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Can CBD Treat Symptoms of ADHD?

Quite often patients diagnosed with ADHD are prescribed stimulants such as Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, and Vyvanse all of which can have unwanted side effects. But recent research suggests that CBD may provide some relief for those who have ADHD. CBD may also be helpful in mitigating some of the side effects that come with prescription medications.

What is ADHD?

According to the Attention Deficit Disorder Organization, ADHD affects “executive functioning skills which includes important functions such as attention, concentration, memory, motivation and effort, learning from mistakes, impulsivity, hyperactivity, organization, and social skills.”

ADHD can be divided into three types: Inattentive (also known as ADD), hyperactive, or combined. The condition affects the way the brain sends and receives signals related to focus, attention, reward, and consequences.

ADHD is often considered a childhood disorder because it is usually diagnosed between the ages of six and twelve. It can, however, continue throughout life. Many adults also have ADHD, and a large percentage of them remain undiagnosed. Some of the behavioral symptoms in children include continually talking, fidgeting, trouble focusing, difficulty in reading social cues, impatience, being easily distracted, and having a short attention span.

People diagnosed with ADHD are also more likely to be dealing with additional issues such as learning disabilities, conduct disorders and difficulties, antisocial behavior, anxiety disorder, major depression, and more.

ADHD is usually treated using a combination of behavior therapy and medication. Ritalin, Adderall, and Vyvanse are all known to increase levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the prefrontal cortex. There are numerous side effects associated with these medications such as sleep problems, decreased appetite, delayed growth, headaches, stomachaches, tics, moodiness, and irritability. They are also known to cause problems with the circulatory system and can even cause hallucinations.

Can CBD Be Used Treat ADHD?

Most of the studies into links between the endocannabinoid system and ADHD have been aimed more at preventing substance abuse than at treating ADHD. However, studies suggest that CBD may be useful in treating the disorder.

A study by Clinical Nuclear Medicine reported that ADHD and substance abuse disorders frequently go hand in hand. Researchers compared dopamine transporter density in 64 adolescent males divided into four groups: ADHD with substance abuse, ADHD without substance abuse, substance abuse only, and a control group with neither ADHD nor substance abuse. Subjects with both ADHD and substance abuse showed lower levels of dopamine transporter density in the brain, a condition which is believed to be treatable with CBD.

Another study done in 2012 examined the association between ADHD and cannabis use. A survey was given to 2811 cannabis users asking them about ADHD symptoms experienced while not using cannabis. Results of the study support the idea that cannabinoid receptors play a role in regulating brain function, and that CBD, in particular, may reduce the symptoms of ADHD.

There is mounting evidence that the endocannabinoid system plays a role in ADHD. Most of the genes associated with ADHD are also involved in the expression of endocannabinoids, such as anandamide and their associated receptors. Anandamide is known to affect levels of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex. Dopamine is responsible for thought processes such as memory, attention, and mood. And CBD, as it turns out, has many of the same effects on dopamine levels as prescription medications but without the dangerous side effects.

More research still needs to be done to determine if CBD can provide some relief for people living with ADHD. Patients should always consult with a qualified medical professional before beginning a treatment regimen for ADHD.