People who experience ADHD symptoms can find normal daily tasks challenging. Finding relief from their symptoms can be quite the challenge too. Modern treatment methods often leave something to be desired for these patients, resulting in frequent medication changes, unfortunate side effects, and symptoms that still are not well controlled. This has caused individuals with ADHD to search for a better solution. That solution may have been found in medical marijuana. Once you understand what ADHD is, review how it is treated, and peruse the available research on cannabis as an ADHD treatment, you will understand how to improve your ADHD symptoms and with the use of medical marijuana.
What is ADHD?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ADHD is one of the most common of all neurodevelopmental disorders. ADHD refers to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a condition that affects the brain, causing issues with functioning, development, and behavior control. It is still occasionally referred to as ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder. It generally starts to present during childhood but commonly continues into adulthood. Its exact cause is unknown although medical professionals have identified various risk factors that may increase the likelihood of developing ADHD. Individuals with the condition may experience a variety of mental and behavioral issues, which can affect their ability to function in professional settings like school or work. It can even cause issues with normal day to day activities.
Symptoms of ADHD include:
- Inattention – individuals may overlook details, avoid or dislike tasks that require focus, easily lose things, make careless mistakes, and have problems organizing thoughts, items, and tasks.
- Hyperactivity – individuals may move constantly, move without realizing it, rush around, have trouble remaining seated, talk excessively, and feel restless.
- Impulsivity – individuals may have trouble delaying gratification, blurt things or speak out of turn, have trouble controlling impulses, and complete actions without thinking about them first.
The CDC currently recognizes three types of ADHD. The type is based on the predominant symptoms, including predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, and the combined presentation where both types of symptoms are experienced equally. Regardless of the type of ADHD, its symptoms can pose many challenges for the person with ADHD and those around them. It is estimated that between five and eleven percent of American children have ADHD according to reports from Healthline, which compared numbers from the American Psychiatric Association and the CDC. These numbers have increased in recent years, with more and more children and adults being diagnosed with ADHD each year.
Treatments for ADHD
With the increasing numbers of cases, finding a suitable treatment for ADHD is a key focus. There is no known cure for ADHD or ADD, so treatments are currently focused on minimizing the effects of symptoms. ADHD is most commonly treated with prescription medications. This often requires trial and error with dosing amounts and medication combinations to find symptom relief, which differs for each individual. Stimulant medications are most commonly prescribed. They act to increase levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, which are the body’s natural hormones that affect thinking and attention. Unfortunately, stimulant medications come with a variety of risks and side effects.
These risks and side effects include high blood pressure, increased heart rate and stress on the heart, increased anxiety, lack of appetite, sleep problems, tics or repetitive movements or sounds, personality changes, irritability, and head or stomach aches. The severity of these side effects often leads to medication changes or additions of other medicines like non-stimulant ADHD medications and antidepressants. Like many prescription medications, these may also come with the potential for side effects. Additional treatments may be recommended in conjunction with prescription medications. Behavioral therapy, special education and training, and established routines are also important in treating ADHD patients. These non-medication methods are designed to help individuals cope with ADD or ADHD symptoms.
Marijuana and ADHD Studies
Early research on using medical cannabis for ADHD symptoms began after research indicated many ADHD patients were self-medicating with marijuana. With users indicating the drug improved their focus and helped them control their symptoms, more and more emphasis was put on answering the question – does weed help ADD? Studies have linked ADHD to low dopamine levels. Dopamine is an essential hormone that is necessary for motivation, focus, and reward feelings. Insufficient levels of dopamine are believed to be part of the reason ADHD patients have trouble focusing and staying on task. Stimulants are often used to treat ADHD because stimulants can help increase dopamine levels.
The reason that medical marijuana may be a viable treatment solution is because of the way research has determined it can affect dopamine. Studies have shown that cannabis can increase dopamine by working with the body’s endocannabinoid system to increase the release of the hormone and reduce its breakdown. Additionally, Dr. David Bearman has suggested in a variety of articles and published papers that certain compounds found in cannabis can benefit ADD and ADHD patients. He specifically indicates that a THC ADHD treatment could stimulate dopamine receptor sites which will help with improving focus, reducing overwhelming sensory input, and reducing hyperactivity and impulsivity. This means that THC and other cannabis compounds could have a promising impact on the symptoms associated with ADHD.
Many medical research studies have been conducted to determine the effects of cannabis on ADHD. A study conducted by the Institute of Legal and Traffic Medicine in Heidelberg Germany found that certain individuals with a high level of ADHD symptoms when sober saw improvements in symptoms, including improved attention and reduced hyperactivity, when high blood plasma levels of THC were achieved. Additionally, all ADHD patients in the German study reported some level of symptom improvement when using cannabis. Formal studies still need more attention though as most reports linking marijuana and ADHD improvements still come from individuals. In fact, approximately 25% of people in one online study indicated they believed cannabis could help ADHD sufferers.
Marijuana ADHD Treatment
When considering using medical marijuana as an ADHD treatment, it is important to know how to use it for the greatest benefit. Current medical research indicates that THC is one of the compounds found in cannabis that is most beneficial for patients with ADHD. This suggests that high-THC strains will be most effective for the treatment of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. When using marijuana for ADD treatment, smoking or vaporizing is still considered to be the most effective way to ingest medical cannabis, although oils and tinctures have been shown to provide promising results too. Medical marijuana can be used in much the same way as current prescription ADHD treatments. Taken daily, it can help to keep symptoms under control. There is an added benefit to using cannabis as a treatment, however. It offers the option to increase your dose or add an additional dose before tasks that are particularly challenging for those with ADHD. You may have to check with your medical professional or local laws to answer the questions of can you get medical weed for ADD legally in your area.
Why are People Turning to Marijuana to Treat ADHD?
Even though the connection between medical marijuana and the treatment of ADHD has not been conclusively determined, many people are turning to this alternative treatment on their own. There are a variety of reasons that ADHD patients are making the switch, including improvements in symptom control and a reduction in the negative side effects associated with most current prescription ADHD treatments. Many patients have indicated that they found greater symptom relief from marijuana than they do with traditional medicines alone. Marijuana’s ability to improve dopamine production and delay its destruction helps improve dopamine levels in two ways, which may make it more effective than other medications that only increase dopamine in one way.
The reduction in negative side effects is also a big draw. Individuals who have experienced issues with some of the more severe side effects of ADHD stimulant medications are especially likely to turn to alternatives like cannabis. Some of the more severe side effects include heart disease, physical tics that could become permanent, and personality changes. Fortunately, marijuana does not present side effects that are this severe. Generally, cannabis users find that there are few side effects associated with its medical use. Additionally, marijuana may help individuals with some of the side effects of their medication, including improving appetite and reducing issues with sleep. This makes cannabis an effective addition to your current treatment plan as well as an alternative therapy.
ADHD is a serious condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It can make normal tasks like paying attention in school or remembering important errands exceedingly difficult for individuals with the condition. The severity of ADHD symptoms makes treatment a necessity for most people. Unfortunately, current treatments can be ineffective and create a variety of negative side effects. Recent research has begun looking at medical marijuana as a viable treatment option for ADHD and ADD sufferers. Cannabis can increase dopamine levels, which improves associated symptoms. It also has fewer side effects and can be more effective for some individuals. Many people are turning to marijuana to treat their ADHD because of these benefits.
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