Magnesium and St John’s wort: stopped treatment; EPA fish oil, 750 mg/d; diphenhydramine, 25 mg/night||February 11, 2015: Normal cortisol and DHEA levels|
|March 16, 2015||Better overall. Started animal-assisted therapy.||EPA fish oil, 750 mg/d; diphenhydramine, 25 mg/night||Started a regimen of CBD oil, 25 mg (1 capsule)/d at 6 pm|
|April 14, 2015||Sleeping better with CBD treatment. Getting biofeedback. Has stomachaches. Mood is more at ease.||EPA fish oil, 750 mg/d; diphenhydramine, 25 mg/night||CBD oil, 25 mg (1 capsule)/d at 6 pm|
|May 26, 2015||“Ghosts” waking patient up at night.||EPA fish oil, 750 mg/d||CBD oil, 25 mg (1 capsule)/d at 6 pm|
|July 22, 2015||Sleeping better; able to sleep in own room 3–4 nights/wk.||EPA fish oil, 750 mg/d||CBD liquid, 12 mg (in 4 sublingual sprays)/night; 12 mg more (in 4 sublingual sprays) during the day as needed for anxiety, typically 3 or 4 times/wk|
|August 24, 2015||Sleeping well. Handling school well.||EPA fish oil, 750 mg/d||CBD oil, 25 mg (1 capsule)/night; CBD liquid, 6–12 mg (in 2–4 sublingual sprays) as needed for anxiety, typically 2 or 3 times/wk|
CBD = cannabidiol; DHEA = dehydroepiandrosterone; ECG = electrocardiogram; EPA = eicosapentaenoic acid; PTSD = posttraumatic stress disorder; TSH = thyroid stimulating hormone.
Workup during 2012 included laboratory studies, which ruled out a thyroid dysfunction and an iron or vitamin D deficiency. The patient was started on a regimen of 1 mg/night of melatonin, which helped her sleep duration. Three grams of inositol 3 times a day and 500 mg/d of eicosapentaenoic fish oil were also helpful in reducing her anxiety. A trial of clonidine was implemented, which resulted in hallucinations and thus was discontinued. The patient was switched to a regimen of 25 mg of imipramine at bedtime to decrease her anxiety, which appeared to be helpful. Counseling sessions were started. The patient continued psychotherapy for 3 years, but she was not seen again in our clinic until the return visit in January 2015, when she was not receiving any of her medications and supplements.
At the patient’s return in January 2015, she demonstrated the same prominent symptoms as at her initial presentation. At that time, the initial treatment included the following supplements and medications to assist with her sleep and anxiety: melatonin, 5 mg/night; magnesium, 300 mg/d; and diphenhydramine (Benadryl), 25 mg/night. Our patient demonstrated slight gains but was still having outbursts at school and was reportedly difficult to manage at home. In addition, her underlying anxiety continued.
Cannabidiol oil was explored as a potential additional treatment to help her insomnia and anxiety, but we deferred for two months while we waited for a response from other interventions. The grandmother preferred reducing the pharmacologic load given her granddaughter’s failure to respond long term to psychiatric medications.
In March 2015, CBD oil was recommended as a potential additional treatment to help her insomnia and anxiety, and her grandmother provided full informed consent. Our patient was administered the Sleep Disturbance Scale for Children18 and the Screen for Anxiety Related Disorders (SCARED)19 before taking the CBD oil and each month afterward for the next 5 months. Test scores on the Sleep Disturbance Scale for Children and Screen for Anxiety Related Disorders demonstrated an improvement ( Table 2 ).
Patient’s clinical progress in sleep and anxiety
|Date of visit||Sleep scale score a||SCARED score b|
|March 16, 2015||59||34|
|May 25, 2015||42||24|
|July 22, 2015||41||19|
|August 24, 2015||37||16|
|September 22, 2015||38||18|
a A score of more than 50 is considered indicative of a sleep disorder on the Sleep Disturbance Scale for Children.
SCARED = Screen for Anxiety Related Disorders.
A trial of CBD supplements (25 mg) was then initiated at bedtime, and 6 mg to 12 mg of CBD sublingual spray was administered during the day as needed for anxiety. A gradual increase in sleep quality and quantity and a decrease in her anxiety were noted. After 5 months, the patient was sleeping in her own room most nights and handling the new school year with no difficulties. No side effects were observed from taking the CBD oil.
Studies repeatedly recognize the prevalence of an anxiety-provoked sleep disorder after a traumatic experience.20 Our patient was definitely experiencing this phenomenon, which was aggravated by daily stressful activities.
The main finding from this case study is that CBD oil can be an effective compound to reduce anxiety and insomnia secondary to PTSD. A review of the literature suggests some benefits from the use of CBD because of its anxiolytic and sleep-inducing effects.9 Animal studies support use of this treatment and report that “CBD may block anxiety-induced [rapid eye movement] sleep alteration via its anxiolytic effect on the brain.”21
The strength of this particular case is that our patient was receiving no pharmaceutical medications (other than nonprescription diphenhydramine) but only nutritional supplements and the CBD oil to control her symptoms. Her scores on the sleep scale and the anxiety scale consistently and steadily decreased during a period of 5 months (see Table 2 ). She was ultimately able to sleep through the night most nights in her own room, was less anxious at school and home, and displayed appropriate behaviors. The patient’s grandmother (her caregiver) reported: “My granddaughter’s behaviors are definitely better being on the CBD. Her anxiety is not gone, but it is not as intense and she is much easier to be around. She now sleeps in her own room most of the time, which has never happened before.”
Further study will need to be conducted to determine the permanency of our patient’s positive behaviors and how long she will need to continue taking the CBD oil. We do not have a reasonable foundation to recommend dosing from the scientific literature. However, in our experience, this supplement given 12 mg to 25 mg once daily appears to provide relief of key symptoms with minimal side effects. Our patient did not voice any complaints or discomfort from the use of CBD. We routinely asked about headache, fatigue, and change in appetite or agitation in addition to conducting a routine psychiatric evaluation. Although CBD is considered generally safe,17 the long-term effects are yet to be studied.
The ultimate goal is to gradually taper her off the use of CBD oil and transition our patient into lifelong coping strategies such as yoga, meditation, and various other therapeutic activities.
Marijuana and Medicine
Scientific data indicate the potential therapeutic value of cannabinoid drugs, primarily [tetrahydrocannabinol], for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation; smoked marijuana, however, is a crude [tetrahydrocannabinol] delivery system that also delivers harmful substances.
— Joy JE, Watson SJ Jr, Benson JA Jr. Marijuana and medicine: Assessing the science base. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 1999.
CannaVest Corp, San Diego, CA, which had no involvement in the case study or distribution of the product, provided the CBD oil that was administered to the patient. No financial support was provided.
Kathleen Louden, ELS, of Louden Health Communications provided editorial assistance.
a GW Pharmaceuticals is the founder of the Cannabinoid Research Institute, directed by Philip Robson, MD. Further research articles listed.
The author(s) have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
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