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ADHD overview

Published on June 12th, 2019

Last updated on June 3rd, 2020

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are two similar conditions that typically affect the ability of an individual to focus on specific tasks. Though many people know of the existence of ADD/ADHD, there are a few misconceptions about it. The most common is the belief that ADD/ADHD affects only children. People tend to think the symptoms go away after adolescence, while some don’t even believe it exists at all.

The truth is that not only is ADD/ADHD a real and debilitating condition, but around 60% of people diagnosed when they were children will still exhibit noticeable symptoms into adulthood. Common misconceptions like these have lead many people to go undiagnosed over the years, with even less being actively treated. Estimates say around 6.1 million (9.4%) of children deal with some level of ADD/ADHD in the U.S,  and approximately 5.2% worldwide,  with at least 3% of adults also affected.

While it’s not entirely known what causes ADD/ADHD, researchers do know it runs in families. Research shows that parents have between one-third and one-half chance of passing ADD/ADHD onto their children. There are other risk factors, such as being born premature or at a low weight, head injuries early in life, or exposure to toxicants while still in the womb. That said, there are a few things we know for sure do not cause ADD/ADHD, such as too much sugar or TV.

The truth is ADD/ADHD is a chemical imbalance that causes neurotransmitters to function differently. Testing shows that certain parts of the brain are less active or smaller in children with ADD/ADHD, while others may be working overtime. Regardless of why living with ADD/ADHD can often be extremely difficult if you don’t know your treatment options. So let’s take a look at the peer-reviewed evidence.

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Table of Contents

CBD Research For ADHD

potencial impact research overview

ADHD - Searching for a neurobiological basis for self-medication theory in ADHD comorbid with substance use disorders: an in vivo study of dopamine transporters using (99m)Tc-TRODAT-1 SPECT

  • Universidade Luterana do Brasil, Porto Alegre, Brazil
  • 2014

related conditions:

ADD / ADHD

Research shows a direct connection between attention issues and substance use disorders, which may help explain high rates of self-medication among teens. After tracking the striatal dopamine transporter (DAT) data of several different test groups, the team concluded the use of CBD use could significantly lower striatal DAT density in adolescents.

ADHD - Cannabidiol and clozapine reverse MK-801-induced deficits in social interaction and hyperactivity in Sprague-Dawley rats

  • Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
  • 2012

related conditions:

ADD / ADHD

Testing confirms pretreatment with CBD has incredible benefits on hyperactivity, social investigative behavior, and attention span. CBD not only normalized these behaviors, but it was shown to reinforce them even beyond the control group. Importantly, researchers confirmed there were no adverse side effects to the CBD treatment.

ADHD - Subtypes of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and cannabis use

  • University at Albany, New York, USA
  • 2014

related conditions:

ADD / ADHD

Researchers concluded CBD is effective at reducing hyperactivity symptoms. They found that while chronic users of CBD experienced a massive boost in attention and decrease in hyperactivity, those who were non-daily users barely deviated from the control group. Provides evidence why so many teens with attention issues self medicate using marijuana.

ADHD - Childhood and current ADHD symptom dimensions are associated with more severe cannabis outcomes in college students

  • Brown University, Providence, United States
  • 2014

related conditions:

ADD / ADHD

Evidence suggests attention deficit and hyperactivity issues raise the chances of self-medication with marijuana during adolescence. Interestingly, the team noted distinct differences between those with hyperactivity issues and inattention. While inattention was associated with heavier usage, hyperactivity was primarily associated with earlier initiation. The results held firm even after being statistically controlled for relevant variables.

ADHD - Oral delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol improved refractory Gilles de la Tourette syndrome in an adolescent by increasing intracortical inhibition: a case report

  • Georg-August-University Göttingen, Germany
  • 2010

related conditions:

ADD / ADHD

CBD was shown to modulate the release of several critical neurotransmitters, including dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid. It may serve as an alternative treatment for severe physical and psychosocial impairment, especially in comorbid cases of hyperactivity or inattention. Further research is needed to confirm this connection between CBD and improved health outcomes.

ADHD - [Fitness to drive in spite (because) of THC]

  • Heidelberg University, Germany
  • 2007

related conditions:

ADD / ADHD

The active ingredients in marijuana, THC and CBD, were shown to have atypical, and even performance-enhancing effects on individuals who suffer from inattention or hyperactivity. The case study details a 28-year-old subject who went from inattentive while sober to completely normal with a very high plasma level of THC and CBD.

CBD Research That Might Be Useful for Symptoms of ADHD

potencial impact research overview

Hyperactivity - Interactions between cannabidiol and Δ9-THC following acute and repeated dosing: Rebound hyperactivity, sensorimotor gating and epigenetic and neuroadaptive changes in the mesolimbic pathway

  • University of Sydney, Australia
  • 2017

related conditions:


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CBD was shown to significantly inhibit rebound locomotor hyperactivity without increasing the behavioral effects of THC. The study provides the first evidence that repeated co-administration of CBD and THC increased the production of several important neurotransmitters. CBD provides some acute protective effects, but its long term impact is much more complex.

Restlessness - Molecular Targets of Cannabidiol in Neurological Disorders

  • University of Reading, UK
  • 2015

related conditions:

Restlessness

CBD is an effective treatment for several neurological conditions related to the CYP2D6 receptor. They weren’t able to say if CBD has a significant impact on antipsychotic-induced tardive dyskinesia. However, high concentrations of CBD impacted the FAAH inhibitors, which are known to decrease restlessness.

Memory Loss - Cannabidiol inhibits THC-elicited paranoid symptoms and hippocampal-dependent memory impairment

  • Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London, UK
  • 2012

related conditions:

Memory Loss

Research indicates pretreatment with CBD significantly decreases THC-elicited psychosis and cognitive impairment. Interestingly, the team determined CBD also significantly increased episodic memory compared with the placebo group. The findings suggest CBD helps prevent any mental health risks associated with THC alone.

ADHD & CBD Research Overview

CBD is quickly growing in popularity as a low-risk treatment for a myriad of different conditions. While some of these, such as epilepsy, have been studied at length for years, it’s only over the last few in which a wide range of other issues are affected by CBD. One of the more interesting cases of this is ADD and ADHD, or Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Not only has CBD been shown to help alleviate some of the most challenging symptoms, but there may be a deeper connection than we currently understand.

In a clinically controlled trial of 30 patients, the primary outcome found no significant difference in ITT analysis, but the overall pattern of scores showed that the active group performed better than the placebo group (Est=-0.17, 95%CI-0.40 to 0.07, p=0.16, n=15/11 active/placebo). This trend continued in the secondary outcomes, where the active group had better scores than the placebo group in all parameters.

These noticeable improvements to some of the symptoms of ADD/ADHD have increased optimism in researchers that CBD may hold some benefits in its treatment. Some researchers suggest that even cannabis has a therapeutic effect on ADD/ADHD, though this claim has not been proven in a clinically controlled test.

A study called Subtypes of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and cannabis use suggest that chronic users of CBD had a massive boost in attention span, while occasional users mostly stayed in line with the control. Some studies, such as Oral delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol improved refractory Gilles de la Tourette syndrome in an adolescent by increasing intracortical inhibition: a case report, argue that CBD may be an effective alternative treatment for many other physical and psychosocial disorders, but it’s particularly effective when patients have ADD/ADHD. It must be pointed out that these case studies were carried out on only one patient, and so cannot be said to be conclusive.

There are other benefits of cannabinoid extracts for those dealing with ADD/ADHD, but many have only just begun to be researched. For example, a case study called Fitness to drive in spite (because) of THC, details a 28-year-old man who has ADHD, and went from inattentive and rude while sober to seemingly normal with high plasma levels of THC.

The researchers concluded that the active ingredients in marijuana might have “performance-enhancing” effects on people with attention or hyperactivity issues. While much more research is required to say anything for sure, many are excited about what this could uncover about the connection between the endocannabinoid system and ADD/ADHD.

A report called cannabidiol and Δ9-THC following acute and repeated dosing: Rebound hyperactivity, sensorimotor gating, and epigenetic and neuroadaptive changes in the mesolimbic pathway observed a significant reduction in hyperactivity, while simultaneously providing some neuroprotective properties. Researchers aren’t entirely sure how this works yet, but their study is our first evidence that repeated doses of THC provide this effect. This might also be true for CBD and other cannabinoid extracts.

Best CBD for ADHD

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NoteCBD Tincture (250mg)

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  Servings per day Days supplied in one package Cost per week
Low Dosage (40 mg/day) 4.80 6.2 $50.42
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Mid Dosage (300 mg/day) 2.25 13.3 $152.25
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Suggested CBD Dosage for ADHD

Dosage Per Day

Low

40 mg

Mid

300 mg

High

600 mg

The most commonly asked question about CBD we receive is regarding proper dosages. In an ideal world, we would know precisely how much fixes whatever ails you, and that would be that. However, our world is far from ideal, so finding the perfect dosage is going to require some experimenting. The proper dose for treating ADD/ADHD with CBD is even more of a mystery than other conditions because there hasn’t been much research into this specific question yet.

Like every experimental drug, the dosage should be taken in controlled steps and under a physicians supervision. This is helpful because the physician will be able to monitor and evaluate progress.

Regardless, you’ll likely need a bit of trial and error before finding what works best for you. The good news is CBD isn’t psychoactive, so there’s no risk of it getting you high, even at higher dosages. That said, some research suggests CBD works best for ADD/ADHD when THC is also present. However, THC is psychoactive, so you have to be much more careful experimenting with different doses.

This disclaimer informs readers that ONLY COMMENTARY expressed in this file belong solely to Ahmed Diab, M.D., and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee, or other group or individual.

Tracking CBD Effectiveness For ADHD

It can be hard to fully understand how CBD is impacting your condition if you aren’t sure what to look out for. This is especially true for conditions such as ADD/ADHD which can be challenging to track under any circumstances. The best way to start is by taking note of everything you can. By giving yourself a solid baseline, you can easily compare it with any noticeable changes once you start on a regimen of CBD.

You should keep track of progress on well-known symptoms such as hyperactivity or short attention span. However, it’s also essential to gauge other things such as trouble sleeping, restlessness, and even memory loss when tracking your progress with CBD for ADD/ADHD.

It’s always important to remember that everyone is different. As such, what works for one person may not have much of an impact for another. At the same time, even if CBD works for two different people, the ideal dosage will still be unique to each. One way we can help build a more well-informed world is by sharing our experiences.

The more we know about what worked and didn’t for others, the easier it will be for newcomers to find their ideal situation. If you do feel like sharing your experience with everyone here, be sure to leave a specific score for how well CBD improved any attention problems, hyperactivity, as well as social issues you may be dealing with. The more information people have to work with, the easier it will be to improve their lives.

Written By
John Mace Alois is lead content creator at the Did CBD Work? project. He’s analyzed over 400 research papers related to Cannabidiol and helped publish over 55 works related to different conditions for the project. He majored in Cultural Anthropology, with a minor in English, from the University at Albany. He is an avid collector of art supplies and refurbishes old furniture in his spare time.
Reviewed By*
Ahmed Diab, M.D is a graduate of Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt. Senior He is currently Senior Medical Writer at NegidaClin. He has written dozens of manuscripts for pharmaceutical enterprises. He published works also included drug safety and efficacy for those with Parkinsons Disease and a historical analysis of the performance of prostheses in femoral neck fractures.

*The information contained here does not constitute medical recommendations. Ahmed Diab does not recommend a certain dosage or a certain indication for any of our products. Please consult your personal physician before using any product.

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