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Cannabis and ADHD: An Exploration of Potential Therapeutic Connections

Cannabis and ADHD: An Exploration of Potential Therapeutic Connections

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects a notable portion of both children and adults. With contemporary discussions on alternative medical treatments gaining momentum, many individuals are exploring the potential benefits of cannabis in managing ADHD symptoms.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects a notable portion of both children and adults. With contemporary discussions on alternative medical treatments gaining momentum, many individuals are exploring the potential benefits of cannabis in managing ADHD symptoms.


Monday, July 17, 2023


min read

1. Understanding ADHD

ADHD is characterized by an inability to sit still, trouble focusing, and impulsive behavior. This neurodevelopmental disorder is common, affecting approximately 11% of school-aged children and an estimated 4.4% of adults. ADHD symptoms can be broadly categorized into two groups: inattentive symptoms and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms.

1.1 Inattentive Symptoms

Inattentive symptoms include difficulty focusing on one task, forgetfulness in daily activities, and being easily distracted.

1.2 Hyperactive-Impulsive Symptoms

Hyperactive-impulsive symptoms include excessive talking, being unable to wait for one's turn, and frequent interruption of others.

2. The Cannabis Connection

Cannabis (Cannabis sativa) is a plant that has been used for its medicinal properties across various cultures for centuries. It contains numerous chemical compounds, the most notable being THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol). THC is a psychoactive component associated with the "high" experience, while CBD is nonpsychoactive, known for its potential therapeutic benefits.

2.1 The Therapeutic Perception of Cannabis

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the use of cannabis may provide therapeutic benefits for those with ADHD. Despite minimal clinical research to support these claims, this perception continues to increase in popularity.

2.2 Online Discussions on Cannabis and ADHD

Online forum threads discussing ADHD and marijuana use reveal that a significant number of comments advocate for its therapeutic effects on ADHD. These comments often point to the belief that cannabis improves inattentive symptoms of ADHD.

3. The Statistics: Marijuana and ADHD

Marijuana is one of the most widely used psychoactive substances worldwide after tobacco and alcohol. Studies suggest that people with ADHD are at a greater risk for early initiation of cannabis use, heavy use, and for developing a cannabis use disorder.

3.1 Cannabis Use Among Adults with ADHD

Research indicates that adults with ADHD use cannabis two to three times more than adults without the condition. Moreover, studies show that people with ADHD are almost eight times as likely to use cannabis over their lifetime compared to those who do not have ADHD.

3.2 Cannabis Use Disorder in Adults with ADHD

Cannabis use disorder is more common in adults with ADHD. They are more than twice as likely to meet the criteria for the disorder than adults without ADHD.

4. ADHD Presentations and Substance Use Disorder

Certain presentations of ADHD in childhood may predict a substance use disorder in adulthood. Research suggests that impulsivity and oppositionality during childhood could lead to an increased risk of cannabis consumption in adulthood.

4.1 The ADHD-Substance Use Disorder Connection

The combination of ADHD and a substance use disorder is associated with a worse prognosis and quality of life. Individuals with ADHD who use cannabis consume all categories of substances more commonly than those with ADHD who do not use cannabis.

4.2 ADHD Subtypes and Cannabis Use

Certain research suggests that the average age of initiation of cannabis use is significantly younger among those with ADHD with the hyperactive/impulsive presentation, compared to those with the inattentive presentation.

5. Self-Medication with Cannabis

Both recreational substance use and substance use disorders may be associated with efforts at self-medication of various ADHD symptoms. This could be a way of relieving co-occurring mood and anxiety-related symptoms that are common in people with ADHD.

5.1 Cannabis and Dopamine

Dopamine neurotransmission is involved in both ADHD and substance use. In the case of ADHD, this relates to an underproduction of dopamine and norepinephrine. Studies show that acute use of THC causes increased dopamine release, suggesting that cannabis use may be an attempt at self-medicating.

6. Cannabis and ADHD Medications

There's limited research on how cannabis interacts with ADHD medications. For instance, when Adderall and marijuana are taken together, they produced unique effects compared to either medication taken alone.

7. Cannabis Strains and Their Effects

Different strains of cannabis are believed to produce different effects. However, research shows that the effects of cannabis are dictated by its levels of THC and CBD, each having different effects on the brain and body.

7.1 Sativa vs Indica

Sativa strains are believed to energize, while Indica strains are believed to have calming and pain-reducing effects. Most research in favor of cannabis for ADHD shows benefits of CBD, so an Indica product or CBD oil may be preferable.

8. Substance Use Disorder and Cannabis Use

About 30% of people who use cannabis will develop a substance use disorder, which occurs when substance use begins to interfere with a person's day-to-day functioning.

8.1 The Risk of Addiction

Research shows that CBD alone, without THC, is not addictive. Therefore, individuals concerned about developing a substance use disorder may want to choose a product with only CBD as opposed to both CBD and THC.

9. Current Research on Cannabis and ADHD

The research on whether cannabis can provide short-term relief of hyperactivity in people with ADHD is mixed. Some studies have found that cannabis can help with ADHD symptoms, while others conclude there is insufficient evidence to make that conclusion.

10. A Word of Caution

While some findings suggest potential benefits of cannabis for ADHD, it's essential to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new treatment. The use of cannabis, especially in young people under the age of 21, should be approached with caution due to potential risks and legal implications.

This article provides an overview of the potential therapeutic connections between cannabis and ADHD. However, it's crucial to note that while cannabis may offer some relief for ADHD symptoms, it should not replace prescribed medication or therapy without professional medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare provider before making any changes to your treatment plan.

Additional Information: Cannabis is not legal on the federal level in the United States, but as of June 2022, 38 states have legalized the medical use of cannabinoids to varying degrees.

Get your Arizona Marijuana Medical Card Today!