Using medical marijuana for ADHD /ADD could result in a reduction of the number of children using amphetamine based pharmaceuticals, with unknown long-term consequences. Early results from clinical trials combined with a convincing number of anecdotes make a convincing case that medical marijuana for ADHD / ADD is a viable treatment option.
What is ADD / ADHD?
Before addressing the question “Is medical marijuana for ADHD a viable treatment option?”, it is first important to address the disorders themselves. Attention deficit disorder (ADD) and its more advanced form (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD]) are “disorders” that are characterized by symptoms such as inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
We put “disorders” in quotes because often times people that are open minded, curious, and continually enthralled by the wonders of the universe may come off as scattered and inattentive. This doesn’t mean they have a disorder like ADD or ADHD. It could just be their personality. People are free to be as they so please. There is no true “average” when we consider how brief our stint on this planet has been.
However, any personality traits that feel out of that person’s control or interrupt with daily activities, resulting in a lower quality of life, could be classified as symptoms of a disorder. Essentially, if your inability to concentrate interferes with your ability to perform efficiently in your life’s endeavors, then you may have a behavioral disorder like ADHD.
You wouldn’t be alone….
How many people are affected by ADD / ADHD?
The CDC reports that 11 percent of American children, ages 4 to 17, have ADD / ADHD. To put it another way, that is 6.4 million children in America that are currently diagnosed with ADD / ADHD.
These alarming rates may reflect a true pandemic sweeping the nation; potentially caused by the nature of today’s media and social platform emphases (e.g. Snapchat can make almost anyone exhibit symptoms of ADD), rampant ADD could be a cultural disorder best solved by behavioral therapy. Alternatively, the increase in children with ADD / ADHD could be the result of epigenetic effects caused by the diets or life struggles of their parents and grandparents.
Another viable explanation for the increase could be that doctors, with an arsenal of pharmaceuticals, are overdiagnosing and overprescribing the disorder. It is, after all, a huge market. Someone prescribed pharmaceuticals for ADD / ADHD is paying over $1,700 a year.
The CDC says that 11 percent of American children, ages 4 to 17, have ADD. To put it another way, that is 6.4 million children in America that are currently diagnosed with ADD / ADHD.
Just within the United States, it’s rare to find a region that doesn’t have at 3% of children on some form of ADD /ADHD medication.
A graph illustrating the rampant prescription rates for children with ADD / ADHD.
Seeing as the prescription rates are highest among children and longitudinal studies on the long-term effects of ADD /ADHD medication have yet to be conducted, alternative therapies can and should be actively explored. Thus, in this article, we posed the question: Is medical marijuana for ADHD a viable treatment option?? We already have a medicate strain section on WoahStork to find the best strains for medical benefits like Epilepsy and Alzheimers. However, with the research below, we look to soon add strains specifically useful for ADD / ADHD.
Is Medical Marijuana for ADHD / ADD A Viable Treatment Option?
Cannabis has been helping people with a variety of medical ailments for thousands of years. However, today’s age begs the question: “Is medical marijuana for ADHD a viable treatment option?”. Cannabis is a natural plant whose flower buds (known popularly around the world as marijuana) can affect the mood, increase or decrease mental activity, and provide a state of euphoria.
At first intuition, one might not expect cannabis to help someone who has trouble focusing — traditional portrayals of cannabis in the media render users as “spacey” and “incapable of following instructions”. This is exactly the kind of effects one would want to induce in someone trying to control their ADD / ADHD symptoms.
In reality, strain choice is a critical determining factor in assessing the effectiveness of cannabis for any suite of medical ailments. Furthermore, each person responds differently to each marijuana strain, so, at first speculation, some strains of cannabis may help some people focus while distracting others. Thus, it’s important to keep in mind when asking the question “Is medical marijuana for ADHD a viable treatment option?” that it truly depends on the person and the severity of their disorder.
As it stands now, prescription medication like Ritalin and Adderall
Pharmaceutical companies create drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall, and Concerta for doctors to prescribe to both children and adults. Any college graduate knows that many of these pills are abused by students who are looking for ways to cram in an intense study session the day before finals. At the molecular level, these drugs are similar to cocaine and methamphetamines.
These drugs often create undesirable side effects, including not being able to sleep, headaches, and loss of appetite. Not only can certain strains of cannabis help with all of these side effects, it may be possible that cannabis may help treat the underlying symptoms of ADD/ADHD.
Often times, ADHD results from a dopamine deficiency. It may be possible that the cannabinoids present in cannabis may help with this dopamine deficiency by increasing dopamine levels in the brain.Typically, patients with ADHD have trouble focusing because their mind is often overstimulated with too much information processing in the brain.
Thus, from an alternative perspective, marijuana may help slow the patient’s mind down to a speed that allows for them to properly processes in a calm and collected manner. Let’s dive into the actual research, though… The research below will address the question “Is medical marijuana for ADHD a viable treatment option?” from a scientific angle.
There are definitive differences in brain activity between ADD/ADHD and control subjects. If cannabis can restore activity to baseline in these regions by way of activating Dopamine receptors by way of CB1 receptors, it could become a viable treatment option.
Scientific researchers made a hypothesis that cannabis use would make ADD/ADHD worse. (Ref. 1) However, their study did not find any conclusive evidence that marijuana negatively interacts with ADD/ADHD. Research has shown that CB1 receptors (i.e. the parts of your brain that respond to cannabinoids) regulate dopaminergic systems, yet the studies did not explicitly state that cannabis activates the CB1 receptors. (Refs. 2-3)
Such a conclusion suggests that more research should be performed to see if medical marijuana for ADHD is a viable treatment option. However, seeing as CB1 receptors that release dopamine are responsive to endogenous cannabinoids (i.e. the cannabinoids that are ever-present in your body), it seems likely they would be activated by ingesting cannabis. Furthermore, cannabis is known to induce euphoria– a classic subjective experience resulting from upregulating dopamine.
Dr. Claudia Jensen has spoken on MSNBC and argued that cannabis is better at treating ADD and ADHD than the conventional medicines. (Ref. 4) She also testified in front of congress on this matter. Dr. Jensen suggests that patients ingest cannabis edibles so that the child can take advantage of the delayed release and reap the focus benefits for nearly a whole day.
Dr. David Bearman has also openly stated that many patients have claimed that cannabis is a successful treatment option for their ADHD. (Ref. 5) He goes on to explain that the endocannabinoid system helps regulate dopamine levels. Simply searching the internet and looking at comments on blogs related to cannabis and ADD/ADHD gives many reports of people claiming that cannabis helped them as a treatment option. (Ref. 6) However, such anecdotal evidence cannot be taken to scientifically suggest that marijuana helps ADD/ADHD.
It could be a case of what is called “publication bias”– people will only report their findings if it was effective (which could have been by chance and, thus, not statistically significant). Such a bias does indeed prevent us from affirmatively evaluating if medical marijuana for ADHD is a viable treatment option.
The finding from a study performed in 2013 suggests that when cannabis users who have ADHD do not smoke cannabis, they often find it easier to identify the subtypes of ADHD symptoms. (Ref. 7) Thus, this study suggests that many ADHD patients opt to use marijuana to help relieve their more nuanced symptoms. The study also indirectly supports evidence that the cannabinoid receptors act in a regulatory way.
ADD / ADHD can take many nuanced formed. People may feel easily distracted and unable to focus on any one aspect of what makes them, “them”.
While no direct study has proven that cannabis can be used as a proper treatment for ADHD, it seems clear that many people with ADHD do look to cannabis for help. One study argued that cannabis does significantly improve the symptoms of ADHD. While the study had only one participant, it was a strong, well controlled, case study that scientifically assessed the effectiveness of cannabis in treating ADD / ADHD symptoms (Ref. 8). While this result does not have enough data to be statistically significant, its findings will hopefully encourage more research to be done.
A German study published last year looked at the effects of cannabis on 30 ADHD patients that regularly took pharmaceutical treatments in the past (Ref. 9). Every single patient noticed a decrease in symptoms, which suggests that cannabis is a viable treatment option for patients who do not prefer the standard pharmaceutical treatment options.
Interestingly, there was a study in 2005 that suggested that early onset of ADHD increases the likelihood of marijuana use. (Ref. 10) Perhaps these patients look to cannabis because they find that it helps with their symptoms. Alternatively, since correlation does not imply causation, it could be the case that people with ADD / ADHD become readily distracted and cannabis is certainly a great distraction.
Every single patient noticed a decrease in symptoms. TEvery single patient noticed a decrease in symptoms, which suggests that cannabis is a viable treatment option for patients who do not prefer the standard pharmaceutical treatment options. with ADD / ADHD.
Medical Marijuana For ADHD / ADD As A Better, Safer Alternative
We live in an era where approximately 10% of children are prescribed methamphetamines. Not only do these drugs have many negative side effects, the abundance of these drugs often leads to abuse. Since ADD / ADHD is so common, it is important that we find multiple treatment options, as each individual responds to treatment differently. Surprisingly, recent research does suggest that cannabis may help regulate dopamine levels, which are ultimately the cause of the problems for ADD / ADHD.
While many doctors simply disregard patients who claim that marijuana helps with their symptoms, more and more people are starting to become aware of the effectiveness of cannabis for ADD / ADHD. While cannabis may not be the right option for everyone, it may be a suitable alternative for many. As for a direct answer to the question “does cannabis help ADD / ADHD?”…the research doesn’t permit an affirmative answer in any one direction.
Anecdotal evidence certainly seems in favor of cannabis. Can cannabis help ADD / ADHD? That’s another question altogether. It seems as though the neural mechanisms are in place and the anecdotal behavioral evidence is promising. Perhaps it’s just a matter of finding the right cannabinoid ratios and entourages of terpenes to make a potent ADD / ADHD cannabis relief medicine.
Patients with ADD / ADHD who are looking for relief from the side effects caused by their medication or wanting to tackle the underlying symptoms fo their disorder symptoms should consider cannabis as a potential treatment option.
Let WoahStork help you find the perfect strain should you consider cannabis as a potential treatment option. Depending on your desires, the WoahStork Strain Genie can recommend you strains based on the effects you desire. As always, if you are considering using cannabis as a treatment option for the first time, please consult your doctor first to see if it is appropriate.
Medical Marijuana For ADHD / ADD References
(1) L Tamm, et al., Impact of ADHD and cannabis use on executive functioning in young adults, Drug Alcohol Depend, 2013 Dec 1;133(2):607-14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23992650
(2) G Ponce, et al., Association between cannabinoid receptor gene (CNR1) and childhood attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder in Spanish male alcoholic patients, Molecular Psychiatry (2003) 8, 466–467. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23992650
(3) A Lu, et al., Association of the Cannabinoid Receptor Gene (CNR1) With ADHD and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2008 Dec 5; 147B(8): 1488–1494. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2685476/?tool=pubmed
(7) M Loflin, et al., Subtypes of Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Cannabis Use, Substance Use & Misuse, Volume 49, Issue 4, 2014. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/10826084.2013.841251
(8) P Strohbeck-Kuehner, et al., Cannabis improves symptoms of ADHD, Cannabinoids 2008, 3(1):1-3.
(9) E Milz, and F Grotenhermen, Successful therapy of treatment resistant adult ADHD with cannabis, Cannabinoid Conference 2015, Sept 17-19, page 85. http://cannabisclinicians.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/SUCCESSFUL-THERAPY-OF-TREATMENT-RESISTANT-ADULT-ADHD-WITH-CANNABIS.pdf
(10) S. Lee, et al., Prospective association of childhood attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and substance use and abuse/dependence: A meta-analytic review, Clinical Psychology Review, Volume 31, Issue 3, April 2011, Pages 328–341. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735811000110
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