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Medical Marijuana For Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Updated on February 5, 2019.  Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist

Marijuana and ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), also referred to as ADD, is a chronic disorder affecting six to nine percent of children and about five percent of adults worldwide. From impulses and hyperactivity to inattentiveness, this condition commonly affects children, but it can continue throughout their adult years.

While no cure exists for ADHD, it can be treated. For many people, however, current treatment options have been either ineffective or produced adverse side effects. But there could be a new answer for ADHD patients that are seeking better treatment — medical marijuana.

What is ADHD

How Is Medical Marijuana an Effective Treatment?

A 2015 published German study examined cannabis effects on 30 patients who weren’t responding to Ritalin or Adderall. Most of the subjects following treatment experience reduced impulsivity, improved sleep and better performance.

The effects of ADHD are different in women than in men. Women seem to receive fewer diagnoses and suffer more with anxietydepression, obesity and eating disorders than do men. Men, however, are more likely to experience anger, car accidents and behavioral issues.

2015 German Study reveals positive results from cannabis

The most common ADHD treatments are methylphenidate and amphetamine stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall. These medications help improve cognitive functioning and increase concentration and focus.

But, what these medications don’t do is help you relax. They’ve also been known to cause nausea, suppress your appetite and give you abdominal cramping and diarrhea. They even can reduce your sleep. It’s here that marijuana comes into play.

Many studies have proved marijuana use is beneficial for individuals who have ADD and ADHD. While there have been many preconceptions that marijuana exacerbates ADHD, many cannabiologists believe cannabis has been significantly responsible for improving the lives of people living with ADHD.

Researchers believe one of the leading factors contributing to ADHD is a shortage of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter important in regulating attention, memory and other cognitive processes. Ritalin, Adderall and other medications are designed to stimulate the production of dopamine, thereby helping to increase a patient’s ability to concentrate. These drugs, however, result in a wide range of severe side effects and can also result in potentially severe withdrawal symptoms.

One area in which medical cannabis for ADHD has shown promise is the way cannabinoids interact with the brain’s ability to manage dopamine. Research is still in its early stages but shows marijuana may increase dopamine production. It seems to work in a similar way to Ritalin as it binds to dopamine and helps slow the metabolic breakdown of the substance.

Cannabis may be able to correct an ADHD sufferer’s deficiency of dopamine, but it has to be administered in the correct dose. When used correctly, it can aid in concentration and make arduous, routine tasks more manageable for patients. It can also help level out mood swings.

What Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Can Medical Marijuana Treat?

A well-known effect of marijuana is relaxation. But you may wonder how medical cannabis works for managing your ADHD symptoms.

As you know, when you have ADHD, you often find it hard to stay focused, and you’re hyperactive. Because of this, many physicians believe medical cannabis can help decrease impulsivity in ADHD patients.

Medical weed can also treat effects of stimulant drugs such as sleep problems, nervousness and loss of appetite.

ADHD Symptoms Treated by Medical Marijuana

Methylphenidate and amphetamine can be harmful to your body, particularly when you increase your dose or first begin treatment. They might make you agitated, excessively nervous and amped up. Medical pot helps relieve some of these medications’ uncomfortable side effects. Weed can:

  • Stimulate appetite
  • Improve sleep
  • Relax and calm you
  • Reduce nausea

Since cannabis for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder reduces stress, calms you down and helps you pay attention, it’s a favorite treatment choice for many people living with ADHD. It can exhaust you mentally when you’re feeling agitated and wired all day, so it makes sense that people are turning to the herb to find some peace.

Additionally, it can be hard to “turn off” after using stimulant medications all day. A soothing dose of marijuana can calm your anxious body and provide you with peace of mind.

How to Get Medical Marijuana for ADHD

If you’re a patient with ADHD who is interested in exploring a medical marijuana treatment plan, your first step will be verifying the current cannabis laws practiced in your state. Currently, medical marijuana is not legal in every U.S. state. In the states where cannabis is permitted for medicinal purposes, ADHD may not be a qualifying condition.

Is medical marijuana permitted for ADHD patients in your region? If so, connect with a marijuana-trained physician who will provide you with the necessary diagnosis. While under the care of a certified cannabis doctor, you’ll find it easy to enroll as a patient with the state.

Typically, patients are required to sign up for a medical marijuana I.D. card. Because marijuana isn’t distributed in a manner akin to normal prescriptions, you must visit a state-authorized dispensary to obtain your cannabis supply instead. Your medical I.D. card will serve as proof of your patient status and will play a vital role in your ability to access your medical marijuana supply.

Ways to Use Medical Marijuana for ADHD

Modern day medical professionals have proven marijuana to be an effective treatment option for patients living with ADHD. But unlike traditional medications, cannabis offers multiple intake methods — making it a preferred option due to its versatility. How you decide to consume your cannabis will play an influential role in your ability to find relief.

Since many ADHD patients are children, smoking medical cannabis can be problematic. Therefore, below lists some kid-friendly alternative methods of getting your medical weed treatment that is just as effective with adults.

1. Tinctures and Sub-Lingual Sprays

Micro-dosing is a valid alternative method. Extracted cannabinoids are combined with a glycerin solution, alcohol or Medium-Chain Triglyceride oil, which is typically palm or coconut oil. With sublingual sprays, you simply spray or squirt your dose under your tongue and allow it to absorb through your mouth’s tissue.

2. Edibles

Edibles are a simple yet discreet way for many patients to enjoy their necessary cannabis medications. The effect of ingested medical marijuana is often longer lasting, too. Some edible cannabis treats may include:

  • Popcorn
  • Chocolate Bars
  • Cookies
  • Ice cream
  • Nut mixes
  • Gummy bears
  • Lollipops

In most cases, the treats are yummy, and you can’t tell they contain weed.

3. Suppositories

With suppositories, you insert a cannabis extract inside a small cone-shaped mass into your rectum. It then absorbs through your colon. Two sizes of suppositories are available — 1g for children and 2g for adults. For children, you can cut doses in half to make them even smaller.

Because ADHD can impact a patient’s daily sense of wellbeing, it’s crucial to find a delivery method that offers quick yet effective relief. For many, the intake methods outlined above allow users to safely control their symptoms with little to no adverse effects.

Best Strains of Marijuana for ADHD

Since there needs to be more research to show exactly how and if medical marijuana can help people with ADHD, information and evidence is limited to mainly personal anecdotes. You may want to do a little experimenting yourself with different strains to see what’s most useful for your ADHD symptoms. Below is a small list of strains people have found helpful in treating their symptoms.

In general, sativa strains are known to uplift the user due to its higher THC content, while indica strains will make the user feel more tired and relaxed because of its high CBD content. The same goes for sativa-dominant and indica-dominant hybrids, respectively.

1. Strains for Mental Energy and Engagement

These sativa strains help decrease inattentiveness:

  • Cinex
  • Sour Diesel
  • Green Crack

2. Strains for Calming Focus

These calm the mind, reducing anxiety and impulsivity:

  • True OG
  • Blueberry Headband

3. Strains for ADD/ADHD Medication Side Effects

These indica strains are sleep-inducing, appetite-boosting strains:

  • Goo
  • Jupiter OG

Again, try some different strains out for yourself so you can find your ideal ADHD treatment.

Side Effects of Marijuana for ADHD

Marijuana is highly esteemed in the medical community for its ability to successfully treat problematic symptoms without inducing any unwanted effects in the process. However, you may notice some side effects when using cannabis. Several symptoms you can anticipate experiencing include:

  • Increased appetite
  • Tiredness
  • Feelings of relaxation

As is the case with any new treatment plan, it’s best to discuss your prospective medical marijuana treatment with a doctor before you begin to use this substance.

ADHD

Many patients are beginning to learn about the positive effect of cannabis — especially for individuals living with ADHD. Below, we’ll delve into the important details about this condition that are necessary to know before deciding on a treatment plan.

What Is ADHD?

ADHD is a disorder that causes trouble focusing on tasks and paying attention without a wandering mind. Patients might also have difficulty sitting still. The condition often starts early in childhood. If left untreated, ADHD can cause trouble at work, at school, at home and with relationships.

ADHD is typically diagnosed by the age of seven, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Boys are diagnosed with the disorder twice as much as girls. Adults can receive a diagnosis of the disorder as well.

ADHD typically diagnosed by age seven

Types of ADHD

ADHD shows three typical patterns including:

  1. Inattention: When you struggle with inattention, you have difficulty sustaining focus, lack persistence and are disorganized, but these issues aren’t due to lack of comprehension or defiance. Inattentive ADHD is what is typically referred to as ADD.
  2. Hyperactivity: This type of ADHD is characterized by moving about regularly, even in circumstances where it’s not appropriate. You fidget, talk or tap excessively. You may be restless and wear others out with continuous activity, especially in adult cases.
  3. Impulsivity: You make hasty, thoughtless actions that could potentially harm yourself or others. You’re always seeking instant gratification. Impulsive people may also interrupt others excessively, be socially intrusive or be unable to consider the consequences of important decisions.

Your symptoms determine the type of ADHD you’re struggling with, and both may change over time. It’s a lifelong challenge for many, but therapy and medication can help improve your symptoms and quality of life.

What Causes ADHD?

ADHD impacts a patient’s ability to think without disruption — an inconvenience which can greatly alter their ability to perform daily activities with ease. Because this condition can have such a negative impact on patients, it’s vital to know the risk factors and causes associated with ADHD to reduce the likelihood of its occurrence.

One of the leading causes of ADHD is genetics. Many researchers label ADHD a genetic disorder due to the large percentage of patients who inherit this condition.

However, there are some external factors which play a role in the formation of ADHD, too. Several causes to take into consideration include:

  • Smoking or drinking during pregnancy
  • Sugar intake levels
  • Lead exposure
  • Brain trauma

While environmental factors may not always be the root cause of ADHD in a patient, they can aggravate the condition and make symptoms worse.

ADHD History

Sir Alexander Crichton gave the first example of a condition appearing similar to ADHD in 1798.

In 1902, ADHD was first defined by Sir George Still, a British pediatrician, as “an abnormal defect of moral control in children.“ His findings revealed that with some children affected, they couldn’t control their behavior in the same manner of ordinary children; however, they were still intelligent.

The FDA approved Benzedrine in 1936 and Ritalin in 1955 as a potential medication for treating ADHD. As diagnoses increased and physicians better understood the disorder, Ritalin became more popular, and it’s still a commonly prescribed treatment today.

Many people have mixed symptoms of ADHD, and they continue to change over time. Younger children have more tendency of showing hyperactivity, whereas older children and adults often show more signs of inattention.

Today, ADHD is recognized as one of the most diagnosed childhood disorders continuing into adulthood. According to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA):

  • Around five percent of adults in the U.S.struggle with ADHD — that’s more than 11 million.
  • ADHD isn’t limited to children and may persist throughout an individual’s lifetime. Around two-thirds or more of kids with the disorder have challenges and symptoms that continue into adulthood and require treatment.

The advocacy group Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) says:

  • Approximately 2 percent of children age 18 years old or under have ADHD, according to a meta-analysis of 175 worldwide research studies.
  • Worldwide, the average prevalence in adults is 3.4 percent.

Symptoms and Side Effects of ADHD

Key behaviors in ADHD are hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention. Some individuals will wrestle with only one of these indicative behaviors, while others grapple with more or even all of them. Children often struggle with the combined form of ADHD. Hyperactivity is the most common symptom of ADHD in preschool.

While all people from time to time will have some unfocused motor activity, impulsivity and inattention, in those with the disorder, these behaviors:

  • Occur more often
  • Are more severe
  • Reduce or interfere with the ability to function at work, school or socially

Recognizing an increase in these behaviors is your first step toward receiving a diagnosis.

1. Inattention

When living with the symptoms of inattention, you may often:

  • Have troubles maintaining attention in tasks such as conversations, lengthy reading or lectures
  • Miss or overlook details or make careless errors during activities like at your job
  • Not listen or follow through on directions or instructions, start tasks but get easily sidetracked or lose focus rapidly
  • Fail to finish tasks at home or in the workplace
  • Not seem to be listening when others are speaking to you directly
  • Have difficulties organizing activities and tasks such as keeping belongings and materials in order, failing to meet deadlines and having poor time management and sloppy work
  • Dislike or avoid tasks requiring you to sustain a mental effort like completing forms, preparing reports or reviewing lengthy papers
  • Lose things like pencils, tools, books, keys, wallets and cell phones necessary for activities and tasks
  • Be forgetful in day-to-day activities like errands, chores, keeping appointments and returning calls
  • Be distracted easily by unrelated stimuli or thoughts

2. Hyperactivity-Impulsivity

Symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity, mostly in children, may include:

  • Squirming and fidgeting in your seat
  • Dashing, running or climbing when it’s expected you stay seated, such as in the office or classroom
  • Having the inability to engage quietly in hobbies
  • Talking nonstop
  • Being in motion constantly or acting as if you’re driven by a motor or on the go
  • Blurting out an answer before the person finished the question, speaking before your turn or finishing the sentences of others
  • Intruding or interrupting others in activities, conversations or games
  • Having difficulty waiting your turn

Children need to have six or more symptoms falling under this specific category type to receive an ADHD diagnosis.

Since ADHD symptoms can impact your relationships and your performance at work, you may also struggle with psychological issues through childhood and later.

  • Low Self-Esteem: When living with ADHD, you may struggle with low self-esteem caused by the symptoms of the disorder. Low self-esteem may stem from difficulties you’re experiencing at work and may occur with any of these ADHD symptoms. These challenges can lead to poor performance and underachievement which adds to your low self-esteem.
  • Anxiety: You may develop anxiety along with your ADHD. The condition can cause intense worry regarding performance or organizational issues. These issues can trigger anxiety and, when untreated, can affect your ability to think clearly and lead to physical symptoms like sweating, racing heart and tremors.
  • Depression: Depression is another possibility where you could experience a change in your mood such as helplessness and persistent sadness. You may feel an overwhelming sense of guilt, making your depression worse. Depression may also affect your behavior causing things like problems with sleeping and concentrating.

Current Treatments Available and Their Side Effects

ADHD treatment relies on a combination of medications and behavior therapy. If treating the disorder in children, the prescribed dosage used will depend on how old the child is. Adults may benefit from these treatments as well.

1. Medications

Your doctor may prescribe the following medications for your or your child’s ADHD:

  • Methylphenidates, such as Concerta, Ritalin or Metadate CD
  • Amphetamines, such as Dexedrine or Adderall

If you’re experiencing bothersome side effects from these stimulant medications or they aren’t working, your doctor may prescribe a non-stimulant medication such as:

  • Kapvay (Clonidine)
  • Strattera (Atomoxetine)
  • Intuniv (Guanfacine)

The doctor may use these medications alone or combine them with other medications. Side effects of ADHD medications include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Irritability and moodiness
  • Sleep problems
  • Stomachaches and headaches
  • Tics
  • Delayed growth
  • Rebound or feeling irritable after your drugs wear off

The doctor may either change the dosage of your medication, the type of medication or the release formula of the medication if the side effects are becoming a problem. The aim is to determine what will provide you with the most benefit with minimal side effects.

2. Behavior Therapy

Behavior therapy helps teach parents strategies to improve their child’s behaviors, such as positive reinforcement. Children will learn skills in communication, problem solving and self-advocacy. For the most success, doctors may prescribe behavior therapy combined with medication, rather than by itself.

Counseling helps you to recognize any problem behaviors you have and learn strategies to deal with them. Counseling can also benefit family members, allowing them to deal with the second-hand effects of ADHD.

Discover How Easy It Is to Find a Dispensary or Medical Marijuana Doctor Near You

Obtaining medical cannabis isn’t as difficult as you may think. It’s easy to start your search online, but make sure to select a location that’s in strict compliance with state laws. It’s also convenient if the location is a one-stop resource including both a marijuana doctor and a dispensary. Take action and start your search with MarijuanaDoctors.com today.

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Resources:

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/315187.php
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/history#overview1
  4. http://www.chadd.org/understanding-adhd/about-adhd/data-and-statistics/general-prevalence.aspx
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