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What is ADHD… and can CBD help manage or treat the condition

ADHD, short for Attention Deficit Disorder, is a neurobehavioral disorder that one may develop during childhood or adulthood. Left unchecked, ADHD may last into adulthood. Currently, there is no cure for ADHD, but behavior therapy, counseling, and medication can help manage the symptoms. The symptoms are mood, cognition, and behavior related. 

Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive compound present in hemp and marijuana plants. According to medical evidence, CBD is neuroprotective, it may encourage positive emotions, can regulate mood, and it has uses in the treatment and management of over 50 illnesses and conditions, including ADHD, epilepsy, PTSD, and chronic pain. 

The FDA’s position on the use of CBD by minors is CBD may only be used in the treatment of epileptic seizures. Consequently, you should check local laws before exposing minors to CBD. Alternatively, you may consult with a physician and acquire a prescription. In Canada, there are no age restrictions on the use of medical cannabis, but it is still a good idea to consult with a health professional before use. 

Quick take: is CBD good for ADHD?

  • CBD is not a cure for ADHD -but it can help manage symptoms.
  • CBD relaxes the mind and body, leading to reduced incidents of impulsiveness or hyperactivity. 
  • State law may prohibit CBD consumption by minors. Recommend consulting with a physician.
  • You may use CBD to complement ADHD treatment.
  • ADHD patients report less need for medication when on CBD. 

What is ADHD, and how can cannabidiol help manage the condition?

If a child has ADHD, the condition may manifest behavioral, mood-related, and cognitive symptoms. Consequently, the afflicted individual may have trouble focusing, may daydream too much, talk excessively, and have difficulties building and maintaining relationships. 

Signs of ADHD can be categorized into:

Hyperactivity/impulsiveness triggered by ADHD

  • Indulging in dangerous behavior (no sense of danger).
  • Excessive physical movement or talking.
  • Fidgeting.
  • An inability to remain calm. 

Cognition issues triggered by ADHD

  • Forgetfulness/constantly losing items.
  • An inability to complete tedious or time-consuming tasks. 
  • Carelessness/mistakes at school or work. 
  • Difficulty organizing tasks. 
  • An inability to follow instructions.

ADHD may also escalate or cause conditions including anxiety, depression, personality disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. 

The risk factors for ADHD include (1) low birth weight. (2) premature delivery.  (3) alcohol or tobacco use during pregnancy. (4) exposure to lead at a young age. (5) brain injury. 

It is also worth noting that according to the CDC, too much television and family problems are unlikely causes of ADHD. 

Is CBD good for ADHD?

Due to cannabis’s classification as a Schedule 1 substance, research into cannabinoid effects on ADHD and related conditions is limited. What we do know is CBD may aid in the management of ADHD symptoms.

A study of three, published in the National Library of Medicine, concluded that, quote:

The improvements in their symptoms and quality of life were substantial, such as the ability to keep emotions in check (3 patients) or to obtain and excel at a new job with more responsibility (2 patients).”

The three individuals used in the study consumed a 20:1 CBD to THC formulation. Meaning that THC may also have benefits for ADHD.

That said. Further studies are needed to verify these claims.

Does CBD help with ADHD? What we know

  • Patient self-reports suggest that people who take higher doses of CBD report symptom relief and less need for ADHD medicine. 
  • It is unclear if CBD is safe or harmful to minors. Studies on the long-term side effects of cannabinoids on minors and infants are currently ongoing.
  • If you are on medication, do not abandon treatment or consult with a physician before you do (listen to your doctor). 

That said.

CBD offers the following benefits for persons living with ADHD

CBD for hyperactivity and impulsiveness: can CBD cause hyperactivity?

According to self-reports and existing medical studies, persons living with ADHD report impulsiveness and hyperactivity when not on medical cannabis. Why?

Hyperactivity and impulsiveness are symptoms of anxiety. A recent study on the effects of CBD on anxiety concluded that:

Human experimental findings support preclinical findings and also suggest a lack of anxiogenic effects, minimal sedative effects, and an excellent safety profile.”

In other words, CBD may help manage or prevent anxiety symptoms through interactions with CB1Rs and 5-HT1ARs in the brain. 

What to remember

  • CBD may help manage anxiety symptoms in patients struggling with PTSD, ADHD, SAD, and OCD.

A study on a 10-year-old patient living with PTSD concluded that:

The strength of this particular case is that our patient was receiving no pharmaceutical medications (other than nonprescription diphenhydramine) but only nutritional supplements and the CBD oil to control her symptoms. Her scores on the sleep scale and the anxiety scale consistently and steadily decreased during a period of 5 months (see Table 2). She was ultimately able to sleep through the night most nights in her own room, was less anxious at school and home, and displayed appropriate behaviors. The patient’s grandmother (her caregiver) reported: “My granddaughter’s behaviors are definitely better being on the CBD. Her anxiety is not gone, but it is not as intense and she is much easier to be around. She now sleeps in her own room most of the time, which has never happened before.”

Source: Shannon, S., & Opila-Lehman, J. (2016). Effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report. The Permanente Journal, 20(4). https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/16-005

Can CBD help improve concentration and cognition?

Cognition refers to the brain’s ability to pay attention, remember details, and learn. If you develop ADHD, research says that the condition may impair cognitive development. CBD is a potent antioxidant, meaning that it may have neuroprotective effects and have uses in cerebral ischemia-reperfusion (stroke-related).

That quality makes it useful in the treatment of epilepsy, and it may protect the brain from damage caused by seizures or strokes. Additionally, CBD use shows a positive effect on autoimmune disease and type 1 diabetes. 

Neuroprotective means that CBD may protect the brain from damage. 

Additionally, CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system to help regulate:

  • The immune system
  • Nervous system
  • Emotions
  • Mood. 

In short, CBD use has been proven to help relax the mind and body. 

What to remember

  • CBD helps promote neurogenesis. Neurogenesis refers to the formation of neurons in the brain. Maintaining a healthy brain may make it easier to manage ADHD symptoms. 
  • By increasing blood flow to the brain, CBD may help improve ADHD patient memory. 

Is CBD safe for minors living with ADHD?

In the US, the FDA has only approved a synthetic version of CBD as a treatment for epileptic seizures. There are safety concerns related to product quality, meaning it is in your best interest to source CBD products from reliable vendors or purchase from local sources. (link)

CBD for minors: what to remember

  • The federal government does not classify CBD products that contain 0.3% THC as marijuana. Thus you may purchase CBD products that fit that description anywhere in the country. 
  • Some states may have prohibitions on the exposure of cannabis products to minors. We recommend consulting with a physician or checking state laws. 
  • CBD may cause mild side effects, including diarrhea, fatigue, and sleepiness. The side effects dissipate if you discontinue use.
  • The FDA does not regulate CBD products; thus, you should source CBD from reliable vendors. 
  • The effect of CBD on the developing brain remains unknown, it is thus recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding moms avoid consumption. 

How to use CBD for ADHD

It is not necessary that you use CBD pills or oils. The compound comes in a variety of products, including baked goods, gummies, consumables, and so on.

What matters is that you do not take or administer too much or too little. Remember, at low doses, CBD has a stimulating effect, and at extremely high doses it may cause fatigue, diarrhea, and sleepiness. 

It is therefore recommended that you use the “start low and go-slow approach,” which entails taking small doses of CBD initially, then working your way up to a comfortable dose. 

For safety reasons. You should.

  • Check the product label. The label or insert may contain dosage information, CBD content, and ingredients. For minors, it is recommended that you avoid products that contain more than 0.3% THC -because that is technically marijuana. You also want to avoid harmful chemicals and pesticides. Considering America’s safety requirements for CBD products, it is safer to buy locally. Imported or back alley products may put you at elevated risk of consuming harmful contaminants.
  • Check the manufacturer’s background. Has the FDA issued recalls or warnings about the product?