Increasing numbers of ADHD sufferers are turning to cannabis as an alternative to the undesirable side effects of stimulant ADHD medications.
Everyone daydreams and has attention lapses once in awhile, especially if they’re working on a task that’s monotonous or uninteresting. For those with ADHD, paying attention is a constant struggle at all times. They have problems with getting organized and staying on task once they begin working on something. They’re frequently hyperactive and tend to fidget or talk excessively, often to the annoyance of others around them. People with ADHD tend to make rash, impulsive decisions without thinking them through first. None of this is because they are unable to comprehend facts or are trying to flaunt rules; the brains of people with ADHD simply function differently than typical people.
At best, this can make it frustrating to complete tasks such as schoolwork or (for adults) work-related projects. At worst, it can lead to problems with relationships, holding down a job, and achieving one’s potential in life. A diagnosis of ADHD can help people understand why seemingly simple tasks become insurmountable obstacles that they must struggle to overcome.
Therapy is a wonderful treatment for ADHD. Behavioral therapy can help the individual learn how to change certain behaviors, while family therapy can help loved ones learn how to assist them in making changes. Prescription medications are often paired with therapy in order to address ADHD on the level of brain chemistry. Stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall can often provide relief for ADHD symptoms such as forgetfulness, excessive movement, inability to focus and disorganization. The side effects of these medications can be frustrating, however. Patients often notice a huge decrease in appetite, stomach pains, headaches, problems sleeping, as well as feeling anxious.
Cannabis as an ADHD Treatment
In recent years, many patients have begun to experiment with cannabis as an alternative to the undesirable side effects of prescription medications. Cannabis and ADHD might seem like a bad pairing, given that marijuana is often thought of as a substance that causes forgetfulness and lack of focus. This is because just like stimulant medications, cannabis works differently on the brains of those who don’t have attention disorders.
Due to a chemical imbalance, the brains of people with ADHD become overwhelmed and can’t process all the information that’s being thrown at them. Think of it like being in a room with twenty TV sets turned on at top volume, each playing a different channel. By binding to the brain dopamine particles and keeping levels consistent, stimulant medications can help calm things down and restore the brain’s ability to focus once more. A medication that would be overstimulating for those without ADHD works in the opposite way for those with the disorder.
Marijuana contains cannabinoids, chemicals that have been proven to be helpful in treating a host of conditions and symptoms – everything from emotional symptoms such as anxiety to physical symptoms such as chronic pain. These cannabinoids can help increase the levels of dopamine in the brain. They do it differently than stimulant medications, but the end result is the same: an increased sense of calm and ability to manage time, get organized and complete the task at hand. The same strain of cannabis that could render someone without ADHD unable to focus can help someone with this condition function better at work, at home and in life.
The Evidence Shows…
As with using cannabis to treat any medical condition, researchers insist that more studies are needed to understand more about how it can be a useful treatment for those with ADHD. Initial studies have had promising results, however. A 2008 study by researchers at the Heidelberg University Medical Center found that in some people with ADHD, “the consumption of cannabis had a positive impact on performance, behavior and mental state of the subject”.
Those who suffer from ADHD also tend to experience anxiety and depression as secondary symptoms to their ADHD. This exacerbates an already frustrating situation. Multiple studies have shown that cannabis is extremely safe and effective in treating both anxiety and depression. This makes cannabis a dual-impact treatment, as it addresses the primary condition, as well as the secondary conditions that are frequently caused by it.
Indeed, cannabis as a treatment for ADHD is starting to catch on with medical providers of adults and children alike. In 2004, Fox News reported on parents who have started opting for cannabis as a safer, more natural option for children who suffer from ADHD and other neuropsychiatric conditions. California pediatrician Claudia Jensen is working to educate people about the use of cannabinoids to treat patients – including adolescents – who have various chronic diseases and disorders.
Things to Consider
Many of the studies that have been done warn against the lung damage that could be caused from regularly smoking cannabis. With medical cannabis becoming legally available in a growing number of places, patients now have other options. Those who wish to take cannabis to get relief from their ADHD symptoms can take a dose in the form of oral sprays or convenient drops. Patches can help deliver medication through the skin. Vaporizers are also helpful to deliver cannabis extract without the smoke that results from taking cannabis in the form of a cigarette or via a pipe. Children who take cannabis for ADHD often do well with cannabis-infused treats that help make taking their medication a pleasant experience.
Side effects from cannabis usually include dizziness, anxiety, disorientation and dry mouth. To avoid side effects, patients should always start at the lowest dose possible. Work with your healthcare provider to determine if taking multiple small doses throughout the day is necessary to provide optimum relief.
Keep in mind that stopping or altering one’s medications should always be done under the supervision of a physician. One should also refrain from taking cannabis with prescription medications to avoid potential interactions unless the combination has been approved by their healthcare provider. As is the case with most antidepressants and medications for psychological conditions, it may take time to find a cannabis strain and dosage that works well to relieve your ADHD.