Medical Marijuana for ADHD

Photo Credit: Jesper Sehested / PlusLexia.com https://bit.ly/2Zf7wdx.

Photo Credit: Jesper Sehested / PlusLexia.com https://bit.ly/2Zf7wdx.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder affecting focus, attention, and behavior. Current treatment options include pharmaceutical stimulant medications that, although they work well for many, can cause side effects like appetite loss, sleep disturbances, and anxiety. Although still unknown, some researchers and physicians theorize ADHD may result from endocannabinoid system, suggesting the cannabinoids found in cannabis can replenish these low levels of endcannabinoids. Many patients and doctors are voicing their support for medical marijuana as an alternative treatment option, however only a few studies exist and more research is left to be desired. One of these studies from 2013 found some adults do in fact use marijuana to treat hyperactivity and impulsivity. Another study, from 2017, used sativex, a medication derived from cannabinoids, to improve hyperactivity and impulsivity in adults with ADHD. This study effectively treated the symptoms without interfering with cognition. Another German study from 2015 involving 30 patients who didn’t respond well to traditional medications like Adderall and Ritalin found cannabis improved sleep and reduced impulsivity in the majority of patients. Cannabis may not only help treat the symptoms associated with ADHD, but when used in combination with the traditional stimulant medications, it can help reduce the side effects associated with those treatments.

Using cannabis, however, does not come without its own risks. People with ADHD may be more likely to develop addiction and substance use disorders, and a study from 2016 found 34-46% of adults who sought treatment to reduce cannabis use were also diagnosed with ADHD. Another study from 2014 found people between 18-22 who were diagnosed with ADHD were more likely to be dependent on marijuana, alcohol, and nicotine, than their peers without. Cannabis use may also interfere with brain development in teens and young adults. One study from 2017 found people with ADHD who also had used cannabis had a thinner cortex around the areas of the brain that control memory, inhibition, and movement. Those with severe ADHD and those who had used cannabis the longest exhibited the thinnest cortex. Despite these studies, there has been difficulty establishing causation and determining the cause and effects of these outcomes. Most of these studies mentioned are correlational.

This information has been provided by Leaf Science and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.

ADHD Patients Successfully Treated with Cannabis

Photo Credit: The Daily Chronic

Photo Credit: The Daily Chronic

Clinical trial data presented at the international symposium of cannabinoid therapeutics in September suggests medical marijuana can treat the symptoms associated with ADHD in adult patients. This new data is derived from a clinical trial in which German researchers analyzed the effects of medical marijuana on 30 ADHD sufferers who found conventional therapies were ineffective in treating their symptoms. The researchers reported after cannabis was administered, study participants experienced a mitigation of their symptoms, including "improved concentration and sleep, and reduced impulsivity." In addition, twenty-two of the participants opted for only using marijuana for their symptoms, and chose to discontinue the use of pharmaceutical medications during the study period.

Currently, states that have legalized medical marijuana do not include ADHD as a qualifying condition, and few states allow medical marijuana to be recommended for the condition at a physician's discretion. The new data is significant because it provides clinical support for existing anecdotal evidence and it reveals marijuana is not only effective in treating ADHD symptoms, but also preferable to conventional therapies. 

This information has been brought to you by The Daily Chronic and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.