ADHD Community Interested In Medical Cannabis | cannabisMD

Medical Cannabis Has the Interest of the ADHD Community

The is a growing interest in cannabis from people with ADHD

Image Credit: Michael Liao on Unsplash

It’s not known for sure how many people in the United States suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. The American Psychiatric Association estimates that about 5% of children in American have been diagnosed with the condition. However, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that the true number is significantly higher at around 11%.

One thing that is known for sure is that this condition is most often found in children. However, it can continue into adulthood. Between 30% and 60% of all children who are diagnosed with the condition will continue to experience it into adulthood. This also makes them 50% more likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder during their adult life. Some studies suggest that it could also make them more likely to engage in substance abuse.

The average age of ADHD diagnosis in American today is around seven years old. The years leading up to this point can be extremely difficult for parents. Thankfully, diagnosis brings with it the possibility of treatment and management of the symptoms of ADHD.

The History, Symptoms and Treatment of ADHD

However, diagnosis wasn’t always a simple matter for those suffering with this condition. In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago that children and adults with ADHD were believed to be evil. Rather than treated with compassionate care, they were pushed to the outskirts of society as a result.

Thankfully this all began to change when Sir George Still, a British pediatrician, described the condition as:

an abnormal defect of moral control in children.

The American Psychiatric Association officially recognized ADHD as a disorder in the 1960’s. However, our understanding of the condition was extremely basic until Sir Still’s insights thirty years later. The symptoms of ADHD can be difficult to identify in childhood. This is because many children will experience one or more of them to some degree at some point. However, when several of these symptoms are present for prolonged periods, ADHD could be present.

The symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing on one thing at a time
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Difficulty paying attention to the things others say
  • Struggling to wait their turn to speak
  • Struggling to complete tasks
  • Feeling short tempered and easily frustrated/irritated
  • Finding it hard to express feelings or empathize with others

Both children and adults who are diagnosed with ADHD tend to experience the same symptoms, although each patient is unique.

Treating ADHD Today

As with all chronic conditions, ADHD doesn’t have a cure. However there are treatments available. Most patients rely heavily on ADHD medications which are primarily made up of stimulant and non-stimulant drugs. These drugs increase the dopamine levels in the brain, which is believed to be the most effective way of targeting ADHD.

Dopamine is a chemical which is produced in the brain. It acts as a neurotransmitter and a precursor of other chemicals such as adrenaline. This means that when dopamine levels are low in the body, the consequences can be far reaching. This is especially true when it comes to moods, emotions and behaviors.

Stimulant medications increase the level of dopamine in the body. This, of course, can have very positive effects on the patient. However, as is the case with all pharmaceuticals, there are also possible negative side effects. These medications can cause increased heart rate, a loss of appetite, weight loss and even stunted growth in children. In fact, cocaine is classed as a stimulant.

Although stimulants are usually the first choice in ADHD medication, non stimulant medications are sometimes used instead. These drugs are usually prescribed when a patient reacts badly to stimulants. They could also be used if he/she has a heart condition, suffers from bipolar disorder or another medical condition which makes it too risky. They are not as extensively studied as stimulants and can cause side effects such as stomach aches, headaches and depression.

Overall, these options are both fairly risky and of limited efficacy. As a result, many parents of children with ADHD have sought out an alternative.

Treating ADHD With Cannabis

Medical cannabis, or medical marijuana, is fast becoming the most popular alternative treatment for a huge variety of chronic conditions. From Parkinson’s disease to post traumatic stress disorder, it seems there is no limit to what this plant can treat. However, not everyone is convinced of its merits.

This is understandable though. The 20th century saw a coordinated movement to prohibit cannabis use across the globe. Governments put a huge amount of effort into the implementation of anti-cannabis policies, including a large amount of propaganda. This strategy created the association between cannabis and addiction that many of us have today. It was highly effective and its legacy lives on today.

However, even those who remain suspicious of cannabis and its medical use can’t deny the scientific data. The discovery of the endocannabinoid system and its many roles in the body has been very important. Scientists now understand that cannabis, and the chemicals that are found within it, can support this system.

Medical cannabis is a known pain reliever. The use of medical cannabis for chronic pain conditions is becoming so mainstream that many are saying it could be the answer to America’s opioid crisis. Cannabis is commonly used to reduce the nausea caused by chemotherapy. New research is indicating that this ancient plant medicine could actually stop the growth of cancerous tumors more effectively than current treatments.

The Food and Drug Administration have approved the first ever cannabis-based drug for epilepsy. They did this after trial after trial showed that cannabis could almost eliminate seizures in some types of epilepsy. No matter how many people may still have concerns about addiction and safety, it’s clear that medical cannabis is here to stay.

Medical cannabis is showing a lot of promise in neurological health and mental illness. It is now known that the endocannabinoid system plays a vital role in the regulation of the brain and mood. The fact that cannabis interacts so heavily with this system means that it can help it to work at its best.

Patients have been using cannabis as a treatment for their ADHD symptoms for many years. The anecdotal evidence suggests that cannabis can hugely reduce the symptoms of hyperactivity that are so common among ADHD patients. They also report that it helps with feelings of anxiety that can occur in adults who suffer with the condition.

Scientific Studies on Cannabis for ADHD

In 2013 one study found that patients were self-medicating with cannabis in order to manage hyperactivity and impulsivity symptoms of ADHD. The study surveyed 280 ADHD diagnosed cannabis users. The primary finding was that a high proportion of users experienced heightened symptoms of ADHD when they were not self-medicating. They claimed that cannabis reduced these symptoms significantly. This finding led researchers to push for more resources to study how cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid symptom.

German researchers gathered information from the 2013 study. They then set out to examine the relationship between cannabis and ADHD more closely in just 30 patients. Of the 30 patients, 28 were male. This is because ADHD is more commonly found in males. The patients were between the ages of 21-51 with the average age being around 30.

Out of the 30 participants, all of the patients reported improvements in a variety of ADHD symptoms including concentration and impulsivity. In some cases there was an improvement in sleep. This case study was a small one. However, researchers concluded cannabis was both effective and safe as a treatment option. This was especially true for patients who found that traditional medications were ineffective or the side effects were too severe.

Should You Use Medical Cannabis for ADHD?

The findings of these studies show that there is certainly some merit to the theory that cannabis can treat this condition. However, much more study is needed in order to fully understand this relationship between medical marijuana and ADHD. Many research studies have indicated that medical cannabis can soothe the nervous system and reduce anxiety. Yet, other studies suggest it could increase it.

There are also significant variations in the effects and impact of difference strains of cannabis. These variations need to be explored further in future research. Questions surrounding the effects of the drug on ADHD patients remain. In order for a cannabis-based ADHD medication or treatment to be developed, these questions must be answered. Using CBD oil or other medical cannabis products could help to reduce ADHD symptoms for many patients.

However, this doesn’t mean that it is a completely risk-free treatment option. You should always consult with your family doctor or medical team before beginning to self-medicate with cannabis. It is also extremely important to remember that cannabis remains a heavily restricted substance under federal law. The number of states where it is now legal is growing. But you should make sure to double check the laws in your state before using the drug.

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
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