CBD Oil for Mental Health for Kids and Teens

Oct 03, 2019

Timothy Culbert, MD, IFMCP

What Kids, Teens and Parents Should Know About CBD Oil for Mental Health

By now you have probably heard of the potential health benefits of the natural plant-based remedy, CBD oil. It is derived from the cannabis plant, the same plant-type that provides marijuana. Cannabis plants have actually been utilized for millennia all over the world for their healing properties.

Understandably, there is some confusion about the differences between CBD oil and marijuana products. CBD oil that is hemp-based is legal in all 50 states. On the other hand, marijuana products vary by state in terms of their legality for medical versus recreational. CBD oil and marijuana both differ in their safety and efficacy for mental health symptoms in kids, teens, and adults.

I know, it's confusing. Let’s try to sort this all out...  

The Chemical Components of CBD, Marijuana, and Hemp

The term cannabis is used to identify a genus of flowering plants in the Cannabaceae family which consists of three primary species: Cannabis sativaCannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. The Cannabis plant contains hundreds of compounds called “phytocannabinoids.” These include CBD and THC. CBD oil contains primarily cannabidiol (CBD) and marijuana contains more of the psychoactive or high-inducing compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Hemp seed oil products are also available and used in topical preparations for cosmetic purposes. Hemp seeds are high in fiber, minerals, and protein thus commonly ingested for their nutritional value.

Does CBD Oil Get You High? 

The short answer is no. In general, hemp is a term used to classify varieties of cannabis that contain 0.3% or less THC content by dry weight. On the other hand, Marijuana is a term used to classify varieties of Cannabis that contain more than 0.3% THC by dry weight which can induce euphoric effects on the user. Hemp and marijuana each offer a range of usages which are unique to their composition. They are chemically similar but have unique effects. CBD Oil is primarily hemp-derived. 

The Difference Between CBD and THC

As a powerful psychoactive agent, THC can directly bind to the so-named CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain and body’s endocannabinoid (this term refers to internal cannabis related compounds) system of receptors, which induce the mind-altering, euphoric effects referred to as "being high.” CBD products can actually block the CB1 and CB2 receptors and achieve its therapeutic effects by instead interacting more directly with serotonin, opioid, and immune system receptors, thereby avoiding the “high” feeling associated with THC.

To learn more about CBD, THC, Marijuana, and Hemp check out our article that addresses what they are and when to use them.>>>

We Are Wired For Weed 

It is not a random accident that we can respond to THC and CBD. In fact, many mammals along with humans, are wired to have specialized receptors on nervous system cells and on cells in other organ systems such as the liver, heart, skin, reproductive tract, immune system, and distributed through peripheral tissues in the body. That means this system of cannabinoid sensitive receptors, enzymes and chemicals is not exclusive to the brain.

It turns out that disrupted endocannabinoid signaling in our body is associated with medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, infertility, and others. It is crazy to think that most of the quality research identifying the role of this cannabinoid family of compounds has only occurred the since the late 1980s! The first  identified was named “anandamide” which roughly translates to inner bliss.

Benefits of CBD Oil for Kids and Teens

CBD Oil has specific benefits for certain conditions in kids and teens and has a desirable safety profile when compared to THC. Unfortunately, the limited number of scientific studies on CBD oil lack quality. The World Health Organization's Comprehensive Report on CBD (2018) concluded that “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.” The WHO report found no evidence that CBD has the potential for abuse or dependence. The experts were optimistic that that preliminary evidence suggests that it may be a “useful  treatment for a variety of medical conditions.” Some claims for use of CBD oil with children include benefits such as improved focus, better memory, higher daytime alertness, less agitation, and boosted immune function.

Promising Applications of CBD Oil for Children and Adolescents

Anxiety: Applications here include social anxiety, generalized anxiety and PTSD.

Autism: A study in Israel found that 80% of kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder given CBD Oil showed some improvements in problematic symptoms and 50% showed gains in communication. 

Sleep Problems: Problems with sleep onset, sleep maintenance, and nighttime fears.

Chronic Pain: Specifically inflammatory pain conditions.

Epilepsy: Promising results for kids with seizure disorders who don't respond to usual treatments.

Nausea and Appetite Suppression: May be helpful for either.

Concerns About CBD Oil

  • Products can be unreliable in delivering the amount of CBD stated on the label. 
  • Little is known about how much CBD is absorbed and then delivered to the brain in various forms including topical, vaping, or ingested forms.
  • Poor quality CBD products could contain harmful contaminants.
  • Dosing for kids is uncertain due to lack of research.
  • CBD Oil can interact with medications (e.g., SSRIs) and effect efficacy or the development of side effects. 

Interactions Between CBD and Medications

Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Cannabidiol might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. In theory, using cannabidiol along with some medications that are broken down by the liver might increase the effects and/or side effects of some medications. 

These concerns suggest that you check with your doctor before using CBD

Side Effects of CBD Oil

Common and potential side effects:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Dry Mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased Appetite 

How To Dose CBD Oil for Kids and Teens

There are no proven guidelines for dosing CBD oil in kids and teens. A doctor will usually suggest the method—START LOW, GO SLOW! High-quality CBD gummies and the unflavored isolate forms of CBD oil mixed in a beverage or food may be easiest way to give it to kids.

The table below is NOT a treatment recommendations but the general guidelines that many doctors use. If a doctor suggests a higher dose, show them this table and ask if lower may be better at the start. If they suggest lower, great! Many people recommend much higher dose ranges but I prefer to err of the side of caution:



Starting Dose Range


High Dose Range


30 Lbs


1 MG-2.5 MG


7.5 MG


40 Lbs


2.5 MG- 3.5 MG


10 MG


50 Lbs


2.5 MG-5 MG


15 MG


75 Lbs


5 MG-7.5 MG


20 MG


100 Lbs


5 MG-10 MG


30 MG


125+ Lbs


5 MG-10 MG


30 MG-40 MG




Choosing the Best CBD Oil Products

CBD oil is available as a liquid, capsule, topical lotions and creams, vaping liquid, and in food/drink products. 

You can purchase CBD oil in a “full-spectrum” form which contains many of the whole plant materials/compounds from the hemp plant which may have additive healing benefits. The only downside for kids may be that this iteration of hemp oil has a stronger, earthy taste which some may find unpleasant. By law, these must contain less than 0.3% THC, a negligible amount. Alternatively, CBD isolates are available in a liquid form that is colorless, odorless, and devoid of any THC at all, therefore it may be easier to add this to beverages or food so kids can take it without being put off. 

It is important to purchase CBD oil that is produced by C02 extraction methods and is from organically-farmed hemp to avoid any unwanted chemicals. In addition, it is wise to purchase CBD products from a manufacturer that submits to 3rd Party testing to assure quality, potency, and purity. 


*Note: Some of the supplements discussed in this article can cause side effects, but many people tolerate them much better than prescription medications. They are generally considered safe, however, they should not be started without your doctor’s knowledge and supervision. If you are taking medication already, be sure to talk with your doctor before adding any of these items. If you are considering going off medication, remember never to stop your medication suddenly—always consult with your doctor about how to safely taper off any psychiatric medication. See terms.

**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.




Are CBD or cannabis effective for symptoms related to ADHD?

A physician may recommend CBD oil as a preventative tool for ADD/ADHD. It may help to manage acute symptom flare ups, but the preventative maintenance is likely most important. Similar to a dietary supplement or medication, it may work best to establish a baseline concentration in the system. Read more.

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This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice and is not a replacement for advice and treatment from a medical professional. Consult your doctor or other qualified health professional regarding specific health questions. Individuals providing content to this website take no responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. It is also essential to consult your physician or other qualified health professional before beginning any diet change, supplement, or lifestyle program.