Advocates of cannabis use for a myriad of medical conditions will no doubt be excited to learn that cannabis has now been used to successfully treat those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. ADHD is characterized by hyperactivity, impulsivity, forgetfulness, lack of organization, and difficulty in paying attention, according to the Daily Star.
One central characteristic of ADHD appears to be a shortage of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical neurotransmitter involved in focus, memory, and other cognitive processes. According to the Sun Times Network, Dr. David Bearman said that a common theory regarding brain function is that 70 percent of the brain is involved in regulating the other 30 percent, and in ADHD, the brain is effectively flooded with information and cannot cope as well as a non-ADHD brain.
“Basically the brain is overwhelmed with too much information coming too fast,” Dr. Bearman said. “In ADHD, the brain is cluttered with and too aware of all the nuances of a person’s daily experience.”
Extract, which is part of the Sun Times Network, reports that as a leading cannabinoid researcher, Dr. Bearman has been studying the connection between cannabis and ADHD for some time. According to Leafly, Dr. Bearman recognized that cannabis creates a different mechanism of action than common stimulants used to treat ADHD, including Ritalin and Adderall.
“Cannabis appears to treat ADD and ADHD by increasing the availability of dopamine,” Dr. Bearman wrote. “This then has the same effect but is a different mechanism of action than stimulants like Ritalin (methylphenidate) and dexedrine amphetamine, which act by binding to the dopamine and interfering with the metabolic breakdown of dopamine.”
Effectively, Dr. Bearman believes that even the raw form of cannabis could give ADHD patients the “slowdown” necessary to adequately concentrate and focus on even the most boring tasks. Patients could also see a levelling out of their mood swings, which may also be characteristic in some ADHD patients.
Following cannabis treatment during a recent study in Germany, adult patients saw reduced impulsivity and an improved ability to sleep. The study was, however, quite small: only 30 patients diagnosed as having ADHD were involved in the study. However, 22 of the 30 involved in the study decided to discontinue their prescription medication in favor of taking cannabis therapy for the duration of the study.
According to Leafly, cannabinoids like THC and CBD are chemical compounds, released by cannabis flowers, that provide relief to multiple symptoms, like pain, nausea, and inflammation. Under German law, if a patient has become immune to conventional therapies, doctors can recommend cannabis therapy. Metro reports that in the United States, only two states allow the prescription of medical cannabis to treat ADHD, but only in following the doctor’s discretion.
It should be noted, though, that there is still a minimal amount of information that has been gathered regarding the connection between cannabis and ADHD. Researchers have thus far agreed that more research needs to be done about the link between cannabis and how it can help alleviate symptoms of ADHD and are optimistic about the potential for successful therapy that can result.
The United States is not allowing medical cannabis to be prescribed for therapeutic relief of ADHD symptoms, so patients with ADHD are left to continue with conventional therapies which, among other things, may suppress a patient’s appetite. Those involved in the German study that explored the link between ADHD and cannabis therapy found that they were able to enjoy an improved appetite as a result of cannabis therapy.
There was also a 2008 study that reported oral THC, given as the FDA-approved Marinol, “had a positive impact on performance, behavior, and mental state” of a 28-year-old subject diagnosed with ADHD. That said, the link between ADHD and cannabis needs further exploration.
[Featured Image by Andrew Burton / Getty Images]