Cannabis can help improve symptoms of ADHD, according to the results of a new study.
Many people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) find marijuana helpful for managing their symptoms, such as trouble focusing and being impulsive. But few studies have looked at marijuana as a treatment option, until now.
In a 2016 study by researchers at King’s College London, treatment with a cannabis-based spray was shown to reduce symptoms in patients with ADHD. The study involved 30 adults with ADHD, who were given either Sativex or placebo over a four-week period.
Sativex is a pharmaceutical spray made from extracts of the whole cannabis plant. It contains a 1:1 ratio of THC and CBD and is one of the very few cannabis-based treatments to be approved as a prescription drug.
By the end of the study, those who received cannabis treatment showed improvements in symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention. They also scored higher on measures of cognitive performance and emotional stability.
The researchers concluded: “ADHD may represent a subgroup of individuals that gain cognitive enhancement and reduction of ADHD symptoms from the use of cannabinoids.”
Both THC and CBD have been shown to improve ADHD symptoms in animal models.
Though cannabinoids are available in pharmaceutical forms like Sativex, many people with ADHD find marijuana to be an effective, more accessible option.
Marijuana Use and ADHDThe use of marijuana is extremely common in those who suffer from ADHD. In fact, studies show that young adults with ADHD are three times more likely to use marijuana in their lifetime.
While marijuana is usually seen as a recreational drug, people with ADHD often use marijuana as a way of self-medicating their symptoms.
In a study of 268 separate online discussions, 25% of people said they believed that marijuana was useful for treating ADHD.
Despite the popular belief that marijuana can help ADHD, how it works is still unclear.
People with ADHD are usually prescribed stimulant medications, such as Ritalin or Adderall, to help them focus and be less impulsive. These medications work by boosting dopamine levels in the brain.
Marijuana has also been shown to increase dopamine levels. This has led experts to theorize that marijuana might work in a similar way as stimulants in treating ADHD.
It also explains why some people find cannabis to be just as effective as their prescription medications. Compared to stimulants, marijuana is reported to have less side effects.
Marijuana Helps Manage SymptomsThe reason why most people with ADHD use marijuana is better focus. Indeed, many find that cannabis helps them pay attention and stay on task.
This seems counter-intuitive, since marijuana is thought to interfere with focus and attention in regular users.
However, there are many other reasons why people with ADHD might choose to use marijuana. Besides being able to focus better, studies also suggest that marijuana can help with sleep difficulties, hyperactivity and being impulsive.
Interestingly, studies show that people with the most severe symptoms of ADHD tend to use marijuana more frequently. Men and women also appear to use cannabis for different reasons.
Despite the strong link between marijuana use and ADHD, more research is necessary to determine the specific benefits of marijuana in treating the condition.
Medical Marijuana For ADHDMedical marijuana is becoming more popular in the U.S. and worldwide. It can be used to treat many conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, Crohn’s disease and epilepsy.
Though using medical marijuana to treat ADHD is not widely accepted, some doctors support the idea.
“I had a patient who credited graduating with his use of marijuana. And I had a PhD candidate who credited marijuana with being able to get his PhD, and that’s because it helped him concentrate,” says Dr. Bearman, a physician in California who regularly prescribes marijuana to patients with ADHD.
“The feedback I’ve received from patients that have ADD or ADHD who use cannabis have been universally favorable.”
Unfortunately, the majority of doctors are still hesitant to recommend cannabis due to a lack of research. Also, since ADHD affects more children than adults, many are concerned about the risks of giving marijuana to younger patients.
“As a pediatrician, I feel tremendous sympathy for families who are seeking new and beneficial therapies for conditions like autism and ADHD,” writes Scott Hadland, an adolescent specialist at Boston General Hospital.
“Right now, however, we can’t conclude that the benefits of marijuana outweigh the risks for children.”
Due to marijuana’s legal status and lack of support in the medical community, most people with ADHD end up using it without the advice of a health professional.