Can cannabis effectively treat symptoms of ADHD?
Many people believe cannabinoid use can be therapeutic for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A Duke University-based research group reviewed over 240 online ADHD forums and communities. They study posts that mentioned use of cannabis or other cannabinoid formulations. Cannabis users consistently reported improvement of ADHD symptoms associated with use of cannabis. Although promising, these researchers didn’t feel the evidence was strong enough to recommend cannabinoid use as a therapeutic treatment for ADHD.
Additional research supports the use of cannabinoids to help alleviate symptoms of ADHD, while other studies do not. Some case studies showed that only one or a few individuals benefited. One case report series of 30 ADHD patients corroborated the benefits of cannabis use, yet a separate study that also involved 30 ADHD patients treated with a combination THC-CBD product reported no benefit.
How common is ADHD in adults?
ADHD is one of the most significant neurodevelopmental disorders in our country and around the world.
- 5% of the US population has been diagnosed with ADHD
- Diagnosis is most common in early childhood or young adulthood
- Boys are diagnosed at more than double the rate of girls
- ADHD lasts well into adulthood in up to 70% of those diagnosed
- Adult ADHD is under-diagnosed and under-treated
- Adult symptoms of ADHD often include distractibility and restlessness
Unfortunately, ADHD symptoms can make it difficult to achieve sustained employment or academic success. Those who suffer from ADHD are also at increased risk of other problems such as depression and anxiety or substance abuse. Gaining control over ADHD is thus not only important but can be life-changing. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and prescription medications are widely used to treat ADHD, but not everyone is getting excellent benefits from the current prescription therapies.
Which types of medications have been used to treat ADHD?
- Short-term stimulants
- Intermediate & Long-term stimulants
- Other cannabinoid products
New research correlates improved ADHD symptoms with cannabis use
An Israeli research study published in 2020 looked at the effects of cannabis and cannabinoid treatment of 59 people diagnosed with ADHD. Many participants experienced significant improvement. Those with milder symptoms benefited the most. Their symptoms were less frequent and they were often able to reduce or eliminate the need for medication. Those exhibiting more severe disease who did not use as much of the cannabinoid formulations did not get the same benefit. Cannabis may be most beneficial for ADHD patients who have mild symptoms that are comfortable with using cannabis regularly based on this preliminary study.
How does THC work to help relieve symptoms of ADHD?
THC may help restless people settle down and relax by affecting movement centers located in the back of the brain and the cerebellum. It may be particularly effective for controlling the distractibility and restlessness of ADHD sufferers.
CBN or THC – which is more effective in treating symptoms of ADHD?
Interestingly, this study also found that people who used cannabis containing high doses of cannabinol (CBN) experienced better outcomes in reduction of ADHD symptoms. CBN potentiates or increases the effects of THC, and also may eventually convert to THC. It may just be that the THC by itself is most valuable. The role of CBN might be to help to make THC more readily available. It also may simply be an interesting phenomenon that will be proven incorrect with additional studies. If you’re dealing with mild ADHD symptoms and you’re interested in trying cannabinoid formulations on a regular basis, this study suggests that there may be some benefit for you.
How about other medications & recommendations for children and adolescents?
If you’re dealing with impulsivity and difficulty sitting still, you may find that cannabis will provide a pretty similar outcome to stimulants such methylphenidate formulations such as Ritalin, at least based on this one small study. Further research is needed, but these results are promising. Additional recommendations for managing ADHD in children can’t be made at this time because we don’t have much information about the way things work in an adolescent brain exposed to cannabis.
There may be some promise for some treatments or maybe some distillations of cannabis in the future. The pharmacology companies are certainly paying attention.
DR. MARY CLIFTON
Dr. Mary Clifton is an Internal Medicine doctor with 20 years of experience in both the hospital and private practice and a recognized expert in CBD, Cannabis, and Medical Marijuana.
She is a published researcher, national speaker on women’s health and osteoporosis, and author of four books, and two new soon-to-be-released books on CBD and Cannabis – what you need to know, how to use them and a COOKBOOK to support ease of use.