Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, more commonly referred to as ADHD, is a mental health disorder characterised by high energy levels and impulsive behaviours. It is also associated with trouble attending to a single task or sitting still. Traditional treatment for this illness consists of behavioural therapy, such as talk therapy. Another common traditional practice involves taking prescribed stimulant medication, such as Ritalin. It may seem counterintuitive that ADHD patients, with high energy levels, are to take stimulating drugs which speed their brains up even further. However, ADHD is characterised by lower dopamine levels than is usually necessary to concentrate on singular tasks. In children under six years of age, behavioural therapy is most common as medication may be harmful to a maturing brain. As for adults, fast-acting medication is more popular and effective to rapidly minimise the effects of this condition.
Can cannabis assist ADHD patients when traditional treatment has been ineffective?
Between 70-80% of children with ADHD have fewer ADHD symptoms when taking these fast-acting stimulant medications, however, there are still 20-30% left unaffected by traditional treatment. As research on the consequences and effectiveness of using marijuana to treat children, teens, and younger adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder continues to evolve, we can now help benefit ADHD patients where traditional stimulants fail to treat the condition.
Some people may be adversely affected by the side effects of traditional treatments; thus, cannabis may be more effective for them. Most of the commonly prescribed ADHD medicines at the moment consist of stimulants, (similar to cocaine). Therefore, there is a myriad of negative effects that these may have on the brain that cannabis doesn’t. One simple example of this is the addiction levels. It is a known fact that ADHD stimulants including dexamphetamine and Ritalin are more addictive than marijuana and have more intense effects on the reward pathways of the brain. Despite this, there do exist arguments that marijuana is a ‘gateway drug, leading to an increased usage of heavier drugs which is ultimately worse.
The following graph provides a comparison of the major potential side effects of medicinal cannabis as opposed to the most commonly prescribed Ritalin:
|Effects of Stimulant Medication:||Effects of Medicinal Marijuana:|
|Decreased appetite||Increased appetite|
|Sleeping problems||Assists sleep|
As we can see, the contrasting side effects between the two drugs is quite large. This makes it easy to understand why different people may rather the low dose THC cannabis. We can also conclude that stimulants cause sleeping problems and eating problems, whereas THC mitigates these issues. As a result, ADHD patients could use stimulants to combat ADHD. Then, they can use THC to combat the adverse effects of the stimulants.
What does science say about CBD Oil and ADHD?
THC, one of two major chemical compounds in cannabis (the other being CBD), is said by medical professionals to act slightly differently on the brain of ADHD individuals compared to those without the condition. Supposedly, people with the disorder have something known as an endocannabinoid deficiency causing restlessness, impulsivity and inattention. THC works by stimulating the endocannabinoid system, which ultimately slows down neurotransmission, allowing the brain to focus and concentrate on fewer impulses, rather than being overwhelmed by a multitude of impulses caused by ADHD. In MRI or pet scans, the back part of the brain called the cerebellum lights up with cannabis in a similar way that it does with Adderall, another traditional ADHD treating medication. This suggests that cannabis can assist patients to sit still, addressing the hyperactive part of ADHD, which coincides with helping the attention deficit component.
What reactions do people with ADHD have to CBD Oil?
Those with ADHD are known to be more susceptible to recreational use and addiction. More specifically, Cannabis use Disorder (CUD) is a problematic pattern of marijuana usage. Although cannabis is not proven to be physically addictive, it can certainly be overused. Those with CUD take marijuana in larger amounts for longer periods than intended. They also allow their users to take over their day-to-day life. This may cause failure to meet obligations such as work and family routines. Those with ADHD are at an increased risk of CUD compared to the general population. People with ADHD in their youth were reported to be three times more likely to use cannabis in later life, and 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with CUD.
The backing behind this is supported by a possible alteration in the reward pathways of those with ADHD. Due to the aforementioned lower dopamine levels in the brain, high dopamine stimulating activities such as smoking cannabis is, therefore, more intensely craved.
What did we find?
All in all, there is still little literature and more research to be done on cannabis and ADHD treatment. In the meantime, doctors are prescribing medicinal marijuana to ADHD patients on a case-to-case basis. This is when traditional medication has failed to provide adequate relief.
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