Poll finds many parents don't understand CBD

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / Adie bush
Getty Images / Adie bush

Related tags Cbd Fda Pediatrics

Despite the wide availability of CBD in its various forms—oil, topical ointments, tinctures, vaping and edibles— a recent poll shows parents are misinformed on CBD.

The University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health survey revealed that parents have limited knowledge about CBD, with a third thinking it’s the same as using marijuana. 

The parents who have or would consider giving their child CBD cite anxiety, sleep, and ADHD as top reasons for doing so. 

The nationally representative poll report is based on responses from about 2,000 parents of children 3-18 years surveyed in October 2021.

Key findings 

Knowledge gap

Nearly half (46%) of parents say they either don’t know much about CBD use in children or they never heard of it prior to the poll (34%); 17% report having some knowledge, and 3% said they know a lot about CBD use in children. Most parents (71%) have never used a CBD product themselves, while 24% have tried CBD and 5% use a CBD product regularly.


Parents say the factors that would be very important in deciding whether to give their child a CBD product are side effects (83%), if it was tested for safety in children (78%), how well it works in children (72%), recommendation of their child’s doctor (63%), approval of the US Food and Drug Administration (58%), and product reviews (41%).

Alternative to meds 

About three-quarters of parents (73%) think CBD may be a good option for children when other medications don’t work. Most parents (83%) reported that CBD products should be regulated by the FDA, and three-quarters (74%) said CBD for children should require a doctor’s prescription. One-third of parents (35%) think taking CBD is basically the same as using marijuana.

Condition specific 

Parents’ most common reasons for giving or considering CBD for their child include anxiety (51%), sleep problems (40%), ADHD (33%), muscle pain (20%), autism (19%), and to make their child feel better in general (13%).

Among parents who have given or considered giving CBD for their child, 29% say they talked with their child’s healthcare provider about CBD use. 


Over 90% of parents have never given or considered giving their child a CBD product. Just 2% have given their child a CBD product, while 4% have considered CBD for their child; 1% reported their child used CBD without their permission.


“There is only one FDA-approved drug derived from a pure form of CBD oil, Epidiolex, which has proven effective in reducing seizures in some severe types of epilepsy,” ​said Washington University physician Jennifer Griffith, MD, PhD, a pediatric neurologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Other than that, there have been no well-designed, randomized controlled trials to tell us if CBD is safe and effective for other conditions like mood disorders, inflammatory conditions or pain. And there is no data on its effects after long-term use.”

Hungry for regulation 

“Regulation at the federal level is needed to ensure that we grow, extract, manufacture and test products that are marketed to the public.  This combined with scientific research will continue to boost the consumer knowledge base and consumer confidence in the best ways to use this amazing product,”  ​noted David Tracek, CEO of Basso Botanicals, a Scottsdale-based CBD brand. “Just like there are many myths about cannabis, people also have their own misconceptions when it comes to CBD. Misconception number one is that you will get high from taking this chemical in your system; however, nothing can be further than the truth.  Unlike THC, which produces psychoactivity, cannabidiol only has non-psychoactive effects such as relaxation and pain relief.”

While it is impossible to overdose on pure CBD, acute poisoning has been reported with synthetic CBD​. In 2017, over 50 people experienced adverse reactions inconsistent with known CBD effects. The culprit was later identified as the synthetic cannabinoid, 4-cyano CUMYL-BUTINACA (4-CCB).

Chase Terwilliger, CEO of CBDistillery, said the poll showing parent’s lack of understanding for CBD products is illuminating, but not at all surprising. “Our industry has come a long way but we know there is still a lot of consumer education that needs to take place. While some companies in our industry are working hard to keep the integrity of CBD products and contribute to consumer knowledge and understanding, there are many illegitimate companies who are selling unsafe products and distributing distorted information on cannabinoids. This is a major reason why federal regulation is needed in our industry, to keep both consumers safe and to keep a clean marketplace where factual information is not buried by misleading information,” ​said Terwilliger. “While we know and believe in the power of CBD, there is a lot of research and federal regulation needed before such products can be administered to children.” 

Where do pediatricians come in?  

Although three-quarters of parents reported that CBD for children should require a prescription, only 63% rated the recommendation of their child’s doctor as a very important factor in deciding whether to give their child a CBD product. Moreover, among parents who tried or considered CBD for their child, only 29% discussed the topic with their child’s healthcare provider. 

It’s also worth noting that some medical centers have policies banning CBD prescriptions, so treatment options vary depending on location. 

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