Is CBD Effective for ADHD?

A lot of people may use the term ADD or ADHD loosely to refer to a short attention span or an inability to concentrate. For those that have been diagnosed with either condition, this is a serious matter.

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) affects children and teens and can continue on into adulthood. It’s the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder in children.

Children with ADHD may have trouble controlling their impulses and paying attention. This affects their ability to learn and socialize. It is more common in boys than girls and usually becomes apparent in early school years.

Adults with ADHD may have trouble managing time, organization, setting goals and even holding down a job. They may have problems with personal relationships and controlling their emotions. Many adults with ADHD seek out drugs or alcohol to self medicate and then become addicted as a result. ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is similar to ADHD, but those with ADD are not hyperactive. They usually will be daydreamy in nature.

There are many medications that can be prescribed for the treatment of ADHD. However, most of them bring on unpleasant side effects.

CBD is a natural remedy that has been in the medical spotlight recently. Known to provide several health benefits, it is currently being looked at as a possible treatment for ADHD. But can it really be beneficial to those who are dealing with the condition? Read on to find out.


ADHD and Current Treatments

ADHD is a neurologically based disorder that results from the deficiency of a neurotransmitter, or a group of neurotransmitters in specific areas of the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit signals between nerve cells by bridging the synapse, or gap, between them.

The key neurotransmitter involved is norepinephrine along with its building blocks, dopa and dopamine. Most medications used to treat ADHD stimulate specific cells in the brain to produce more of the deficient transmitter. They are, therefore, known as stimulants.

There are many stimulants on the market; Adderall and Ritalin are some of the most popular. Basically, these are pharmaceutical names for amphetamine and methylphenidate respectively. Atomoxetine hydrochloride or lisdexamfetamine dimesylate are other medications that can be used to treat ADHD.

Although these drugs can be effective in the treatment of ADHD, they also come with their share of side effects including sleeping problems, eating issues, nausea and headaches.


Because there are so many side effects associated with the use of ADHD medication, it makes sense that individuals dealing with the condition would seek natural alternatives.

CBD is a cannabis compound that is known for the health benefits it can provide. It normally produces little to no side effects, and those that do occur are not serious in nature.

But can it help with ADHD?

Although many researchers claim that there is no evidence that supports CBD use in the treatment of ADHD, a study conducted in 2017 that proves otherwise.

This study provided preliminary evidence supporting CBD use as being beneficial. It showed CBD providing mental and emotional functioning in individuals with ADHD. However, the study also noted that more research would be needed to determine if this is the case.

Here are some other studies that may show CBD to be effective in treating ADHD:

  • A 2014 study showed that cannabis can increase levels of dopamine in the brain.
  • A 2012 animal study showed that cannabis can increase social activity and decrease hyperactivity but did not show any effects on attention span.
  • Another 2014 study looked at individuals with different subtypes of ADHD to determine which were more likely to use cannabis to self medicate. Although more research is needed to determine which subtypes respond best, overall evidence showed that most did feel a reduction of symptoms with use.

Despite all these studies, there is still no clinical recommendations or systematic research supporting the beneficial effects of cannabis use for ADHD. However, many people suffering from ADD and/or ADHD have decided to give it a try anyway.

Those that have, reported it has a calming effect as it works to sooth the anxiety associated with ADHD. As a result, patients report feeling less manic, less distracted and overall more focused.

CBD is well known for providing a calming effect. It works in the body to produce serotonin to reverse feelings of anxiety and depression. Several additional studies have been conducted to assist in providing more research supporting this.

ADHD and Epilepsy

Many children with ADHD also experience seizures. In fact, ADHD is the most common co-occurring disorder in children with epilepsy. Research shows that 30 to 40 out of 100 children with epilepsy have ADHD.

Treating children with ADHD and epilepsy can be tricky. The seizure medications recommended for epilepsy often can make ADHD even worse. There is also a concern that the stimulants prescribed for ADHD can trigger seizures. There has been evidence that stimulant medications are not as effective at treating ADHD in children who also have epilepsy.

CBD has been shown to reduce seizures in those dealing with epilepsy. Though it is not clear exactly how CBD works to make seizures less likely, it may be due to the biochemical effects it has on nerve cells in the brain.

CBD has been shown to be effective in reducing seizures when used in low doses. It has been recommended for use for those suffering with hard-to-treat forms of epilepsy like Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome.

The benefits CBD can have in treating ADHD are still unclear. However, a study conducted on a boy with Lennox-Gastaut showed that THC could be effective in treating symptoms of both ADHD and epilepsy.

In other cases, there are no indications that CBD would worsen symptoms. This makes it a promising treatment for those who have both epilepsy and ADHD.

Pediatrics and CBD

Epilepsy and ADHD commonly affect children. With CBD being a recommended treatment, this begs the question, is CBD safe for children?

Studies have been conducted to this end and more research is still needed before a conclusion can be drawn. However, evidence has pointed out that short term use tends to be harmless. Although some children experience side effects, these tend to be minor and not serious in nature. These side effects also tend to be more minor than those stemming from some ADHD medications.

The main concern is the effect from long term use of CBD. Further research is needed to determine whether there could be adverse effects over time. Parents should consider the severity of their child’s symptoms and assess whether possible risks will be worth taking in the long run. They should also make sure they are buying CBD from a trusted retailer so products will not contain any unnatural ingredients.

pediatric cannabis

The Other Side of the Coin

So far, you may make think CBD is a promising treatment for ADHD. While this may be true, it is important to consider that there are two sides to every story.

It’s been shown that CBD, in regards to the treatment of ADHD showed that the cannabinoid provided no significant improvement on cognitive function and symptom reduction. Also, it only showed  a nominal improvement in impulsivity and hyperactivity. Researchers were unable to draw a conclusion and thought this may have been due to subjects not taking recommended dosage amounts.

Another study showed poor cognitive function in young adults who began using cannabis before the age of 16. These individuals showed poor performance in memory skills, decision making and recall. Researchers feel the subjects may have been at higher risk for neuropsychological deficits because their brains were still developing while they were using.

Other concerns arise in relation to self medicating.

Because CBD is not clinically proven to aid with ADHD, it is likely a doctor will not recommend it. This leaves those affected to decide on their own dosage amounts and what forms and strains of cannabis they should use. All this can create unpleasant side effects or ineffective treatment.

There may be other reasons why CBD is not right for you. It may not be the best treatment for your condition or worse, it may be likely to interact with other medications you are taking. That’s why it’s best to ask a doctor before proceeding with any type of medication, natural or otherwise.

diagnosing adhd

Finally, some feel that CBD could be a gateway drug to THC.

Children that begin using at a young age might feel like all cannabis is okay and they may have trouble distinguishing between the CBD and THC. However, THC can have adverse effects making symptoms of ADHD worse. This is a strong reason why it may be best for those with ADHD to stay away from cannabis altogether.

With pros and cons on both sides, there seems to be no clear answer as to whether CBD can be recommended as an effective treatment for ADHD. Those that are desperate to find something to relieve their symptoms are advised to talk to a doctor before proceeding. Hopefully future research will give us a clearer view on the power of CBD helping aid ADHD.


1 comment

  1. Rick Jonie 21 October, 2019 at 15:52 Reply

    Thank you for sharing this insightful article! I think I might try to use some CBD lotions on my children or have them apply it whenever they want.

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