CBD is everywhere. From corner stores and bars to medical marijuana dispensaries, it’s being offered for its reputed ability to relieve pain and make people feel better. Parents are giving CBD to kids to combat anxiety and other problems. But there are risks, and little research to support it. More and more adults are turning to cannabis for things from mental health to pain — but is it a fit for your teens? 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.
CBD: What Parents Need to Know
Parents are giving it to kids to combat anxiety and other problems. But there are risks, and little research to support it.
What You’ll Learn
- Is CBD safe for kids?
- What are the risks of giving kids CBD?
- Can CBD help kids who have mental health disorders?
- Quick Read
- Full Article
- What do we know about CBD?
- Concerns about CBD
- Is CBD safe?
- CBD oil for anxiety
- CBD and autism
- Research boom
These days, you can find CBD everywhere. Some people believe that it can treat everything from chronic pain and cancer to anxiety and ADHD. But is it safe for kids?
CBD is still pretty new, so there’s very little research about its safety or how well it works, especially for children. So far, there’s only one marijuana-derived medication that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It’s called Epidiolex, and it’s used to treat a rare form of epilepsy in patients who are at least two years old.
Because CBD is so new, there also aren’t a lot of rules about what can and cannot be included in CBD products. So, there’s a huge variety in the quality of products. You may even find different amounts of CBD in different packages of the same product.
Since there isn’t a lot of research about CBD, doctors say there are some risks with using CBD for kids. For example, CBD products may contain things other than CBD, and those things could be harmful. Plus, we don’t yet know if CBD works well with other medications or how much you should give your child.
Although a few studies have found that CBD oil might work for anxiety, they only looked at healthy people who were put in situations that made them anxious. There are no studies yet on people with chronic anxiety. Researchers are also exploring CBD for kids with autism spectrum disorder. The results are good so far, but more research needs to be done before we can know if it’s safe and effective.
CBD is everywhere. From corner stores and bars to medical marijuana dispensaries, it’s being offered for its reputed ability to relieve pain and make people feel better.
Though CBD — full name cannabidiol — is extracted from marijuana or hemp, it doesn’t contain THC, the chemical in marijuana that has psychoactive effects, so it doesn’t make you feel high.
Available in the form of vaping, oils, lotions, cocktails, coffee, gummies — you name it — CBD has been touted as a treatment for complaints as far-reaching as chronic pain, cancer, migraines, anxiety and ADHD. You know it’s gone mainstream when even Consumer Reports has issued guides on how to shop for CBD and tips for safe CBD use.
Not only are adults experimenting with CBD for whatever is bothering them, increasingly parents are turning to CBD to help their kids focus, sleep, calm down and more.
But popular use of CBD is blowing up with very little research into its safety or its efficacy, especially in children. The first and only marijuana-derived drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Epidiolex, is used to treat a rare, severe form of epilepsy in patients two years of age and older. And since cannabis is in the early stages of legalization and regulation, there is a huge variety in the quality and dosage of products — risks associated with using products that have not been vetted by the FDA.
What do we know about CBD?
For millennia, hemp plants have been used for medicinal purposes around the world. In 1851 marijuana was classified by the United States Pharmocopeia as a viable medical compound used to treat conditions like epilepsy, migraines and pain. But since marijuana and cannabis-related products were made illegal in the US in 1970, there has been a dearth of research about either marijuana or CBD. Its classification as a Schedule 1 drug made it nearly impossible to get federal funding to study cannabis.
“The biggest problem is there’s a lot that we still need to know, especially in kids,” says Paul Mitrani, MD, a clinical psychiatrist at the Child Mind Institute. “In regards to treating mental health disorders in children and adolescents, there’s a lack of evidence to support its use.”
Dr. Mitrani, who is a pediatrician and child and adolescent psychiatrist, says it’s an area worthy of investigation but recommends that parents wait until further research is done before giving a child CBD.
Concerns about CBD
While anecdotal evidence of the benefits of CBD is common, there are risks associated with using these products, especially in children. Some of the concerns:
- Products are unreliable in delivering a consistent amount of CBD. They could have less, or more, than advertised, and most do not offer independent verification of active contents. Analysis of products for sale show that many do not have the amount of CBD that they advertise. “So you can’t depend on the quality of what you’re getting,” notes Dr. Mitrani.
- How much is absorbed? Very little is known about how much CBD is actually delivered to the brain in a given product. Various delivery systems — vaping, taking it orally, eating it in baked goods, etc. — have different rates of delivery. Even the oils that the CBD is dissolved in can result in varying effects. “Effects can vary a lot based on the delivery system used and the amount people are exposed to can be inconsistent,” Dr. Mitrani says.
- Products may contain things other than CBD, and they could be harmful. Lab testing — which provides information about CBD levels, THC levels (if any), and contaminants in the product — isn’t mandatory for CBD products in every state. Without a CoA (Certificate of Analysis) it’s that much harder to verify the safety of the product. Bootleg CBD may be connected to recent lung illnesses and deaths that have been attributed to vaping. The CDC and the American Medical Association recommend avoiding vaping entirely while the cause of these illnesses is determined.
- CBD may be safe itself, but it may interact with other medications a child is taking, that are also metabolized in the liver.
- If it’s used for sleep, Dr. Mitrani worries that while it may potentially help with sleep, “your child may become tolerant to it and possibly experience worsening sleep problems if stopped.”
- Since CBD use — especially for kids — is a still so new, few people are familiar with dosing for children, so determining how much to give your child would be tricky. Clinical doses versus what you might find at a coffeehouse could vary dramatically.
- The legality of cannabis products and CBD is still murky. CBD derived from hemp is federally legal, while CBD derived from marijuana plants is subject to the legal status in each state — and remains federally illegal. Meanwhile, the FDA issued a statement making clear that products that contain CBD — even if they are derived from legal, commercial hemp — cannot claim to have therapeutic benefits or be sold as dietary supplements unless they have been approved by the FDA for that use.
Is CBD safe?
Last year the World Health Organization, acknowledging the explosion in “unsanctioned” medical uses of CBD, reviewed the evidence for its safety and effectiveness. The WHO report concluded that “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.” Any adverse effects could be a result of interactions between CBD and a patient’s existing medications, the WHO noted.
The report found no indication of potential abuse or dependence. “To date there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”
As for effectiveness, the WHO noted that several clinical trials had shown effectiveness for epilepsy, adding: “There is also preliminary evidence that CBD may be a useful treatment for a number of other medical conditions.”
CBD oil for anxiety
In 2015 a group of researchers led by Esther Blessing, PhD, of New York University, investigated the potential of CBD for treating anxiety. In a review of 49 studies, they found promising results and the need for more study.
The “preclinical” evidence (ie from animal studies) “conclusively demonstrates CBD’s efficacy in reducing anxiety behaviors relevant to multiple disorders,” Dr. Blessing wrote. Those include generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and OCD.
The review notes that the promising preclinical results are also supported by human experimental findings, which also suggest “minimal sedative effects, and an excellent safety profile.” But these findings are based on putting healthy subjects in anxiety-producing situations and measuring the impact of CBD on the anxiety response. Further studies are required to establish treatment with CBD would have similar effects for those who struggle with chronic anxiety, as well as what the impact of extended CBD use may be.
“Overall, current evidence indicates CBD has considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders,” Dr. Blessing concludes, “with need for further study of chronic and therapeutic effects in relevant clinical populations.”
CBD and autism
A group of Israeli researchers have been exploring the use of CBD to reduce problem behaviors in children on the autism spectrum. A feasibility study involving 60 children found substantial improvement in behavioral outbreaks, anxiety and communication problems, as well as stress levels reported by parents.
The researchers, led by Adi Aran, MD, director of the pediatric neurology unit at Shaare Tzedek Medical Center, went on to do a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial with 150 participants with autism. In this trial, just completed but not yet analyzed, patients were treated CBD for three months.
In the US, research has been given a boost by changing guidelines and laws. In 2015 the DEA eased some of the regulatory requirements that have made CBD, as a Schedule 1 substance, difficult to study. “Because CBD contains less than 1 percent THC and has shown some potential medicinal value, there is great interest in studying it for medical applications,” the DEA said in announcing the change.
And in approving the first CBD-based drug, Epidiolex, last year the FDA expressed enthusiasm for the research boom that is sure to come, paired with stern words for the flood of marketers of products claiming unsubstantiated health benefits.
“We’ll continue to support rigorous scientific research on the potential medical uses of marijuana-derived products and work with product developers who are interested in bringing patients safe and effective, high quality products,” the FDA pledged. “But, at the same time, we are prepared to take action when we see the illegal marketing of CBD-containing products with serious, unproven medical claims.”
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?
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“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:
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
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