Some patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) report that using cannabis regularly has helped treat ADHD symptoms. However, it’s essential to remember that while cannabis use is not a cure for ADHD symptoms, it may provide some therapeutic benefits for adults seeking treatment.
Cannabis strains range in potency and THC/CBD levels, and hundreds of strains exist worldwide. Ongoing research suggests that high-CBD strains may work better than some ADHD medications to strengthen focus and assist patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder with daily responsibilities and tasks.
Remember that each marijuana strain affects everyone differently, so what may help one person with anxiety may induce it for another. The same goes for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; some strains may relieve while others may worsen ADHD symptoms or result in a cannabis use disorder.
It’s important to discuss possible ADHD treatment with trusted medical professionals and check out the cannabis laws in your state before beginning marijuana use, but typically strains higher in CBD will be the safest bet to treat ADHD without developing substance use disorders.
What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurological disorder that impacts areas of the human brain that control planning, focusing on, and completing tasks.
ADHD is one of the most common mental health disorders that affect children. It also affects many American adults. 8.4 percent of Americans suffer from childhood ADHD, while 2.5 percent carry it into adulthood. Many young adults grow out of it, but that is not always the case.
What causes ADHD?
While scientists have not identified what causes an increased risk of developing ADHD symptoms, there is sufficient evidence that genetics is a leading factor among ADHD patients. According to the American Psychiatric Association, three out of four people with childhood ADHD symptoms have a relative with it as well.
Other possible factors include premature birth, brain injury, significant stress during pregnancy, and smoking or drinking alcohol with subsequent medication.
What are the primary symptoms?
ADHD patients seeking treatment typically experience similar symptoms involving overly high activity levels. Medical professionals look for three main signs before diagnosing someone with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Inattention- not being able to focus for long periods
- Hyperactivity- excessive movement that’s inappropriate for the setting
- Impulsivity- hasty actions without thinking them through first
During a clinical psychology review, these symptoms and a few others are used on a scale over six months to identify if patients seeking treatment fall within the diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
It’s a process that includes talking to teachers when looking into childhood treatments and medical evaluations, speaking with peers, and completing a checklist to rule out other mental disorders or even substance use conditions.
Three types of ADHD
There are three types of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Current ADHD symptom dimensions include the following:
Can cannabis help with ADHD symptoms?
Clinical research is currently being done to determine the effects of cannabis and marijuana on people with ADHD.
Here, we’ve considered medical advice from three specialists and medical online forum discussions regarding medicinal cannabis use to treat ADHD symptoms in addition to or in place of ADHD medications:
Dr. Elizabeth Harstad is a pediatrician that specializes in childhood ADHD. Under the current ADHD symptom dimensions, she feels that medical cannabis could have adverse effects and contribute to a greater risk of adolescent substance use disorders. She mentions qualitative analysis and multiple studies that show marijuana use could worsen executive function and working memory. These are two areas that people with ADHD generally struggle with the most.
In children especially, altered brain development is also a risk of cannabis use. She goes further with comments comparing cannabis use to a medication that could counteract the benefits of stimulant medication prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Dr. Stephanie Sarkis is a licensed, board-certified counselor specializing in mental health disorders and mental diseases. She offers a different perspective that people with ADHD, particularly adults and teens, report cannabis can help with anxiety.
However, she says that marijuana use can also result in medical cannabis patients that lose focus and having more significant anxiety. The risk of marijuana abuse and developing substance use disorders among people with ADHD is higher than average.
Dr. David Bearman is a certified cannabis specialist who has studied the connection between cannabis use and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He found that marijuana use can help produce dopamine in people with ADHD. By assisting the production of dopamine, it can take the place of other stimulant medications like Ritalin more naturally.
What are the potential adverse effects of cannabis use for ADHD?
There can be adverse effects when using medical cannabis and ADHD medications together or when substituting one for the other without medical guidance. Especially for children and young adults, the risk of developing more severe cannabis outcomes such as cannabis use disorders or adolescent substance abuse problems is significantly higher.
Not trying medical cannabis for childhood treatments is due to possible altered brain development or clinically significant impairment of memory and focus over time.
However, cannabis withdrawal is not typical, especially when trying CBD or low-THC strains; the mental health benefits could outweigh the risk. It’s crucial to set a plan with your doctor and follow a regular schedule just as you would with stimulant medication prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Is marijuana addictive?
While marijuana use does not typically result in physical withdrawals or substance use disorders, it can be potentially dangerous for specific users, including people with ADHD.
According to the NIDA, marijuana abusers with severe cannabis outcomes can develop adverse effects similar to alcohol use disorders. However, marijuana use it’s called “cannabis use disorder.”
It’s rare to develop cannabis use disorder, but especially with the potency out there today, you can experience adverse effects when you smoke marijuana regularly. Always proceed with drug, alcohol, or nicotine products with caution and talk with a medical professional if you begin to notice drug abuse or more severe cannabis outcomes.
Developing an addiction can be hard to combat, especially with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. While cannabis helps with specific symptoms, an ADHD patient wouldn’t want to risk offsetting progress or developing a cannabis use disorder.
Although cannabis is not a cure for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), there is sufficient evidence and many online forum discussions that some medicinal cannabis Sativa strains can help with focus and anxiety. That being said, there is still much clinical research on the connection between ADHD and cannabis use, and there is a risk of adverse health effects or drug dependence.
Last Updated: February 16, 2023
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