Can Cannabis Help With ADHD? Benefits vs. Risks


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental condition that affects 11% of school-age children and an estimated 4.4% of adults.

ADHD is characterized by an inability to stand still, difficulty focusing, and impulsive behavior. Because cannabis (Cannabis sativa) has been linked to relaxation, many people are curious as to whether the medicinal herb may be helpful in controlling the symptoms of ADHD.

Research on whether cannabis can relieve short-term hyperactivity in people with ADHD is mixed. And researchers are still trying to learn more about cannabis and ADHD. Here’s what you need to know about the effects of cannabis on people with ADHD.

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How Cannabis Can Help With ADHD Symptoms

To understand how cannabis can relieve the symptoms of ADHD, it is important to understand the two components of cannabis, which are:

  • 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 of cannabis and hemp (a type of cannabis plant that contains 0.3% or less THC). It works in different areas of the brain and can counteract the effects of THC. CBD has been shown to help regulate brain activity.

When you smoke or consume cannabis, you take both THC and CBD.

Cannabis for ADHD: Research Says

There is not much research on the use of cannabis for ADHD because federal research on cannabis has been restricted by the state of Scheme 1 of the drug (drugs that are not currently accepted for medical use that have a potential for abuse). However, available research provides a mixed answer to the question of whether cannabis can help with ADHD, which includes:

  • A small 2020 study of 112 adult patients with ADHD using medical cannabis found that those taking a higher dose of medical cannabis components, such as CBD, took fewer other medications for ADHD.
  • A 2019 medical review of 83 studies found that there was “scarce” and “insufficient” evidence on the effectiveness of cannabis in treating mental health conditions, including ADHD.
  • A 2021 study of 1,700 students found that those with ADHD reported themselves that cannabis use improved their ADHD symptoms and reduced the side effects of their ADHD medications.
  • A 2016 study of online publications that mentioned cannabis and ADHD found that 25% of those publications claimed a positive impact of cannabis on ADHD symptoms, as opposed to 8% who said it was harmful.

More research is needed to determine if cannabis can benefit adults with ADHD. At this time, however, most states with medical cannabis programs do not include ADHD as a condition for obtaining a license.

Cannabis and children

Although ADHD is most commonly diagnosed in children, most young people should not use cannabis. Even states with recreational cannabis laws do not allow people under the age of 21 to buy or use cannabis. Medical cannabis programs for children are extremely limited and ADHD is not a qualified condition.

Cannabis use with ADHD medications

There is limited research on how cannabis interacts with ADHD medications, such as Adderall (dextroamphetamineamphetamine). A small 2015 study of adults without ADHD found that when Adderall and marijuana were taken together, they produced unique effects (neither positive nor negative) compared to any of the medications taken alone.

If you are taking ADHD medications, it is important that you be honest with your healthcare provider about your cannabis use. Cannabis use is becoming commonplace and is legal in some places. Your healthcare provider can help you understand the benefits and risks of using cannabis with ADHD medications.

Effects of cannabis by strain type

Some people believe that different cannabis strains produce different effects. The varieties are different varieties of the cannabis plant. Common marketing distinguishes between these two strains:

  • Sativa it is believed to energize.
  • Indica it is believed to have calming and pain-reducing effects.

However, research shows that differences between strains are not necessarily accurate. The effects of cannabis are dictated by its levels of THC and CBD, with different effects on the brain and body. Most indica varieties are believed to have a higher proportion of CBD, which gives them their calming effects.

Most research on cannabis for ADHD shows the benefits of CBD, so you may want to choose a variety of cannabis with a higher proportion of CBD (such as an Indica product) or try CBD oil. (or another CBD-only product) instead of cannabis. .

When does cannabis use become a substance use disorder?

About 30% of people who use cannabis will develop a substance use disorder. A substance use disorder occurs when substance use begins to interfere with a person’s daily functioning.

Research shows that CBD alone, without THC, is not addictive. Therefore, if you are concerned about developing a substance use disorder, you may want to choose a CBD-only product instead of CBD and THC.

Summary

There is little research on whether cannabis can help with ADHD. Existing research is mixed: some studies have found that cannabis can help with ADHD symptoms, while others conclude that there is not enough evidence to reach that conclusion.

In most cases, ADHD does not meet the requirements for state medical cannabis programs, and cannabis should never be used to treat ADHD in people under the age of 21. It is best to have an open and honest conversation with your healthcare provider about cannabis use if you have ADHD. .

A word from Verywell

It is common to wonder if cannabis can treat the symptoms of ADHD. Unfortunately, there is no clear answer. Fortunately, researchers continue to explore the medical potential of cannabis. Hopefully, in a few years, we will have a better idea of ​​the impact of marijuana on people with ADHD.

Frequently asked questions

  • Should you talk to your doctor before you stop taking prescribed ADHD medications?

    Yes, you should always talk to your healthcare provider before stopping your ADHD medication. Sometimes finding the right medication for ADHD can take time. Instead of stopping your medication, contact your doctor to discuss your concerns.

  • How Much Cannabis Is Too Much?

    If your cannabis use is interfering with your daily routine, it’s time to seek help. Remember that even in states with cannabis recreation programs, cannabis is illegal for people under the age of 21.

  • What is the best type of cannabis for ADHD?

    There is little research on the effects of different forms of cannabis for people with ADHD. However, CBD appears to be more promising for treating ADHD, compared to cannabis that contains THC and CBD. Talk to your healthcare provider about your specific situation.

  • Could cannabis microdose help with ADHD symptoms?

    There is not enough research to conclude whether cannabis helps people with ADHD. This includes overdose, or the practice of taking very low doses of cannabis to help control symptoms without a high. If you are interested in overdose to help control ADHD, talk to your healthcare provider.

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