“Picture a room with 1,000 TVs with each TV showing something different. Now try and concentrate on just one TV without getting distracted.” –Damian DaViking Aird
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most frequent neuro-developmental disorder among children and often continues into adolescence and adulthood. It’s most often characterized by an inability to sit still, properly manage behavior, and difficulty focusing. Presently, there are a number of medications prescribed to help better manage symptoms of the disorder, with those searching for alternative options looking to cannabis for relief.
Many adults with ADHD choose to self-treat with cannabis, claiming that it helps some of their more severe symptoms (e.g., agitation, irritability, lack of control) while also carrying fewer side effects to prescription medications.
Can Cannabis Help With ADHD?
The current research available gives somewhat of a mixed answer to whether or not cannabinoid therapy can be used as an alternative therapy for ADHD, although there are reports in favor of the plant medicine.
- One study of 59 patients revealed that high doses of cannabinol (CBN) was associated with lower self-reported ADHD symptoms as well as an ADHD medication reduction.
- Another larger study of 1,700 students found that cannabis had beneficial effects on ADHD symptoms (e.g., hyperactivity, impulsivity), and improved medication side effects (e.g., irritability, anxiety)
- A 2019 study comparing THC:CBD to a placebo found that there were no significant effects on ADHD symptoms
- A 2020 study of 112 adult ADHD patients reported those who took higher doses of cannabinoid therapies, like CBD, took fewer traditional medications for ADHD
- Three adult patients reported substantial benefits to treating ADHD with cannabis. Quality of life improved, attentiveness scores rose up to 30%, depression improved by up to 81%, and they were able to obtain or excel at a new job with more responsibility.
Why Do People Seek Alternative Therapies for ADHD?
Traditional treatments for ADHD can include stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin, which can produce unwanted side effects. Common side effects include trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, and increased heart rates. In fact, 21% of parents surveyed reported discontinuing the use of ADHD medication for their children due to psychological side effects. Using these prescription stimulants can also lead to substance abuse or dependence.
In addition to prescription medication, doctors often recommend behavioral therapy, either as its own treatment or in conjunction with medication. Behavioral therapy may be limited in desired results, as it offers no solution to symptoms, but rather a set of skills to manage ADHD more easily.
Cannabis Compounds and Terpenes
The levels of THC and CBD in varying strains of cannabis plants have differing effects on the brain and body. Ongoing research suggests that CBD may alleviate anxiety, promote better sleep, and improve overall quality of life. Most research in favor of treating ADHD symptoms with cannabis emphasizes the benefits of CBD rich products. This means high CBD low THC ratio options and whole-plant cannabis (containing a range of cannabinoids and terpenes) may provide relief.
Currently, a clinical trial on how CBD-rich oil given to adults orally will affect the symptoms of ADHD disorder is underway. The objectives of the study are listed as follows:
- to characterize the effects of treatment with cannabis oil on symptoms of ADHD
- to compare safety and efficacy of cannabis oil products with different CBD, Cannabidivarin (CBDV), cannabigerol (CBG) and THC ratio;
- to measure endocannabinoids, THC and CBD and metabolites levels in the blood of the participants
Research trials like these provide the necessary opportunity to pair hard data with what appears to be promising possibilities for treating ADHD symptoms. In the meantime, we recommend speaking with a medical professional before starting new treatment options such as described above. If you would like to discuss more about the potential benefits of cannabinoid therapy, please reach out to our care team!