There are a great many different mental and behavioral disorders that exist, affecting millions of people. Though they range in severity and intensity, one is likely the most prevalent in childhood: ADHD.
ADHD, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, is a complex disorder. It has been misclassified and overdiagnosed in the last decade. Sufferers deal with all kinds of horrendous symptoms and effects, leaving them unable to function appropriately or comfortably in society.
However, hope is not entirely lost. In recent years, scientists have theorized that we could use CBD oil to treat ADHD. So, what does the science say when it comes to CBD and ADHD?
What Is ADHD?
To understand how CBD interacts with ADHD, we must first understand what ADHD is. ADHD is a behavioral disorder that makes it difficult for the individual to concentrate. Typical symptoms include chronic inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and an increase in impulsive actions.
An individual with ADHD is incapable of paying sufficient attention or remaining present in the moment. They also cannot stop themselves from acting on their impulses. These can range from sporadic movements and twitches to needing to immediately express their desire for physical activity in the most severe cases.
The expression of this disorder is most readily apparent in schools. When a child has ADHD, they cannot pay attention in class or remain in their seats. However, it doesn’t just stop there. They might be incapable of eating correctly, falling asleep, or remembering things they are told.
What Causes ADHD?
The condition itself is not fully understood neurologically. However, most scientists agree that ADHD is typically caused by a lack of sufficient dopamine release within the brain.
Unfortunately, some people believe ADHD is a made-up condition used to explain away bad behavior. This happens because of the considerable frequency of misdiagnosis in recent years due to the lack of sufficient classification criteria for the condition.
This means that many doctors and psychologists diagnosed people with ADHD when they were just badly behaved or were struggling with something in their personal lives.
So, what is being done to address it?
What Are We Doing Currently to Treat ADHD?
At present, experts treat ADHD with a mix of both medications and cognitive behavioral therapy. They combine drugs that seek to alter brain function with psychoanalytic techniques.
Ritalin and Adderall are two of the most common treatments for ADHD. Both deal with the outward symptoms of the condition and try to make day-to-day life more bearable. These drugs work by regulating the release of dopamine and the rate at which the brain releases norepinephrine.
One of the positive effects of these drugs is that they also improve cognitive abilities to help people living with ADHD focus. This means that users experience a much larger memory capacity, as well as a compulsive desire to be working on or completing something.
This might sound wonderful. However, remember that these drugs change brain functions and overload parts of the brain to try and compensate for insufficiencies in other areas.
These drugs become frequently misused due to being massively overprescribed. This has led to a severe addiction epidemic that results in thousands of people hooked on pills that alter their mental state unnecessarily. Many people use them as a study aid or concentration tool. Indeed, Adderall is infamously a popular street drug in competitive universities.
What Does CBD Oil ADHD Research Say?
Sadly, current scientific studies into the potential for using CBD oil for ADHD are few and far between. What we know so far is that the THC in marijuana is potentially bad for ADHD patients.
This was the conclusion of a study conducted by the University of Washington for the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute in 2017. Researchers found that the plant is potentially dangerous for people with ADHD. It increases the intensity of ADHD symptoms and the chance of developing cannabis misuse disorders.
THC Is NOT CBD
THC and CBD are two phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. However, they are entirely separate compounds with very different effects. The main difference between the two compounds is that THC induces a mind-altering high, and CBD does not.
Therefore, CBD may not cause any adverse effects on individuals with ADHD. One potential use of CBD for ADHD patients is its potential for reducing anxiety. Individuals with ADHD often struggle with anxiety, which makes their condition worse. A 2016 study found that CBD helped with anxiety and sleep problems in children.
CBD is very different from the intoxicating compound THC. CBD could reduce anxiety and hyperactivity in some individuals with ADHD.
Meanwhile, a 2018 study focused on 53 ADHD patients between the ages of 4 and 22. Their parents administered CBD oil for a median of 66 days. In almost 70% of participants, rage and self-injury fell, though it worsened in almost 10%. Hyperactivity symptoms fell in 68% of the children/young adults and only increased by 3%. Almost half of the participants experienced an anxiety reduction, while 24% reported an increase.
The theory behind CBD being useful for ADHD symptoms lies in its ability to interact with endocannabinoid system (ECS) receptors in the human body. These receptors are located in the nervous system and brain and regulate various bodily processes. The effect of CBD and other cannabinoids on these receptors could result in reduced hyperactivity and improved focus.
Those looking for an alternative treatment for ADHD do so because current ADHD medication could result in serious side effects. However, CBD isn’t free from adverse effects either.
CBD Oil & ADHD Side Effects
In general, CBD is classified as having a good safety profile; the WHO declared as much a few years ago. A study published in 2017 found that human volunteers tolerated up to 1,500mg of CBD a day without severe ill effects. Nonetheless, it could result in the following adverse effects, particularly when used in very large amounts:
- Upset Stomach
- Changes in Appetite
- Mood Changes
There are also concerns about its potential effects on the liver. This 2019 study found that CBD increased the liver toxicity of mice.
It is also possible that cannabidiol could interact with various prescription or over-the-counter drugs. Like grapefruit, CBD interferes with the family of enzymes vital to drug metabolism. Therefore, it is best to avoid using CBD if you use a medication that carries a ‘grapefruit warning.’
One final concern relates to the THC found in some CBD products. As mentioned above, the THC in cannabis could exacerbate certain ADHD symptoms. CBD products sold in the United States are supposed to contain a maximum of 0.3% THC. However, it is an unregulated industry with many products that exceed this amount. Make sure you only buy CBD products from a reputable seller that provides third-party lab reports with each batch.
CBD Oil’s Collaborative Effects – What Else Can It Do?
Many people skip over one important thing when considering the benefits of CBD in helping with symptoms associated with ADHD. That is its general effects on the body. CBD is well known for its capacity to heighten mood and generally help with symptoms like anxiety and depression. It is also potentially effective at reducing addictive behavior.
In their seminal study, Gonzalez Cuevas et al. evaluated the anti-relapse potential of a transdermal CBD preparation in animal models concerning drug-seeking behavior, anxiety, and impulsivity.
The researchers found that CBD reduced both context-induced and stress-induced drug-seeking. Moreover, the cannabinoid achieved this without causing sedative effects or interfering with normal motivated behavior. There was no evidence of the animals developing a ‘tolerance’ for CBD either.
There was another significant finding from Gonzalez Cuevas et al.’s study. Despite plasma and brain CBD levels only being detectable for three days, reinstatement remained attenuated five months after the treatment was terminated.
CBD and Hyperactivity Symptoms
We’ve already looked at one study that showed how CBD reduced hyperactivity in children and young adults with ADHD. Another study by Barchel and colleagues showed that CBD could significantly improve hyperactivity symptoms in children with autism spectrum disorder.
To date, there is no evidence from randomized control studies that supports cannabis or CBD as an effective treatment for ADHD. However, a randomized-controlled trial carried out by Cooper et al. found a nominally significant improvement in symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity in 30 adults who received a cannabinoid-based medication (1:1 THC:CBD).
So far, most research conducted on ADHD and cannabis has focused on the co-occurrence of ADHD and cannabis-use disorders. More research is required to determine whether CBD is effective in reducing ADHD symptoms.
Should You Try CBD for ADHD?
The limited research available suggests that CBD could help reduce ADHD symptoms. Consequently, a growing number of people with the condition feel it is worth trying. This is especially the case due to prescription drugs’ side effects and the ineffectiveness of other treatment options.
Yet users of CBD must understand that ‘natural’ doesn’t automatically mean ‘safe.’ Therefore, those who use CBD for ADHD must understand that the process comes with risks. The cannabinoid can interact with certain drugs. It could also contain excessive levels of THC due to the poorly regulated nature of the CBD market. ADHD patients are best served considering broad-spectrum products with 0% THC for this reason.
Research on CBD and ADHD is limited. Some individuals have found success, but trying it is not without risks.
Please note that you should NOT consider CBD a ‘substitute’ for any ADHD treatment you currently use. If you elect to use it, adopt the ‘low and slow’ approach. Begin with a small amount at first to see how it affects you. Only then should you consider increasing the dose. You might find that you need a large amount of CBD to feel any noticeable effects, and it could prove an expensive option.
There is no data from randomized trials to date regarding CBD’s efficacy for ADHD symptoms. Therefore, it is wise to temper your expectations. Don’t fall for any hype proclaiming it as a ‘miracle’ cure. The available scientific evidence doesn’t back up such claims.
Finally, ADHD experts recommend non-medication treatment options such as lifestyle adjustments and parent training. It is worth trying these before dipping into the list of alternatives.
Final Thoughts on CBD for ADHD
ADHD is a commonly misunderstood condition. Many people underestimate how devastating it could be due to its seemingly pervasive nature in today’s society. Even worse, doctors prescribe far too many drugs to try and deal with it. This medication is potentially harmful and extremely addictive.
Currently, research on CBD oil and its effects on ADHD is still in its infancy. However, scientists across the globe are beginning to look at it and take the cannabinoid seriously.
Various studies point towards the idea that CBD can indirectly help ADHD patients. It can help deal with the symptoms by promoting healthy brain activity and improved dopamine release.
Until the point that greater scientific consensus is reached, we at least know one thing. CBD oil could improve the lives of those with ADHD, even if it is only enough to make their symptoms more bearable. However, we need more research, and it is best to consult with a doctor before giving your child CBD for ADHD.
Can CBD Oil Help a Child With ADHD?
Research is ongoing, though there is evidence that it could reduce symptoms such as rage, hyperactivity, and anxiety. However, there are concerns over its use amongst children with ADHD due to the lack of clinical data. Also, the unregulated nature of the CBD industry means certain products could contain excessive levels of THC. This cannabinoid could make ADHD symptoms worse.
What Is the Best CBD Oil for ADHD?
There is no ‘best’ CBD oil for ADHD as we’re still awaiting clinical data on its efficacy for the condition. In terms of the best CBD brands, the likes of Premium Jane and PureKana continue to win awards and plaudits for the standard of their products.
Who Prescribes CBD Oil for ADHD?
In general, you don’t need a prescription for CBD oil in the majority of states. It is widely available in most locations as long as it comes from hemp and has a maximum of 0.3% THC. It is also very easy to purchase it online. Certain vendors won’t sell CBD to people under the age of 21, however.
Does ADHD Worsen with Age?
In general, the answer is ‘no,’ especially if the individual is aware of their symptoms and knows the best way to manage them. However, undiagnosed or untreated ADHD will likely increase the individual’s risk of developing a mental health condition such as depression. Adults with ADHD are also potentially at greater risk of substance abuse than the general population.