ADHD and Marijuana: Can it Help or Harm?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects around 9.4% of children and 4.4% of adults in America. The condition is characterized by difficulty in focusing, hyperactivity or restlessness, and impulsivity. A common treatment for ADHD is prescription drugs, such as Ritalin or Adderall. However, many people, including children, are turning to marijuana or cannabidiol (CBD) to manage their symptoms. In this article, we will discuss the effects of marijuana on ADHD, its potential benefits, and the risks involved.

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana comes from the Cannabis sativa plant and is the most commonly used illicit drug in the world. It contains hundreds of compounds, but the two main active ingredients are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD. THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects – or the “high” – associated with marijuana use, while CBD is non-psychoactive and has been found to have potential therapeutic effects.

What are the effects of marijuana on ADHD?

There is limited research on the effects of marijuana on ADHD specifically. However, studies have shown that THC can worsen symptoms of ADHD, including increasing hyperactivity and impulsivity. THC can also impair cognitive function, such as attention and memory, which are already impaired in people with ADHD. Furthermore, although some people with ADHD report feeling more focused after using marijuana, the effect is often short-lived, and the long-term effects are unclear.

On the other hand, CBD has been found to have potential therapeutic effects on ADHD symptoms. A study on rats showed that CBD reduced hyperactivity and improved cognitive function. Another study on ADHD patients found that CBD improved sleep and reduced anxiety. However, these studies are limited, and more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of CBD as an ADHD treatment.

Medical Marijuana and ADHD

In some countries and states, medical marijuana is legal for certain conditions, including ADHD. However, the efficacy of medical marijuana for ADHD is still under investigation. In 2017, a review of existing research on medical marijuana and ADHD concluded that there is not enough evidence to support or refute its use as a treatment for ADHD. Furthermore, the review found that medical marijuana use for ADHD is associated with significant risks, such as addiction, impaired cognitive function, and increased risk of psychosis.

Risks of Marijuana Use for ADHD

There are several risks of using marijuana for ADHD. One of the biggest risks is addiction. Studies have shown that people with ADHD are at a higher risk of developing substance abuse disorders, including marijuana addiction. Additionally, marijuana use can impair cognitive function and worsen ADHD symptoms, such as attention and memory. Marijuana use can also increase the risk of psychosis and schizophrenia, particularly in people with a family history of these conditions.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while there is limited research on the effects of marijuana on ADHD, the available evidence suggests that THC can worsen symptoms and impair cognitive function, while CBD may have potential therapeutic effects. However, the efficacy of medical marijuana for ADHD is still under investigation, and there are significant risks associated with marijuana use, including addiction and impaired cognitive function. Thus, before considering using marijuana or CBD for ADHD, it is crucial to consult a medical professional and consider all potential risks and benefits.

FAQs

FAQs about ADHD and marijuana

1. Can marijuana be used as a treatment for ADHD?

While some people with ADHD may feel that marijuana helps alleviate their symptoms, there is no clinical evidence to support its use as a treatment for the disorder. In fact, marijuana use can actually worsen some symptoms of ADHD, such as attention span and motivation.

2. Does marijuana use increase the risk of developing ADHD?

While there is evidence to suggest that early use of marijuana can increase the risk of developing mental health problems, including psychosis and depression, there is no evidence to suggest that it increases the risk of developing ADHD.

3. Are there any risks associated with using marijuana if you have ADHD?

Yes. Marijuana use may worsen some symptoms of ADHD, such as attention span and motivation, and may also increase the risk of developing other mental health problems. In addition, marijuana can have negative effects on memory and cognitive function, which can be particularly problematic for people with ADHD.


References

1. Volkow, N. D., Swanson, J. M., & Baler, R. D. (2015). 2020 vision: A perfect storm. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.), 66(11), 1111. doi:10.1176/appi.ps.201500332
2. Kollins, S. H., English, J. S., Robinson, J. L., & Hallyburton, M. (2013). Cannabis use among ADHD medication prescribed adolescents and prescription ADHD medication misuse among cannabis-using adolescents. Journal of Attention Disorders, 17(8), 699-710. doi:10.1177/1087054712472752
3. Loflin, M., Earleywine, M., & De Leo, J. (2014). Use of marijuana to manage ADHD symptoms: A survey study. Journal of Attention Disorders, 18(4), 313-318. doi:10.1177/1087054712446178