Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD as it’s more commonly known, is a neurological disorder affecting millions of americans today. An estimated 6.1% of children in the United States had the disorder in 2016. If this figure surprises you, you might not find it hard to believe that the number of ADHD diagnosis has increased by over 40% in the past 8 years. These statistics really highlight how common the disorder is.
ADHD hasn’t always been well understood. In the past, children with ADHD were treated very badly, kept in the margins of society and seen as troublemakers. Their parents were often criticized for not being disciplined enough to control their children. Kids with ADHD couldn’t pay attention in classes and were too easily distracted. Their teachers thought they were just bad students and they were punished accordingly. Adults with ADHD struggled to hold down jobs and function well in a society that didn’t understand them.
There was a huge amount of judgement placed on people with ADHD and their families. Until our understanding of the disorder finally began to develop in the second half of the twentieth century, those suffering with ADHD didn’t receive the care and support they so badly needed.
Thankfully, things have changed. Today ADHD is a recognised neurological disorder. Comprehensive treatments have been developed. A whole host of ADHD medications have been released. Our education system has taken steps towards providing extra support for students with ADHD and their family members. Non-profit organizations work tirelessly to advocate for sufferers of the disorder. However, there is still no doubt that much more work needs to be done in this area.
ADHD had a number of different names throughout the 1900’s. The term Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder was coined in 1987. This name was chosen as it describes the three characteristic symptoms of the condition. Inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness are the three defining ADHD symptoms. However, they can manifest in many different ways. Some of these manifestations include:
Treatments for ADHD have come on leaps and bounds since the 1980’s. The most common treatment is medication. The medications for ADHD are categorized into stimulant medications, and nonstimulant medications. Stimulant medications increase the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. The increased levels of these chemicals improve focus and concentration in the patient. If stimulants don’t seem to work well or cause nasty side effects, non-stimulant medications may be prescribed instead. These accomplish a similar effect. Clinical trials are underway all the time for the latest pharmaceutical treatments.
In addition to medication talking therapies are often used to treat ADHD. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, psychotherapy, support groups, and skill training for parents of children with ADHD are common. While there is definitely some anecdotal evidence to suggest that things like CBT help people with ADHD to focus their minds and take control of their behaviours, there is no actual data to support that claim.
In recent times, there has been a lot of excitement surrounding the possibility of medical marijuana being used as a treatment for ADHD. Similarly to talking therapies, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that medical marijuana could work, but little or no scientific proof of this.
Unfortunately, the fact that medical marijuana is still illegal in much of the United States has really gotten in the way of it being studied. This is why there is so little evidence to support the claims that it could help with ADHD, as well as countless other diseases and conditions. However, not all is lost. There is definitely hope for the future.
Medical marijuana contains chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. These compounds interact with our endocannabinoid systems. These systems are comprised of receptors which are scattered throughout our bodies, but mostly found in the brain and skin. The system is believed to have an impact on neurotransmitters. As a result, it has a big influence on how we feel and experience pain.
The endocannabinoid system is also believed to be very influential on our moods. It’s no secret that marijuana has a tendency to destress and stabilize anxiety. It’s possible that this effect could be really helpful to people with ADHD as it might ease their nervous energy, restlessness, chattering and general hyperactivity. However, there needs to be a lot more research conducted into this area before anyone can draw any categorical conclusions on its efficacy.
What we do know about medical marijuana is certainly encouraging. It’s expected to be a future treatment for diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, forms of cancer and multiple sclerosis. It’s also expected to be used in combination therapies at the very least for mental illnesses such as Bipolar, and possibly even some learning disabilities. There’s no reason to believe that it wouldn’t be beneficial for ADHD too.
Unfortunately, until the empirical evidence exists to support medical marijuana use for ADHD, using it as a home treatment will always be a risk. It’s down to each parent to conduct thorough research into the efficacy of the plant and the legality of its use in his or her state. There are countless awesome credible resource sites which are packed full of helpful information such as the National Institutes of Health. Furthermore, a pediatrician should always be consulted when it comes to treating children with medical marijuana, or a family doctor at the very least.