CBD Oil and Cannabis for ADHDSep 26, 2019
Timothy Culbert, MD, IFMCP
The Potential Benefits of CBD Oil and Cannabis for ADHD
The only clear thing we know is that more research is needed to truly understand what benefits, if any, CBD may pose in ADHD management. The same holds true for cannabis. We know that's not helpful for most folks searching for relief from ADHD symptoms. If your physician has recommended CBD oil for ADD/ADHD, then see below for common dosing suggestions and what the science says about both CBD oil and cannabis.
CBD Oil Dosage for ADD/ADHD
A physician may recommend CBD oil as a preventative tool for ADD/ADHD. It may help to manage acute symptom flare ups, but the preventative maintenance is likely most important. Similar to a dietary supplement or medication, it may work best to establish a baseline concentration in the system.
A trusted, high quality, full spectrum CBD oil could be taken daily in the form of tinctures or gel capsules. The ingredients in the two products are the same; the only difference between the two is the form factor and dosage: pills vs. sublingual tinctures.
Most suggestions for ADD or ADHD note to start with 15 mg per day of CBD oil. If relief is not felt at this dosage, then increasing by 5-10 mg until the desired effects are achieved may work.
Does CBD Oil Help Relieve Symptoms of ADHD?
There is sparse evidence that CBD oil can improve the core symptoms of ADHD, and the evidence that exists is mostly anecdotal. Nonetheless, that isn’t stopping patients from trying it.
The current concern is that consumer/patient use has sped past scientific evidence for use and regulation on product quality. That means long-term effects are virtually unknown and snake-oil companies continue to pop up with CBD products that are not pure.
An article in ADDitude magazine summarized this:
“During [a person’s] development, I worry about cannabinoids, both CBD and THC,” says UCLA’s Evans. “There are adenosine receptors (and CB2 receptors) on the microglia that are critical for brain development, and CBD inhibits adenosine uptake. This may be a beneficial factor for epilepsy and autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, but who knows for ADHD.”
The article continues,
"Once CBD enters the body, no one yet knows how it works. Its long-term effects are a mystery. Exactly how does CBD work — in the brain and over many years? As Dr. Carson bluntly puts it: “We don’t know and we don’t know.”
Does Cannabis Help Relieve Symptoms of ADHD?
Cannabis use and ADHD are both independently associated with impaired attention, inhibition, and functioning. Because of this, many researchers believe that cannabis use would exacerbate existing ADHD symptoms. However, there isn’t any evidence to support or contradict this.
It's also important to consider that some people with ADHD struggle with anxiety, which can make their symptoms worse. There is minor evidence to show that CBD oil and cannabis may help with symptoms of anxiety.
A 2016 case study backed up earlier claims by researchers that CBD may help with anxiety and sleep problems in children. Further research will need to explore this effect in a large cohort.
A 2013 study also explored the relationship between symptoms of ADHD and cannabis use. People with subtypes of ADHD that involve symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity were more likely to use cannabis daily to manage their symptoms than people with inattentive subtypes of ADHD.
One 2015 study explored the relationship between ADHD, depression, and marijuana use in undergraduate students. Although the researchers established that some students used marijuana to cope with depressive symptoms, its overall effect on these symptoms was unclear.
A 2013 study on ADHD subtype and cannabis use also posed interesting results. After collecting data from 2,811 current cannabis users, researchers found that people who used cannabis daily self-reported symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity when not using cannabis.
One 2014 study assessed cannabis use and ADHD symptoms in 376 undergraduate students. The researchers found that current and childhood inattention were associated with more severe cannabis use and dependency. They also found that participants who demonstrated hyperactive-impulsive behavior as children began to use cannabis earlier than participants who did not.