Mom claims CBD is lifesaver for 4-year-old daughter; Docs concerned about side effects

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You may have noticed CBD shops popping up all over the Tampa Bay area. It’s all the rage. Many say it gives the medical benefits of marijuana without the high and without a prescription.

So what’s not to like? Well, some doctors are a little skeptical.

When Clara French was born four years ago, she was a happy, healthy baby. But after six months, her mother Nikki grew concerned.

“There was something that was just different about her,” said Nikki French.

Doctors soon realized Clara has autism and is nonverbal.

“I spent a lot of time crying and wondering what her future will be like. Would she ever talk to me? Will I ever hear her say, ‘I love you mom,’” said French.

Nikki was desperate to help treat Clara’s autism symptoms. A doctor suggested she research CBD oil and soon everything changed.

“Tons of vocalization, new words everyday, phrases. In the first week, she would go outside and go to the trees and touch them and it was like she was taking them in and she would look so closely,” said French. “From everybody watching her, it was like her world opened up.”

Nikki gives her .5 milliliters twice a day. Months later, Clara has become a different person.

“It’s everything I could’ve ever dreamed of for her,” said French, holding back tears.

What is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is derived from cannabis. When many think of cannabis, they think of marijuana, which can make people high. That occurs because marijuana has high levels of a molecule called THC.

CBD is extracted from cannabis plants, and has low levels of THC. Thanks to this, experts say CBD provides the medicinal benefits of marijuana without getting you high. 

In 2018, the FDA approved Epidiolex, the first approved drug that contains CBD. It’s used in the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome 

“CBD can reduce muscle spasm, it can reduce other types of pain, as well. We can also use CBD to reduce anxiety,” said neurologist Dr. Daniel Stein.

CBD-infused foods

It has exploded in popularity. CBD is more than just oils, it’s being infused into many different foods,
like inside the Glenn family bakery.

“The CBD itself really looks like baking powder,” explained Lisa Glenn.

Customers of all ages purchase her CBD brownies, cookies and treats for anxiety, inflammation or sleep problems.

“It’s nice to have a little treat or something other than the typical oil under-the-tongue type deal,” said Glenn. “People want to embrace a different treatment other than constantly taking medication.”

Susan Scherer is an oncology nurse who owns Heavenly Hash which makes CBD-infused ice cream.

“I would say it’s more of a medical frozen dessert,” said Scherer.

Her “medical frozen dessert” can help people with pain issues. She also provides it to cancer patients to help them keep weight on and increase their protein intake. But Scherer doesn’t make definitive medical claims.

“These are what people are anecdotally feeling as a result,” said Scherer. “When you’re talking about the benefits of CBD, I think you have to be very choosy in your words that you use. Cure is not one I would use in cancer with CBD.”

CBD and FDA

CBD supplements are not tested, approved or regulated by the FDA. Some are skeptical of it.

“CBD oil is a drug,” said Dr. Stephen Harlin.

Some of Dr. Stephen Harlin’s patients have had negative side effects from too much CBD.

“As the dose increases, you might see things like nausea, vomiting, bloating,“ said Dr. Harlin.

He worries that people can gorge themselves on too much CB-infused foods.

“We have no idea what the long-term results are,” said Dr. Harlin.

There’s also very little known about CBD’s impact on pregnant women.

The FDA has expressed concerns, too. It released a statement saying in part:

“[We] continue to be concerned at the number of drug claims being made about products not approved by the FDA that claim to contain CBD or other cannabis-derived compounds. Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims is not only a violation of the law, but also can put patients at risk, as these products have not been proven to be safe or effective. This deceptive marketing of unproven treatments raises significant public health concerns, as it may keep some patients from accessing appropriate, recognized therapies to treat serious and even fatal diseases.”

CBD vape oils

There are also concerns about CBD vape oils.

In fact, the U.S. Army released a warning to soldiers saying, “Approximately 60 patients with medical conditions potentially related to vaping products marketed as containing CBD oil have been seen at Womack Army Medical Center, Fort Bragg, N.C., and the Naval Medical Center at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Although pure CBD oil has not yet been associated with adverse health effects. CBD vape oils may contain synthetic cannabinoids, concentrated tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and/or other hazardous compounds in addition to, or in place of, CBD oil. 

Symptoms ranged from headache, nausea, vomiting, palpitations, dilated pupils and dizziness to confusion, disorientation, agitation and seizures, all of which are consistent with synthetic cannabinoids.

Researchers say more work needs to be done to learn the long-term impact. 

“Just because the FDA hasn’t approved it doesn’t mean that it can’t be useful or used in a safe way,” said Dr. Stein.

Nikki French is a believer. She’s going to keep giving Clara CBD, hoping one day she can have a normal life.

“I don’t worry as much anymore. Its not a burden like it used to be,” said French.

So is CBD a cure or a con? It depends on who you ask. But the best thing you can do is talk to your doctor. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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