Talk of cannabis has been ablaze in the health and research fields in recent years. Scientists, advocates, and users of this plant are learning more about its unique components and their sometimes surprising benefits now than ever before. Once known exclusively for its mind-altering component, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), studies on cannabis have expanded into learning more about the other over 150 cannabinoids in the plant, and other elements such as terpenes, which have their own interesting benefits. Exciting research has come forth, indicating that these other components play essential roles in the treatment of many diseases and disorders. One of these conditions is ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. In this article we will take an in depth look at how the study of cannabis and its cannabinoids, terpenes, and other properties has shown promise in treating children and adults suffering from ADHD.
What is ADHD and How Is It Currently Treated?
ADHD is a mental health disorder characterized by a pattern of inattention, lack of focus, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. ADHD is a lifelong disorder that begins in childhood, and can cause the individual to have trouble regulating emotions and behaviors. This can lead to poor grades, discipline issues, as well as trouble in relationships and even holding down a stable job.
At this time, there is no cure for ADHD. Though, there are different treatments available to help manage the disorder and its symptoms. Stimulants are more often than not the first line of defense given to both adults and children when first diagnosed with ADHD. Stimulants are a class of drugs that include amphetamines. These drugs are designed to increase certain hormones in the body, namely dopamine and norepinephrine, in hopes of calming the hyperactivity and increasing the focus of the user. Indeed, these amphetamines, including the widely known Adderall, have been shown to be effective in this way. Great, right? Well, while these treatments work to treat certain symptoms of ADHD, they also come some pretty harsh side effects. Adderall, specifically, has a list of side effects that include bladder and urination complications, abnormal heart palpitations, anxiety, stomach pains, and muscle weakness. That is a lot to potentially deal with when you’re trying to get your mind to focus. Because of these common side effects, many have turned to other treatments to treat their ADHD. Dietary changes, essential oils, vitamin regimens, and exercise are some ways people try to manage their ADHD symptoms.
New studies have revealed an astonishingly effective remedy may come in the form of cannabis. There are many parts to the cannabis plant that each have their own therapeutic effect, and as more studies shed light on these individual pieces, the more we understand why medical cannabis is being touted as a more effective treatment than Adderall for ADHD symptoms.
For more information on this topic, see “What is ADD and How Can Cannabis Help?”
If you suspect you or a loved one have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, you are not alone. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is typically diagnosed in early childhood. Of course, when today’s adults were children, information about the disorder was not as prevalent. As knowledge increases, more adults are recognizing the symptoms in themselves and seeking a diagnosis and help. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, states that ADHD is one of the most common neuro disorders. So, if you think you have ADHD, take the accompanying quiz and discuss the findings with your doctor.
A few things to keep in mind as you learn more about this rampant condition:
ADHD looks different in adults than in children. Symptoms may be more subtle or altogether different in adults with ADHD. Much of the diagnostic criteria is based on the how the disorder presents itself in children. More diagnostic tools are being developed to help more accurately diagnose teens and adults. So, be sure to know what you’re comparing yourself against. If a doctor or therapist uses children’s diagnostic tools to diagnose an older individual, that person may have to rely on their own and others memories of them as children.
ADHD is usually a lifelong disease. The CDC estimates that 80% of children who have been diagnosed as having ADHD will continue to experience it in adulthood. So, unlike some childhood conditions, ADHD is not something one typically grows out of.
Some adults and children with ADHD don’t use any special treatments to control symptoms. Some simply accept the challenges that come with ADHD and work around it the best they can. This also includes people who have tried medical and alternative treatments but have felt the side effects outweigh the benefits and have discontinued their use. Still others have not found a treatment compatible with their symptoms.
Again, if you suspect you may have ADHD, take the quiz and discuss the results with your doctor. Many people have been able to finally find relief simply in having a label to put on the troubles they’ve experienced their whole lives. They can then work to find the treatment that best suits their needs.
To read more about adults with ADHD, see “How to know if you might have Adult Attention Disorder.”
A terpene is a chemical found in cannabis and other plants, trees, and flowers. They are responsible for the taste and smell of different plants and cannabis strains. Some growers specifically breed new strains that have been hand selected for their flavor and smell components – their terpenes. Some terpenes produce a citrusy, lemony scent while others are more earthy, piney, flowery, or spicy. Often extracted into essential oils, these scents find their way into a variety of products: perfumes, cosmetics, candles, and now in health products.
For some, scent and taste are not at the top of their priority list. If this describes you, keep in mind that terpenes are also super important when it comes to the health benefits of cannabis. Not only do terpenes have benefits all of their own, they work synergistically with CBD, or cannabidiol, to make each other more effective. So terpenes make the healing ability of CBD more powerful and effective, and vice versa. Simply put, they work better together than going solo.
There are over 100 different terpenes found in various strains of the cannabis plant. The specific benefits of each terpene vary widely from one to the next, but some benefits do overlap. Many terpenes have anti-inflammatory, pain reduction, and sedative qualities. Some have more specialized benefits. As its name suggests, the terpene pinene is responsible for the pine scent, reminiscent of a Christmas tree. It is also hailed for its contribution to memory retention and mental alertness. Cannabis strains high in this specific terpene may be a good choice for people with ADHD. As more research is done on these amazing chemicals, we learn more about how they can be useful in treating health problems. In fact, linalool has been shown to be as effective as certain medications in killing liver cancer cells. Exciting new advancements are sure to come as terpenes are tested and studied more.
If you are one of the millions of people living and dealing with ADHD, what does this mean for you? Well, cannabis has a lot of potential in treating ADHD. Some people are using it exclusively and effectively in managing their ADHD symptoms, and studies have shown that cannabis is more effective than Adderall in treating ADHD.
There are up to 100 different terpenes, and 140 different cannabinoids found in cannabis. These are a couple of the essential building blocks of this wondrous plant. As we learned earlier, certain terpenes have known medicinal properties which can be used to counteract the symptoms of ADHD. For example, myrcene has sedative and muscle relaxing effects. This could benefit children with ADHD who struggle with certain activities due to their hyperactivity. Myrcene could help relax and calm down the user enough to focus better. Better yet, medical cannabis comes with far fewer and far less serious side effects than Adderall and medications like it.
The science behind using cannabis to treat ADHD is starting to catch up to what many cannabis users already have found to be true. Numerous people who started using cannabis for recreational purposes found that it would quell some of their inattentiveness and impulsivity. Their minds were able to organize in ways they had never experienced before. Studies have come out to indicate that indeed cannabinoids can have a therapeutic effect on those with ADHD as they interact with the brain’s dopamine system. It is theorized that the brain of someone with ADHD is chronically deficient in dopamine. Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter that works to help regulate memory and concentration. Dr. Bearman says whether you treat ADHD with cannabis or Adderall, the effects are the same. The difference is that they achieve that same effect in different ways. Adderall decreases the breakdown of dopamine, while “cannabis appears to treat ADD and ADHD by increasing the availability of dopamine.”
As the body of research grows in both the ADHD and medical cannabis fields, more medical doctors are falling in favor of using cannabis over Adderall and other amphetamines to treat this neurological disorder. Most doctors at least see the potential of the plant, with a recent survey showing that a whopping 76% of medical doctors support the use of medical cannabis , despite what the law says. They are taking notice of the studies being done as well as the overwhelming anecdotal evidence that science will surely, with time, catch up to.
Anecdotally, below are some strains that users have reported helping them with their ADHD symptoms. If you choose to go this route in treating your ADHD, speak to your doctor and if you consult a medical dispensary or medical cannabis doctor specifically, the better your results can be. Still, it may take some experimentation to figure out what best works for you, which strains, how often, size of dose, etc. Here is a good place to start.
Strains for Mental Energy and Alertness: Cinex, Sour Diesel, Sour Diesel, Green Crack.
Strains to Relax and Focus: True OG, Blueberry Headband.
Strains to Combat ADHD Medication Side Effects: Goo, Jupiter OG.
The world of medical cannabis a is in an exciting place right now. Although not completely legal in all its forms in all the states yet, medical cannabis is showing promising results in the treatment of so many diseases and disorders that before were merely managed, often accompanied by a list of unpleasant side effects. Doctors are seeing the overwhelmingly positive effects of cannabis in their patients and are becoming advocates in favor of medical cannabis.
This has been great for research, as more money is being allotted to discover all the effects of cannabis on ADHD and other neurological disorders. The hope is that when there is a large body of scientific research to back up the experience of cannabis users everywhere, lawmakers will come to their senses and ensure this powerful healing plant is available to all who need it, and for everyone who is seeking a better quality of life in the face of daily challenges whether it be from ADHD or any other ailment that can be helped with cannabis.