Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder often diagnosed in childhood. However, it’s important to note that adults can and do receive ADHD diagnoses. In terms of treatment options, there are medication, therapy, and a combination of both as options. However, some parents believe swapping out their medication for weed may be the right thing to do. But does weed help ADHD? Here’s what we know. 

Photo: Unsplash

Does Weed Help with ADHD?

There is not a lot of research done on weed’s effectiveness on ADHD symptoms. However, many patients have reported that weed does help them manage their symptoms. 

Symptoms for ADHD include:

  • Inability to stay still 
  • Fidgeting 
  • Lack of concentration on tasks 
  • Little or no sense of danger
  • Short attention span
  • Easy distracted 
  • Being forgetful about tasks 

The medication given to people with ADHD are either stimulants or non-stimulants. Cleveland Clinic says, “ Stimulants are an effective way of managing ADHD symptoms such as short attention span, impulsive behavior, and hyperactivity.”

Therefore, weed could be effective because it also acts as a stimulant. For example, weed can help people with ADHD focus because of its ability to release dopamine. Insider says, “One doctor says cannabis can help with attention issues and may calm racing thoughts”.

What Does Science Say?

According to a qualitative analysis of online forums, 25% of the sample said that weed was therapeutic for ADHD while 8% said weed was harmful to ADHD. In addition to that, 5% of the participants said that weed was both therapeutic and harmful while 2% that it has no effect on ADHD.

The table below shows the opinions of the sample on whether or not cannabis is helpful with ADHD symptoms. 

table that shows the impact of adhd and adhd symptoms answering the question does weed help adhd
Source: PLOS

Can CBD Help With ADHD?

Probably not. Again, there isn’t a lot of information on weed and cannabis in the first place. However, it’s not believed that CBD helps.

Elizabeth Evans, MD, psychiatrist and assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center said to Healthline “There are no large-scale clinical trials looking at CBD for ADHD. It is not considered an evidence-based treatment for ADHD at this time.”

In addition to that, Jack McCue, MD, FACP, an author, physician, and emeritus professor of medicine at the University of California told Healthline that CBD is promoted by some as a treatment.

The reason McCue gave is that CBD has antipsychotic and antianxiety properties. However, McCue posits that CBD would probably not be effective since it lacks the stimulating effects of CBD.

On the other hand, it seems that CBD and THC may be more effective. David Berger, a pediatrician and the medical director of Wholistic Releaf, a medical-cannabis clinic in Tampa, Florida, told Insider that his patients are given both CBD and THC.

Elizabeth Spaar, a family-medicine physician also told Insider that her kids are microdose with CBD and THC for their ADHD. 

While CBD has been approved in Epidiolex as a treatment for childhood epilepsy, it hasn’t been approved for ADHD treatment. However, you can visit your pediatrician to discuss its use. 

Can Weed Replace ADHD Medication?

While there is anecdotal evidence that weed helps with ADHD, can it actually replace ADHD medication? 

Some parents would argue that it can and some doctors agree. According to Insider, “Some medical professionals say that medical marijuana is useful if only to get their ADHD patients off stimulants.”

There are several parents who give their kids medicinal marijuana because they’re experiencing negative effects from ADHD medication.

For example, Spaar’s two sons experienced appetite and sleep issues as a result of their ADHD medication. Her sons get a microdose with 5mg of THC and CBD in oil form every day.

As a result, her sons are less anxious, have increased ability to focus on schoolwork and got rid of their sleep and appetite problems.

Berger also told Insider that 20 of his patients are off their ADHD medication and use a combination of THC and CBD instead. 

Is Using Weed for ADHD Dangerous?

Not everyone agrees that giving weed to children is a great idea. There are many studies done that show weed can affect children negatively in many ways such as changing their brain structure. According to some studies, kids with ADHD may be at risk of experiencing some of these negative effects.

According to a study, “Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and cannabis use are each associated with specific cognitive deficits.” The study found that kids with ADHD that used marijuana did worse on verbal memory, processing speed, cognitive interference, decision-making, working memory, and response inhibition than kids who didn’t. 

In addition to that, another study found that children diagnosed with ADHD are more likely to have substance abuse problems. 

Cannabis seems to be one of these substances even though many don’t consider it addictive. Another study said that between 36% and 42% of people seeking treatment for Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD) have ADHD.

Healthline also says that weed isn’t recommended for anyone under 25. 

Is it Legal to Treat ADHD With Weed?

No. According to Insider, ADHD is not a qualifying medical condition in any state. Therefore, even in states that have legalized medical marijuana, it’s not legal to treat people with weed for ADHD.

However, sometimes, people with ADHD have other conditions such as depression and anxiety which may be qualifying factors. 

Conclusion

Does weed help ADHD? There are many reports that it can but not much scientific evidence shows that. There have been reports that weed can wean children off ADHD medication. ADHD medication can cause unpleasant side effects for some users and so weed is a welcome relief. However, there is always a risk of giving kids cannabis. Giving weed to children can affect their brains and increase their risk of becoming addicted to it. If you’re unsure of what to do, a chat with your pediatrician may help address your concerns.

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