Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects a person’s focus and impulsivity and can impact people of all ages and backgrounds. You can also have ADHD even if you have no hyperactivity symptoms. Some people call this kind of ADHD attention deficit disorder (ADD), but medical professionals categorize all types of ADHD under the term due to advancements in research.
The three subtypes of ADHD are Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type, Predominantly Inattentive Type and Predominantly Combined Type. Professionals determine the subtype you have by seeing what kinds of symptoms you have. You can mainly deal with issues related to hyperactivity and impulse control (hyperactive-impulsive) or problems paying attention (inattentive). Or, you could have a considerable number of symptoms from both groups (combined).
People with ADHD can have symptoms severe enough to hinder their daily functioning. Everyday life requires organization, focus, memory and sitting still. When you have a challenging time with these activities, it makes it hard to do what neurotypical folks consider “easy” tasks.
Luckily, there are plenty of support systems and treatments out there to help you — including cannabidiol (CBD).
The endocannabinoid system is a network of cell receptors and compounds that regulate your bodily functions. Your body creates endocannabinoids, or self-made cannabinoids, that send messages to your CB1 and CB2 receptors to tell your body’s processes when to start and stop.
But, sometimes your endocannabinoid system becomes dysregulated, contributing to disorders like ADHD. We can treat patients with exogenous cannabinoids — or cannabinoids from outside sources — to correct this dysregulation.
While we don’t entirely understand the causes behind ADHD, scientists have found evidence that it’s linked to a shortage of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in your brain that maintains cognitive functions like memory and focus. When you don’t have enough of it, you may have with tasks related to these processes.
So, what does dopamine have to do with the endocannabinoid system? Cannabinoid receptors often appear in cells that also have dopamine receptors. This co-localization makes scientists think cannabinoids could impact dopamine release. Dopamine also has a link to anandamide, another neurotransmitter affected by cannabinoids.
CBD raises dopamine levels and treats ADHD-related symptoms by balancing functions related to your endocannabinoid system. While it doesn’t bind to receptors like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) does, it sits inside receptors and blocks other transmitters from attaching to them. By acting in this way, CBD can increase the benefits of compounds like THC.
Since ADHD patients have more anandamide in their brains, they can take advantage of CBD’s ability to moderate FAAH. FAAH is an enzyme that breaks down anandamide, so increasing its levels lets your body regulate anandamide levels more effectively. Balanced anandamide levels prevent your body from running out of dopamine too quickly.
Cannabinoids like CBD also balance dopamine levels and decrease sensory input. While you may think that lower sensory input is a bad thing, patients with ADHD often have too much of it. Regulated dopamine makes it easier for an ADHD brain to process thoughts and focus. It also reduces overstimulation caused by too much neurotransmission.
In addition to moderating dopamine and other neurotransmitters, CBD affects symptoms caused by ADHD. Many people with ADHD experience anxiety as a comorbid condition. CBD calms you down without inducing the side effects that conventional anti-anxiety medications have. It also improves sleep and reduces depression.
You can use all sorts of cannabinoid formulations to reduce your ADHD symptoms. If you can legally have medicine with THC in it, you can use a high-CBD product with a little THC to get its dopamine-increasing benefits. But, you can also take CBD on its own. Using only CBD lets you avoid the “high” caused by THC, making it ideal for children to use. Talk to your doctor to see what concentration could work for you.
CBD medicine comes in many forms. In fact, you can find it in just as many types as THC-based medicine appears in. Some growers offer marijuana strains with excessive amounts of CBD for patients who want to focus on its benefits. Dispensaries can also sell oils, tinctures, patches and pills. But, keep in mind that federal law only considers hemp-derived CBD legal, and some states don’t allow any kind of CBD.
The right type of CBD medicine for you depends on your lifestyle and medical needs. For example, while patches slowly release medication into your system, vaping has a much faster impact. If you want to treat a child with CBD, you might want to opt for an oil that you can add to their food.
At MarijuanaDoctors.com, we believe the key to a successful treatment plan starts with education. We provide you with all the resources you need to make the most informed decisions about your health. To learn more about CBD for ADHD and other conditions, count on us to provide all the information you need.
Learn more about ADHD and what makes medical marijuana an effective treatment for ADHD’s symptoms.