Cannabis & Cannabinoids for Treating ADD | cannabisMD

Cannabis & Cannabinoids for Treating ADD and Other Mental Conditions

Cannabinoids for Tourettes Syndrome and Bipolar

Image Credit: Stephen Hocking on Unsplash

ADD stands for attention deficit disorder. However, in more recent years it has become known as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. This is a neurological condition which primarily affects the social behavior of patients. Patients struggle with the everyday social interactions that neurotypical people take for granted. It can have a severe impact on school life for children. When the condition persists into adulthood, it can hamper both professional and personal lives.

Thankfully, it’s believed that about 60% of patients grow out of the condition before they reach their adult lives. In fact, the mean age of diagnosis in the United States is just 7 years of age. This is why the condition is strongly associated with young children and teens. However, the symptoms of the condition are similar in both children and adults.

The symptoms of ADHD or ADD include:

  • Difficulty maintaining concentration and focus
  • A lack of empathy and/or emotional intelligence
  • Impatience and restlessness
  • Impulsivity
  • A short temper
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty following instructions and/or completing tasks

There is some dispute surrounding the number of Americans who have been diagnosed with ADHD at present. The American Psychiatric Association estimates that the number is around 5%. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the number at more than double that at 11%. Either way, it’s clear that this is not a rare condition. A significant proportion of the population suffer from it.

Treating ADHD With Medical Cannabis

Medical cannabis, sometimes called medical marijuana, is becoming a popular treatment for ADHD today. Online news and media have become more prevalent in recent years. This has meant that there are very few people who haven’t heard these terms before. Yet many people are still confused as to the difference between recreational and medical cannabis, and the effects that this ancient plant medicine can have on the body.

The truth is that medical cannabis describes the use of cannabis for medical purposes. It doesn’t describe a particular type of cannabis, although there are a great many strains of the plant. Each strain has been carefully developed to have specific effects on the body. Some strains are more effective at reducing pain while others are tailored to promoting sleep or relieving nausea.

Recreational cannabis is cannabis which is used purely with the intent of enjoying the psychoactive effects. Each strain of cannabis has different levels of psychoactive effects, or “high”. Some are designed to cause a minimal “high”, while others cause a more powerful euphoric effect.

Treating ADHD with medical cannabis is not a new phenomenon. Patients have been taking advantage of the mood stabilizing effects of the plant for many years. The rise in scientific investigation of the plant has led to an increase in its use. This rise has been seen among patients with ADHD and other medical conditions.

The Endocannabinoid System and ADHD

This is because scientists have discovered that cannabis contains chemicals known as cannabinoids. They also learned that these chemicals are almost identical to a set of compounds produced in the body. The endocannabinoid system was first identified in 1992. We have since learned that this system relied upon endocannabinoids to carry out a whole host of vital bodily functions.

Most relevant to patients with ADHD is the fact that the endocannabinoid system was found to regulate mood. The cannabinoids which are produced in the system trigger a vast network of receptors. These receptors are scattered throughout the body, but primarily located in the nervous system. The cannabinoids promote homeostasis. This means that they restored balance to emotions and mood.

Further research revealed that the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant could act as an all-natural supplement to this system. In the same way as vitamin supplements boost the immune system, the chemicals in cannabis boost the endocannabinoid system. This can lead to a reduction in aggressive emotions, restlessness, anxiety and promote relaxation, focus and happiness in ADHD patients.

Before the year 2000, more than 40 papers were written to discuss cannabis, the endocannabinoid system. These papers examined the ways the two could be manipulated to treat wide range of disorders. These disorders include ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome and OCD which impede concentration and focus.

Tourette’s Syndrome
Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological disorder which is best known for the involuntary vocalizations that it causes. These vocalizations can come in the form of compulsive coughing, grunting or even shouting. Many people associate Tourette’s with the shouting of obscene language, but not all patients experience this. This condition also causes involuntary movements such as sudden blinking, jerking and grimacing.

Tourette’s can also cause similar symptoms to ADHD. Patients often struggle to maintain concentration, especially in a classroom environment. In fact, in the past it was thought to be a form of learning disability. However, our understanding and awareness of the condition has progressed over time. It is now understood to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. More specifically, the levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain are believed to play a major role.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Better known as OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder which can, in severe cases, be extremely debilitating. Patients display hyperactive, impulsive behavior which is caused by uncontrollable urges. The condition is most commonly associated with a compulsive need to clean, but it varies hugely.

OCD can significantly reduce a patient’s ability to focus or concentrate on anything. This is because their thoughts are solely occupied by their compulsion. It is extremely difficult for them to think of anything else. This can be a huge problem for children of school going age or adults in employment. The condition is still largely misunderstood by society and stigmatized. This makes it even more difficult for patients to deal with.

What Do The Scientific Studies Say About This?

Many people, including patients of these conditions, supported the legalization of cannabis. They claim that cannabis helps them to concentrate and focus more. It also helps to reduce many of the other symptoms of their disorders, they say. In addition, they claimed that cannabis caused less side effects than the pharmaceutical medications prescribed.

Studies proved that students who used cannabis to treat disorders such as ADHD experienced marked improvements in focus and concentration. As a result, many noted a significant improvement in grades. The underlying reason for its efficacy is that cannabis has always been a powerful retrograde inhibitor. Patients with ADHD and other medical conditions have been shown to have excessively fast neurotransmission.

This means that messages being sent by the brain are too fast. The brain simply cannot keep up or focus on one thing at a time. Retrograde inhibition helps to adjust neurotransmission and speed and bring it back to normal levels. Other studies have shown that cannabinoids, the chemicals found in cannabis, trigger dopamine production. Scientists know that ADHD is associated with low levels of dopamine in the brain. These low levels play a large role in the symptoms of the condition.

Cannabinoids have been found to boost the release of this important chemical. This suggests that they could reduce these symptoms as a result. Further research has consistently proven that cannabinoid medications improve concentration, focus, mood and general behavior in ADHD patients. Research into the effects of cannabinoids on Tourette’s syndrome and COD is ongoing. However, based on the current evidence it is expected that these findings will be positive.

Should You Use Medical Cannabis for ADHD?

The body of research and the positive reviews of countless patients is rapidly growing. This has led to more people than ever before considering trying medical cannabis for themselves. Patients are becoming more and more frustrated with the side effects of current medications. It is no wonder that their hopes for cannabis are so high.

However, it is important to remember that there is still much to be learned about the effects of cannabis. We do not yet know enough about the long term impact of its use on the body. Research is still in the preliminary stages, and patients should keep this in mind.

Of course, it’s down to each individual to make this decision. Every patients personal experience is different and in states where medical cannabis is legal, it is certainly a viable option. However, patients should always consult with their family doctor before doing so. This is because cannabis can interact with other medications, so it’s important that your doctor knows exactly what you’re taking.

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
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