Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Everyone experiences ADHD differently, with symptoms appearing on a spectrum. If you’ve tried everything to manage your symptoms with no success, you might be wondering if CBD can help.
There isn’t enough evidence to fully support the benefits of using CBD for ADHD.
Potential benefits of CBD include reduced anxiety and improved sleep.
CBD products aren’t recommended for children.
Always talk to a healthcare professional before trying any new treatment.
The relationship between CBD and ADHD
Currently, 366 million adults are managing symptoms of ADHD. It can lead to educational underachievement, unemployment, and difficulty in relationships, which has led to growing interest in potential treatments, like CBD.
Cannabidiol, also called CBD, is a compound found in hemp plants. It’s become popular thanks to growing evidence showing it can help alleviate certain symptoms of mental health disorders, like anxiety and depression.
But is CBD good for ADHD? Read on to find out how CBD works, its potential side effects, and if there’s enough evidence to back up its use for ADHD.
Can CBD help ADHD? What the research shows
Research on CBD for ADHD is still in its early stages, so we may still have to wait a few years before we get any conclusive evidence.
Currently, there isn’t enough evidence as to its effect on the hallmark ADHD symptoms, like inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
There was a small study focused specifically on the hallmark symptoms, but it showed no statistically significant improvement. However, this study didn’t use CBD isolate but instead, a prescription spray drug referred to as nabiximols. It’s a cannabis extract that’s been purified into a 1:1 ratio of CBD and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.
THC, also known as tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis. The adverse effects related to regular cannabis use are related to its concentration of THC. Fortunately, CBD oils are quite low in THC, which works to avoid the intoxicating effects of marijuana.
At the moment, there aren’t enough studies focusing solely on CBD for ADHD. There was a scoping review of 39 studies, but it focused on cannabis and not CBD isolate. They also reported an overall worsened or no effect specifically for ADHD symptoms.
Also, a major problem with some of the studies done on CBD for ADHD is that they had small sample sizes, used animals, or didn’t have properly controlled trials.
For now, research suggests that CBD can help manage some of the co-occurring symptoms seen in ADHD, like anxiety and poor sleep. However, there isn’t enough evidence to specifically recommend CBD for ADHD.
How does CBD work?
Cannabinoids are compounds that interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is the system that helps keep you in homeostasis by regulating your mood, behavior, sleep, hunger, and pain. So if you’re feeling stressed, it’s your ECS that’s working hard to bring you back to a balanced state.
It’s made up of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids (the cannabinoids naturally produced by your body), and the enzymes to break them down.
So while you naturally produce endocannabinoids, you can also get cannabinoids like CBD from hemp and cannabis plants. CBD interacts with your ECS and non-cannabinoid receptors in your brain, like serotonin and opioid receptors, affecting your mood and perception of pain. That’s why CBD products might help you sleep better and reduce stress and anxiety.
Benefits of CBD
Many studies show promising benefits of CBD, including:
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved depressive state
- Less chronic pain
- Improved sleep
Everyone responds to CBD differently, so these benefits won’t necessarily apply to everyone. Results can depend on your genetic makeup, or a potential deficiency in your ECS system, which influences how your body will respond to CBD.
Potential side effects of CBD
Most research shows CBD to be generally safe and well-tolerated by adults. But like any supplement, there might be some side effects to consider, such as:
- Dry mouth
- Drug interaction
- Low blood pressure
- Changes in weight or appetite
It’s always best to talk to your healthcare professional before trying CBD, especially if you have any other health conditions. Make sure to start with a small dosage and closely monitor the results. If you notice any side effects, call your doctor as they may recommend you stop using CBD.
Will CBD get you high?
Many people worry that taking CBD will create the “high” feeling we associate with marijuana. The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a critical report on the research and found that CBD does not cause a high feeling. Also, there’s no evidence showing physical dependence developing with CBD.
Is CBD safe for children?
CBD isn’t on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines for Children. It’s still being debated since there isn’t enough research to support its use for ADHD in children.
There have been a few studies on CBD for children with epileptic syndromes. For some, seizures decreased but a few also experienced side effects of diarrhea, loss of appetite, fatigue, and vomiting. Of course, these effects might also be due to drug interactions with other antiepileptic drugs.
There’s also the question of the purity of CBD products, with contaminants like microbes, heavy metals, and pesticides. Unfortunately, the cannabis market isn’t heavily regulated. Plus, the dosage needed for each child depends on many factors, including severity of symptoms, age, and weight.
In the end, the research doesn’t promote the use of CBD for kids with ADHD.
Talk to a healthcare professional
Whenever starting a new treatment, even if it’s a supplement, it’s always best to ask your healthcare provider about it first. We all respond differently to treatments, and if you have any chronic conditions, mental health issues, or take medication, you’ll need an expert opinion to weigh in.
Besides supplements and medication, behavior therapy is successful for children and adults with ADHD. You can learn new tools for self-regulation, stress management, and impulse control. Combining talk therapy with mindfulness also shows great promise for managing ADHD symptoms.
If one-to-one therapy isn’t feasible, you can also consider signing up for a support group for adults with ADHD. While the group environment might seem intimidating at first, it can provide a stable support system with people who completely understand what you’re going through. They may offer invaluable advice and a meaningful sense of companionship and support.
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- Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior. Single cannabidiol administration affects anxiety-, obsessive compulsive-, object memory-, and attention-like behaviors in mice in a sex and concentration dependent manner.
- The Permanente journal. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series.
- European Neuropsychopharmacology. Cannabinoids in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A randomised-controlled trial.
- Journal of cannabis research. The therapeutic role of Cannabidiol in mental health: a systematic review.