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July 15, 2023 0 Comments

ADHD and Cannabis Treatment

ADHD and cannabis treatment are garnering more attention as states continue to legalize medical marijuana. ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by symptoms such as hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. Traditional treatments for ADHD include psychotherapy, behavioral interventions, and medication. ADHD affects 11% of school-aged children and an estimated 4.4% of adults.

Patient Feedback and Continuing Research

While some individuals with ADHD may report subjective improvements in symptoms when using medical marijuana, there is limited large-scale scientific evidence to support its effectiveness as a primary treatment for ADHD. The available research and most studies have been small-scale or anecdotal in nature. However, the anecdotal feedback from those who use marijuana to treat their ADHD symptoms has been largely positive.

Those who are considering using cannabis should keep in mind that ADHD is a complex condition with various underlying neurobiological factors, and different individuals may experience different symptoms and respond to treatments differently. This complexity makes it challenging to identify a one-size-fits-all treatment approach whether it’s with traditional pharmaceuticals, marijuana, or a combination of both.

And, even though marijuana has been used medicinally for thousands of years, we are just getting started with applications of current research to prove the effectiveness of marijuana in treating a wide range of ailments and conditions. With a lack of large-scale research, references are limited to feedback from those who have been using it, historical documentation, and patient feedback. These resources show that many who report their experiences say that it not only helps to reduce their use of pharmaceuticals but it also reduces restlessness and inattention and improves focus and impulse control.

Symptoms of ADHD

Symptoms of this condition include the inability to focus, lack of impulse control, the inability to sit still, lack of attention to detail, lack of sustained attention, poor listening (even with no distractions), fails to follow through on tasks, difficulty with organization, time management, and deadlines, avoids tasks requiring sustained mental effort, loses things necessary for tasks or activities, easily distracted including unrelated thoughts, and forgetful in daily activities.

Cannabis for ADHD: What Research Says

There isn’t much broad research on using cannabis for ADHD because federal research on cannabis has been restricted by the drug’s Schedule 1 status (drugs not currently accepted for medical use that have a potential for abuse). However, some research does exist, including:

  1. A small 2020 study of 112 adult patients with ADHD who used medical cannabis found that those who took a higher dose of medical cannabis components, like CBD, took fewer other ADHD medications.

    A 2016 study that analyzed online posts mentioning cannabis and ADHD found that 25% of those posts stated a positive impact of cannabis on ADHD symptoms, as opposed to 8% that said it was harmful. In addition, 61 posts described improvements in one of the three ADHD types, common references pointed to cannabis’ benefits for improved attention and reduced hyperactivity, and a fair number of posters referenced the support of their doctors regarding their cannabis use for ADHD treatment

    Researchers for a 2017 randomized control trial, accounting for a tendency for cannabis treatment to relieve ADHD-influenced inattention, speculated that cannabis might help deliver dopamine. Dopamine levels are low in the brains of those who have ADHD.

    2021 study of 1,738 student online survey participants with ADHD showed that the majority of participants reported that cannabis has acute beneficial effects on many symptoms of their ADHD (e.g., hyperactivity, impulsivity). Further, participants perceived cannabis to improve most of their medication side effects (e.g., irritability, anxiety). Finally, participants noted that cannabis use frequency was a significant moderator of the associations between symptom severity and executive dysfunction.

    According to 2020 research, 59 adults with ADHD and access to medical cannabis products self-reported that higher doses of cannabis and its cannabinoids such as CBD, CBN, and terpenes helped with ADHD symptoms.
  3. More research is needed to determine if cannabis can have benefits for adults with ADHD but positive results are being collected from anecdotal evidence.

How Cannabis Could Help With ADHD Symptoms 

It’s important to note that marijuana contains many active compounds, including the two that are most well-known tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), which can have different effects on the body and mind. THC is primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana, while CBD is non-intoxicating. Anecdotal evidence and existing research indicate that have potential therapeutic properties.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): THC is a psychoactive component that gives the “high” associated with cannabis. It acts on the areas of the brain that control focus, coordination, and reaction time.

Cannabidiol (CBD): CBD is a non-psychoactive component in cannabis and hemp (a type of cannabis plant that contains 0.3% or less THC). It acts on different areas of the brain and can counteract the effects of THC.3 CBD has been shown to help regulate brain activity.

Our bodies have a system called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) that acts as a receptor to the many cannabis compounds, including THC and CBD and explains how the plant provides a medicinal effect.

While recreational marijuana can contain both THC and CBD along with other cannabinoids and terpenes, consumer-grade CBD is required to have less than .03% THC (technically, this is hemp which is why it can be sold in retail stores designated as CBD sellers). Medical marijuana — which must be recommended by a physician licensed by the state and provided by a designated medical marijuana pharmacy — can contain more THC depending on what condition it’s being used to treat and is formulated into different combinations to more effectively treat specific conditions. If you smoke or consume street cannabis or cannabis purchased illegally, you are likely consuming both THC and CBD along with other unidentified compounds, since there is no quality control or batch control.

Next Step

If you or someone you know is considering medical marijuana as a treatment for adult ADHD, it is crucial to consult with a qualified healthcare professional who is knowledgeable about both ADHD in adults and medical marijuana. The physicians and healing specialists at The Healing Clinics can provide personalized guidance based on the latest research and the individual’s specific symptoms.

While current research is limited to small-scale studies and anecdotal evidence reported from those who use cannabis to treat their ADHD, your primary care physician and your medical marijuana doctor can help guide you to find out if medical marijuana might be effective for you. For more information, please contact The Healing Clinics or click the button to get started.