CBD Oil for ADHD [Exploring the Science]
Of all the mental or behavioural disorders diagnosable, there are few better known than Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
Made infamous due to a reclassification of the disorder last decade – resulting in a new mass of diagnoses – ADHD is known as the “catch-all” disorder that’s often attributed to unruly students who just won’t sit still.
However, just because it’s often undiagnosed doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
ADHD affects either 1-2%, or 5-7%, of all children, depending on the specific criteria you use to diagnose it. Regardless of the preferred choice of classification, ADHD still affects millions of children and adults throughout the world.
It affects concentration, mood and general attitude, and it is ridiculously under-studied.
Could we be using CBD oil to help those with ADHD?
What is ADHD?
ADHD, or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, is a behavioural disorder that, as the name implies, causes systematic inattentiveness, hyperactivity and, to the bane of teachers everywhere, impulsiveness.
This is most significant to children still in school, as the inability to focus on their teachers often results in excessive punishment and being left behind. This can even affect, in extreme cases, a child’s ability to focus on biological tasks like eating and sleeping.
Biologically, ADHD is believed to be caused by poor performance of the dopamine and norepinephrine functions in the brain, which is responsible for executive function and thus, tasks that require attention, focus and organization. This means that people with ADHD struggle with any kind of task that requires any sort of executive function, such as heavy focus or organization.
This makes ADHD the enemy of teachers everywhere, but can also serve as a serious issue for adults everywhere when trying to focus on their tasks.
How is ADHD Commonly Treated?
ADHD is commonly treated using a combination of a variety of medications and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The actual medications for ADHD are the famous Ritalin and Adderall.
Both Ritalin and Adderall seek to combat the symptoms of ADHD by allowing you to focus normally and divert your energy towards more specific tasks.
Both drugs work by affecting the system that releases Dopamine and allows for your brain to focus on individual objectives. They also, however, contribute to cognition enhancements, lending users an increased memory capacity, inhibitory control, and a compulsiveness to be active and doing something.
While that sounds great at first, it’s important to remember that these drugs are targeted to dampen the vagaries of ADHD, so are thus incredibly strong and effective at doing their job.
Were you to use Ritalin or Adderall without having ADHD, or simply take too much even if it was prescribed to you, you could enter manic bursts of activity and that could severely damage your brain development and mood.
While it may sound nice to be focused and organized, it is no fun to be fervently cleaning your apartment at 3am because it’s all you can focus on right now.
Safe to say, Adderall and Ritalin are certainly effective at treating ADHD, but they are drugs you are forced to take constantly and eternally, meaning you are essentially never your normal self. Your mood, your focus and temperament will always be based on what medication you’re using.
While not exactly ideal, it is by far the best method we know of to treat ADHD.
CBD Oil & Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
First of all, it’s important to know that there has been startlingly little scientific study into the benefits of CBD or general cannabis use for the purpose of treating ADHD.
This is due to two factors: firstly, cannabis as a medicine is still a hotly debated topic, thanks to the classification of marijuana as a serious narcotic in many western countries. However, this taboo is being slowly lifted, both in Europe and in various states in the USA, so hopefully this can be made better in the near future.
Secondly, there exists a hesitation in administering cannabis of any form to someone with ADHD because of ignorance. A common perception of people using cannabis is exhibiting laziness and an inability to pay attention, symptoms often attributed to ADHD itself.
This is obviously ignorant, especially because CBD, the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, does not tend to give users these symptoms.
Additionally, studies such as one completed by the University of Washington* state that the use of marijuana when diagnosed with ADHD results in a lower quality of life and an increase in the rate of being diagnosed with other conditions. This, again, has no bearing whatsoever on CBD.
This significant lack of research into CBD and ADHD means that a great deal of evidence to support its use is mainly anecdotal. Indeed, a great deal of the research done so far into CBD and ADHD is in fact to do with the opinions of others through anecdotal evidence, as demonstrated in one study* by John T. Mitchell et al., which looks at a variety of forum discussions on the internet to do with cannabis or CBD use among those diagnosed with ADHD.
In the study, Mitchell et al. looked through 268 separate forum threads that discussed cannabis and ADHD and found that, in the majority of the forum posts, people expressed that cannabis helped their ADHD, in comparison to only 8% that found it harmful.
While this study is hardly a double-blind clinical trial using scientific parameters, it still demonstrates the potential for CBD to help those with ADHD.
Most of the ways that CBD seems to be able to help with ADHD is that it can combat the many other conditions and disorders that crop up as a result of being diagnosed with ADHD.
ADHD is frequently accompanied by other conditions, due to the intense focus and fixation that ADHD grants its sufferers. This can range from a variety of different anxieties, all the way to serious drug addiction.
This latter one is one of the most serious risks of ADHD, as it is well known that those with ADHD tend to more frequently abuse other substances. A study conducted by Silva N. Jr et al. found that, among subjects that both had ADHD and substance use disorders, people exhibited a lower density of striatal dopamine transporters (DAT), which can affect mood, attitude, and executive function.
This means that users of ADHD can experience low moods, which may cause them to turn to drugs to try and treat these symptoms. Sadly, many drugs themselves also contribute to a lower DAT density, thus making them feel worse, beginning a cycle of addiction.
CBD has been demonstrated to help combat addiction in innumerable studies, for example a study by Neuropsychopharmacology in 2018* that found that CBD helped patients avoid a relapse by combating the parts of your brain that cause the intense desire to return to bad habits.
CBD acts in a positive way in the Endocannabinoid system to target the parts of the body that deal with the cycle of addiction, primarily the release of serotonin and dopamine – the regulated control of these brain chemicals allows a person to more easily get through addiction.
Alongside this, people with ADHD frequently suffer from anxiety; CBD has been demonstrated in a number of studies to help control and deal with many different forms of anxiety. CBD helps due to its anxiolytic-like effects, which allow a patient to combat the malignant release of serotonin that causes a chain of anxious thoughts.
Final Thoughts On CBD For ADHD
ADHD is a serious, life-altering condition. It is frequently misdiagnosed, often resulting in poor medicinal applications for patients by the over-prescription of Adderall and Ritalin.
The amount of research conducted into finding out whether or not CBD helps with ADHD is woefully, depressingly limited. As time goes on, more and more scientists and governments will begin experimenting into the benefits of CBD for ADHD.
For now, though, we don’t know anything for sure with regards to its direct effect on ADHD.
What we do know, however, is that CBD can help patients deal with a variety of other conditions that often go hand in hand with ADHD.
By treating that myriad of other conditions, as well as allowing a more controlled release of Serotonin, sufferers of ADHD can live an easier life when using CBD as a supplement to their regular medication.
We don’t yet know whether or not CBD can act as a principle medication for ADHD, but we certainly know that it can, at the very least, make your life a bit easier.