Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
People of all backgrounds and ages can have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), also referred to as attention deficit disorder (ADD). ADHD comes in a few different forms that involve symptoms related to focus, task initiation, impulsivity and hyperactivity. These issues can make it hard to function in a world that expects you to sit still and pay attention.
Some patients with ADHD use cannabis medicine to manage the symptoms of their condition and the side effects of their medication, as certain types can increase focus and reduce hyperactivity. Medicinal marijuana counteracts issues caused by typical ADHD medicine such as nausea and insomnia.
German doctors Eva Milz and Franjo Grotenhermen wanted to build on previous case studies showing cannabis medicine could benefit patients with ADHD. Since Germany lets patients use marijuana flower to medicate if other remedies don’t work, they had the legal ability to conduct such research.
So, they analyzed the medical certificates of 30 patients from Grotenhermen’s practice to understand how medicinal marijuana affected their ADHD symptoms. The duo specifically looked at previous treatments, the nature of their ADHD and the impact of marijuana medicine. These subjects all had adult ADHD, with no children involved in the study.
Most of the patients had to completely discontinue standard ADHD medication because of ineffectiveness or side effects. Only eight out of the 30 still took them in addition to their medical marijuana, with the other 22 using cannabis medicine only. All subjects reported improvement in a wide range of ADHD symptoms, including sleep problems, concentration and impulsivity.
Loflin et al. aimed to examine the relationship between ADHD subtypes and cannabis usage patterns. By investigating how people with ADHD symptoms use marijuana and the effects they report, they could get some insight into its effectiveness for treatment.
Thanks to a national survey of a sample of 2811 cannabis users, the team had access to plenty of quality data. The study contained information on the ADHD symptoms each subject experienced when they did and didn’t use marijuana daily.
The team found that people with hyperactive-impulsive symptoms tended to see greater benefits than subjects who had issues with attention. Daily marijuana users tended to mention an increase in symptoms related to that subtype when they didn’t medicate with cannabis.
Loflin et al. concluded that this information could help us understand the connection between regulatory control and cannabinoid receptors. They also saw promise for determining which patients with ADHD had a higher chance of self-medicating.
Rasmussen et al. investigated the relationship between ADHD and cannabis’ effects on someone’s response inhibition. As a part of their impulsive symptoms, people with ADHD tend to have reduced response inhibition compared to people without — this means they’re more likely to respond to something without thinking it over. The team wanted to see if marijuana further lowered response inhibition.
The researchers included four groups in their sample based on their combination of ADHD diagnosis/non-diagnosis and regular/no cannabis use. Then, they scanned the subjects’ brains while they completed tasks related to response time.
Regardless of who was completing the activities, cannabis use had no effect on response inhibition. The only factor that influenced the patient’s responsiveness was whether they had ADHD. Non-ADHD subjects who used marijuana had areas of their brain rich in cannabinoid receptors light up when doing the tasks, while ADHD patients did not. This could mean cannabis helps them reach regular cannabinoid levels in those parts of the brain.
Being informed is the most crucial step you can take in your medical cannabis treatment plan. Read our main pages for ADHD and ADD to find out how marijuana medicine can relieve your symptoms. To get a recommendation for medical marijuana, contact a cannabis-certified physician today.