Marijuana and ADHD treatment: An ambiguous relationship

Marijuana and ADHD treatment: An ambiguous relationship

“Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Inattention is when a person suffering from ADHD easily gets distracted, has difficulty sustaining focus and is disorganized. Such people can also be hyperactive, display restlessness, constantly move around and/or fidget excessively. Impulsiveness in people with ADHD can manifest as an inability to delay gratification or taking quick decisions without considering the potential for harm.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), ADHD is one of the most prevalent neurobehavioral disorders in children and young adults affecting 6 to 9 percent of children and adolescents and up to 5 percent of adults all over the world. Adolescents with ADHD have more uneven social relations and display academic underachievement when compared with their peers.

A decade-long follow-up study of young adults with ADHD revealed, among other things, that substance use disorders (SUD) were among the most problematic co-occurring disorders with ADHD and that the misuse of marijuana, alcohol or the combination of the two are the most common substances of abuse in adolescents with ADHD. According to ADDitude magazine, adults with ADHD have also been found to abuse particularly marijuana or alcohol three times more than those without the disorder. Substance abuse can make ADHD treatment harder and increase the side-effects of the disorder.

Can marijuana control ADHD symptoms?

There are courses of treatment for ADHD that help manage the condition and improve daily functioning. Treatments can include medication, training, psychotherapy or a combination of these. Stimulants, such as Ritalin (methylphenidate), a central nervous system stimulant, and Adderall, an amphetamine, are the most commonly used medications for ADHD. Stimulants increase the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine, which play essential roles in thinking and attention.

However, some people suffering from ADHD also use marijuana as a treatment option. A 2015 German study of 30 patients suffering from ADHD gave evidence of improved performance, behavior and mental state after consuming medicinal cannabis  Controlled amounts of cannabis regulated concentration and sleep, and reduced impulsiveness. 22 patients preferred taking marijuana to control their symptoms rather than waiting for medications to bring the desired effect.

Dr. David Bearman, a clinically knowledgeable physician in the U.S. in the field of medicinal marijuana, is of the opinion that “Cannabis appears to treat ADD and ADHD by increasing the availability of dopamine.” However, it has to be noted that in most cases, the evidence for medical practitioners to recommend or prescribe marijuana as a treatment option for ADHD is not sufficiently compelling. This is also because it has not been conclusively proven that cannabis alleviates this condition in all, or even in most cases. Further, there is also research that links negative results with the long-term use of marijuana – increasing anxiety, psychosis and depression, lowering intelligence levels and causing problems with learning, memory and other brain functions. The use of marijuana is not without risk, with NIDA predicting that 9 percent of people are likely to become dependent on it, which can increase to 17 percent in cases of early use (in their teens).

Recovery roadmap

Substance abuse can be successfully managed through holistic treatment plans that help individuals to lead happy and productive lives. To find out the best dual diagnosis rehab centers, contact the Dual Diagnosis Helpline today. Call our 24/7 helpline 855-981-6047 or chat online with our experts to get details about the finest dual diagnosis programs in your vicinity.