Medical Marijuana and ADHD
Many people diagnosed with ADD/ADHD have turned to medical marijuana for treatment of their symptoms with positive results and minimal side effects.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is also known as hyperactivity or attention deficit disorder (ADD). ADHD is a common condition that affects both children and adults. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 3% to 5% of children have ADHD. Some experts think it is more common, occurring in 8% to 10% of school age children. There is controversy over whether or not children grow out of the symptoms.
Children with ADHD generally have problems paying attention or concentrating. They can’t follow directions and are easily bored or frustrated with tasks that require focusing. They also tend to move constantly and are impulsive, not stopping to think before they act. Although some might say that all children behave like this to some extent, they occur more often than usual and are more severe in a child with ADHD.
The behaviors that are common with ADHD interfere with a child’s ability to function at school and at home. Symptoms of ADHD in children are generally grouped into three categories: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. Adults with ADHD may have difficulty with time management, organizational skills, goal setting, and employment. They may also have problems with relationships, self-esteem, and addictions.
The exact cause of ADHD is unknown but thought to be due to a number of factors: genetics, chemical imbalance, brain differences, head injury, exposure to toxins, and/or problems during the mother’s pregnancy.
Conventional treatment of ADHD has mostly been centered around treating the patients with stimulants like Concerta, Ritalin, and Dexedrine. The main problem with these medications is the side effects – abdominal pain, sleeplessness, poor appetite, and anxiety just to name a few. Some non- stimulant medication is available (like Stratera) and sometimes antidepressants are used as well. Interestingly, the long term effects of these treatments are still somewhat unknown. Other treatments include behavioral therapy, counseling, and specialized educational assistance.
Most patients who choose medical marijuana over these medications do so because they are not happy with the bad side effects of stimulants. Other patients who do find these conventional treatments helpful will sometimes treat the unwanted side effects of the stimulants with marijuana; this combination therapy often relieves the side effects of sleeplessness and lack of hunger.
There is not enough scientific evidence to state that medical marijuana definitively helps with ADHD, however there are overwhelming anecdotal and case reports to support at least a trial of cannabis for those adult patients who struggle with symptoms and the unwanted side effects of conventional treatments. After passage of Proposition 215 in California, doctors began seeing adult ADHD patients who reported that cannabis had positive effects on their ADHD symptoms with no unwanted side effects. Adult ADHD patients that use medical marijuana report that they feel calm, are able to focus on and complete a task that they normally could not do, are able to eat and sleep better, and overall have a better quality of life.
Studies in hyperactive/impulsive rats have shown that they improve with cannabis. It is time for the scientific research community to begin adult human studies on this most natural medication which improves ADHD symptoms without the unwanted side effects of stimulant medication. And of course we must mention that we do not recommend using medical marijuana by smoking it; vaporizers. edibles, and tinctures are now widely available and eliminate the adverse side effects of toxic smoke on the lungs.