Cannabis ADHD Emerging Therapeutic Option

You must have read posts that suggest how some high schoolers were using cannabis to focus on their exams.

This makes one think that there could be some connection between using cannabis for treating a hypersensitive, focus-related disorder such as ADHD. Or was this some fluke that happened with some cannabis abusers?

Recently, there have been several studies and experiments on this, and we will go through them one by one to see if cannabis was the pariah treatment we needed for ADHD.

What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological condition that first appears in childhood. As the name suggests, it is a disease of inattention and hyperactivity.

People who have ADHD usually complain of being highly responsive to the surrounding sounds, due to which they find it hard to focus on the task at hand. 

Woman jumping in the air excited.

There are three types of ADHD; primarily hyperactive-impulsive type, inattentive principally type (formerly called ADD), and mainly combined type.

According to studies by American Psychiatric Association, one in every twenty children are affected by ADHD in America, and the number has been stagnant since. 

However, the number of people affected by ADHD seems to decrease in adults, suggesting children ‘grow out’ of ADHD.

CBD and ADHD

Cannabis, more commonly known as marijuana, is one of the most popular, rather infamous drugs young adults use.

You may also know it for its soothing effects and near ecstatic state due to the stimulated production of norepinephrine and dopamine. 

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that induces a state of euphoria or happiness. Usually, a reward system generates it when we experience something pleasurable such as food, success, sex, or meeting a loved one.

The impaired dopaminergic system is very common in ADHD patients. Therefore, it is not surprising to see studies find children who have ADHD are far more likely to develop Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD) from their non-ADHD peers later in life.

Typical ADHD symptoms include social awkwardness, inattention, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and poor judgment. These antisocial characteristics may become a hurdle for people diagnosed with ADHD, seeking an everyday life.

Cannabidiol (CBD for short) is a natural component found in the cannabis plant. CBD and ADHD work as an antagonist to each other. For example, where ADHD causes impairment of those brain regions responsible for dopamine production, CBD induces a neurotransmitter rush. 

Unfortunately, ADHD symptoms, especially impulsivity, can contribute to drug and alcohol abuse and CBD addiction. People who have ADHD may feel out of place in social settings and may use CBD to fit in. However, CBD use can also have adverse side effects for people who have ADHD.

ADHD Treatment

Traditional treatment of ADHD dictates, children who have ADHD be offered behavioral therapy. Depending on their age, they are prescribed pharmaceutical drugs such as Ritalin or Adderall, which are types of methylphenidate and amphetamine. 

But for many people, these medications may prove ineffective, or their side effects may be too uncomfortable.

This leads physicians to believe there might be some other options; can CBD be used as ADHD treatment? If fine lines exist between abusing CBD and ADHD hypersensitivity. 

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Clinical Evidence

Most of the belief that cannabis being therapeutic for ADHD stems from internet forums and posts. However, a study conducted in 2016 qualitatively analyzes the widespread internet belief. 

According to the results, Twenty-five (25%) percent of individual posts indicated that cannabis is effective for ADHD treatment, unlike 8% that it is harmful, 5% that it is both therapeutic and toxic, and 2% that it does not affect ADHD. 

The conclusions were as follows:

“Despite that, no clinical recommendations or systematic research are supporting the beneficial effects of cannabis use for ADHD, online discussions indicate that cannabis is considered therapeutic for ADHD.

This is the first study to identify such a trend. This type of online information could shape ADHD patient and caregiver perceptions, and influence cannabis use and clinical care.” 

Indicating most of the effects perceived are subjective. For example, CBD obtained from marijuana may ease some of the symptoms of hyperactivity, but it may also worsen focus, attention, and motivation issues for some people.

A person who lives with ADHD may use marijuana and experience temporary relief of ADHD symptoms. However, the risks of self-medicating with a largely unstudied and unregulated drug may outweigh the short-term benefits.

What do the Experts Say?

According to one interview conducted by Mary Biles, the encouraging response from Dr. Niraj Singh, a UK-based Consultant Psychiatrist specializing in neurodevelopmental disability, is about cannabis for treating ADHD.

You should note that UK cannabis-based medicines are only available through the country’s National Health Service for multiple sclerosis and rare pediatric forms of epilepsy.

As such, Dr. Singh can only prescribe cannabis if only all the other standard ADHD treatments should have failed. 

“He was smiling and talking about how everything has shifted in a real positive way,” while recalling a patient who was fidgety and restless, expressing difficulties in coping both at work and in his personal life.

“Work had improved, the boss had commented and commended him on how things were progressing at work. His wife was delighted with the change and described that the person she knew had come back. It’s amazing how [medical cannabis] can make such a huge impact on one’s life.”

Batch of cannabis.

Dr. Singh also expressed another advantage of using CBD over other conventional drugs for ADHD treatment, “We don’t have to do blood pressure and pulse rate measurements daily. So that side of things is very refreshing.”

Referring to the reduced need to monitor patients’ overall physical health, he preferred medical cannabis over other drugs. Long-term use of amphetamines like Ritalin runs the risk of damaging the heart.

The Bottom Line

Few research and studies examine marijuana and ADHD, and anecdotal reports vary significantly on the potential benefits and drawbacks of using marijuana for ADHD.

Physicians may prescribe CBD under a clinical setting as ADHD treatment if conventional medicine proves ineffective, but this approach is not standard. 

Further research will help us understand ADHD and marijuana use and determine whether it is a safe remedy for ADHD symptoms.

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