CBD Oil and ADHD: What we know so far

CBD Oil and ADHDThere is a growing awareness of what is good for our bodies, what’s bad for them, and what we should be doing to improve our overall health and wellness.  

Many people are starting to seek out the research, examine the data, and determine what options are available to help them get to the physical and mental state they want to achieve. With so much information being spread, it can be difficult to find what’s accurate and true.

The pharmaceutical industry is massive. With the plethora of side effects from so many different prescriptions and medications, more individuals are beginning to look at alternative treatment methods. Herbs, supplements, exercises, vitamins are all getting increasing scrutiny for the true viability of their healing properties.  

This is also true for CBD oil. It has already been proven to be beneficial with severe forms of epilepsy where no other forms of medication succeeded. Now CBD oil use has spread to include a number of other bodily cures and treatments. People are taking it for anxiety, stress, pain relief, opioid addictions, acne, cardiovascular issues, and more. This increased knowledge and awareness have helped to promote a healthier view of CBD and helps to de-stigmatize its use as a successful form of treatment and management. 

The current question now arising is- what can CBD oil do to help alleviate ADHD?  

 

What is CBD oil?

CBD Oil and ADHD

CBD oil is an extracted oil of the cannabidiol compound, taken from the cannabis, or hemp, plant. It is naturally found in hemp and has gained notoriety as people began to understand that CBD oil is not the same as marijuana.

CBD oil was legalized at the federal level in the United States, with the passing of the 2018 Farm Act, and is legal to grow and produce, as long as it contains less than .3% THC. THC is a different compound from CBD; it is THC, not CBD, that causes the euphoric high associated with marijuana. 

THC is a psychoactive compound; CBD is not. There are no mind-altering affects resulting from taking one of the many forms of CBD.  

The cannabidiol oil is made when cannabinoids are extracted from the plants using one of a variety of methods, usually alcohol or CO2 extraction. As hemp is farmed across the United States, shops for selling CBD oil have begun popping up across the states. 

In these shops, sellers might produce stronger or weaker forms of CBD oil, which can be taken in a variety of ways: sublingual drops, topical lotions or creams, and inhalants. As long as the THC remains below .3%, and is not put into food or drink, CBDoil remains legal for purchase and consumption. It’s now even safe to travel from state-to-state with CBD oil.

More information has become readily available regarding CBD oil: what it is, how it’s made, how it’s distributed, where it started, and so forth. To read further, check out this article: CBD- The Science, the Benefits & the Side Effects.

How does CBD oil work?

The human body naturally has an endocannabinoid system. This is an important system that helps the brain function. Our natural endocannabinoid system also assists the endocrine system, immune tissues, the secretion of hormones and is even connected to our ability to handle stress. It also works with the body’s enzymes and receptors. 

When cannabidiol oil enters the body, it interacts with the body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors.  CB1 receptors predominantly affect the brain and neurological system, while CB2 receptors affect the immune system.  

This is why CBD oil is understood to have an impact on such a wealth of body functions, from mood and thinking and emotions, to pain and inflammation, to appetite and movement. Cannabidiol oil interacts with the endocannabinoid system and triggers the body to use more of its cannabinoids, often producing a significant effect on the body. 

 

What is ADHD and how is it usually treated?

CBD Oil and ADHD

ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is identified by the American Psychiatric Association as one of the most common mental health disorders among children. This condition is also found in adults. 

Typically, ADHD symptoms consist of difficulties paying attention or maintaining focus, hyperactivity (a struggling to avoid excessive movement), and sometimes even impulsive behavior. 

Individuals with the condition might have difficulties paying attention, keeping their focus, finishing tasks, meeting deadlines, completing work, or remembering important daily tasks. They may also struggle to appropriately participate in conversations or behave properly in social settings. 

Children might struggle in school, reflecting poor grades and disruptive behavior resulting in as inability to maintain focus on assignments. Hyperactive children might find themselves subjected to reprimands about behavior, because they struggle to sit still in a classroom, need to fidget or move about, or may talk too much in class. 

Adults with ADHD might experience difficulties meeting work deadlines, staying on task with jobs, interruption of tasks or conversations with others, and difficulties working in a typical office-setting.  

Most cases of ADHD are diagnosed in children, as a result of a parent’s, teacher’s, and psychiatrist’s observations. Observation and evaluation of symptoms is the primary diagnosis; there is no blood or other form of medical lab testing to verify a case of ADHD. 

When diagnosing adults, it is important to note that most cases of adult ADHD are left undiagnosed. A review of symptoms and discussions with a medical practitioner are the means by which an adult can get a diagnosis. 

Treatment of ADHD symptoms often consists of medication, in the form of stimulants, such as amphetamines, or non-stimulants, for example atomoxetine. Different individual cases and individual practitioners decide prescriptions based on symptoms and severity. 

However, as is the case with many prescribed medications, there are side effects related to these forms of treatment: decreased appetite, weight loss, headaches and stomachaches, difficulty sleeping, irritability and mood swings. 

For this reason, some will try to treat ADHD with behavioral therapy and by imposing a more structured lifestyle. This might involve specific bedtimes or routines, adhering to a daily schedule, rewarding certain behaviors, and providing strong positive feedback for key behaviors. 

Although the medication approach tends to be more effective, the side effects make many people hesitant to turn in that direction. Unfortunately, behavioral therapy and structured lifestyles bring no guarantee of successful treatment of symptoms. 

For this reason, some are starting to turn to CBD to aid with the symptoms of ADHD. It’s important to take a closer look at finding the connections between CBD oil and ADHD. 

 

Can CBD oil help you focus?

CBD Oil and ADHD

CBD oil has been shown to positively affect responses to stress and anxiety in individuals by alleviating their symptoms. It has also been shown to help improve brain focus. 

When looking at dosage properties and usage recommendations, many sublingual drops recognize on their packaging that while a larger dose might make an individual feel more relaxed and unfocused before bedtime, a smaller dose in the morning can provide a somewhat opposite effect, increasing focus and concentration. 

The experiments specifically examining a scientific connection between ADHD and CBD oil are only just entering the early stages. As of yet, there is little specific evidence to prove that CBD oil affects the symptoms of ADHD. However, it is important to note that individuals personally attest to the effectiveness of the oil, and it seems to change from person to person. 

Some find it worthwhile to begin their own trial run to discover for themselves how CBD oil might help them. It’s important to recognize that one should always consult with a doctor or medical expert prior to beginning any new form of treatment or when they consider dropping any medication. 

The effects on the brain are not a new concept. In addition to experiments on focus and brain function, more common studies have started to reveal potential effects on patients with Alzheimer’s Disease. Although still in the early stages, the fact that CBD might be able to slow or reverse certain symptoms of Alzheimer’s conditions indicates it’s powerful ability to positively strengthen and affect the human brain.

 

Understanding CBD oil and ADHD symptoms

CBD Oil and ADHD

One of the predominant healing factors identified with CBD oil, is its ability to alleviate stress and anxiety. This is one of the indicators supporting its use to lessen ADHD symptoms. When an individual is diagnosed with ADHD, they find themselves in social, work or school situations requiring certain behaviors. They may struggle to behave in that way and, as a result, experience anxieties about their behavior. CBD oil is capable of alleviating their stress, thereby promoting a healthier mental space allowing them to work or learn. 

Decreasing anxiety levels allows an individual to feel more relaxed and calm, thereby reducing hyperactive behaviors like fidgeting or excessive movement.

Individuals with ADHD often experience difficulties sleeping or relaxing, and some traditional medications cause insomnia. With cannabidiol oil, these individuals might find a better sense of energy balance, since one of the effects of the oil is to calm and relax a person. 

The balance that CBD can bring the human body might help with other symptoms of ADHD, such as disorganization and scattered thoughts. Though research is still in its early phases, it shows significant promise. 

How CBD oil works to help with ADHD symptoms

As previously discussed, cannabidiol oil interacts with the body’s own endocannabinoid system, specifically the CB1 and CB2 receptors. The endocannabinoid system helps promote and maintain homeostasis within the body and the mind, through both these receptors.

With ADHD, symptoms like hyperactivity and inattention are often the result of an imbalance of energy and stimulants. Since the receptors in the body work to achieve homeostasis, this is where the potential to aid with ADHD symptoms comes in to play.

It’s not so much that CBD oil has the potential to combat or actually stop the symptoms associated with ADHD. However, its ability to help the body find and maintain balance within itself are part of a more likely explanation. 

Because the information and data is still so new and inconclusive, it’s difficult to say or prove the effectiveness of CBD oil in treating the symptoms of ADHD. Most medical professionals are likely going to recommend that individuals refrain from switching their medications for CBD oil, especially in more severe cases. 

However, there are doctors across the country who have in fact begun recommending CBD oil as a method of treatment to their patients, so it’s not an unheard of practice.

 

Can you use CBD oil on children with ADHD?

CBD Oil and ADHD

First and foremost, it is always essential that any parents considering alternative methods of treatment for their children should always consult with their child’s doctor or pediatrician. 

Studies show that there are significant neurological and cognitive delays in individuals who use cannabis prior to the age of sixteen. Before this, children are still growing, and the brain is still developing.  Subjecting the brain to cannabis before it is significantly and fully developed can be detrimental in the long run.

It is again important to distinguish between marijuana products and CBD products.  Marijuana contains THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, while CBD contains no mind-altering substances. It’s also important to point out that studies examining the effects of long term CBD use on children are in their early stages, and so there is not yet a definitive answer on questions about the long term impact.

In another sense, legally, yes, parents can give CBD to their children. It is likely their pediatrician or doctor will recommend sticking to the more traditional and proven methods of treatment regarding ADHD. Many experts believe there is still much to learn about ADHD and CBD oil. 

Much of today’s conversation around CBD oil and its usage, comes from the originally controversial case of Charlotte Figi, a young girl who was born with a very severe case of childhood epilepsy. 

Her symptoms were so severe, that at just a few years of age, she was unable to talk or eat and was wheel-chair bound. At the pinnacle of her illness, she was having 300 seizures a week, with many failed treatment attempts behind her.

Desperate, her parents found out about a CBD strain created by Stanley Brothers out of Colorado, with an extremely high CBD content and remarkably low THC content.

Soon after beginning her on a regimen of this oil, Charlotte had no seizures and her cognitive and neurological growth moved forward. The quality of life for her had significantly improved, with no apparent negative side effects. 

Just recently, in 2018, the FDA approved Epidiolex, the only CBD product available by prescription, to treat severe cases of childhood epilepsy. This product significantly boosted the idea of CBD oil being considered a safe method of treatment for children in the right cases.

Though studies have only just begun, CBD as a compound has been around since the early 1900’s. It has been tested and explored since scientists first discovered the ability to separate CBD and THC from one another in their corresponding hemp varietals. 

Research of CBDs effects is still in the early stages for both adults and children. While most of the research clearly supports the impact of CBD on anxiety, stress, and epilepsy, the research is still very raw on connections with ADHD. 

Side effects potentially include: weight loss, fatigue, nausea, irritability, tiredness, and diarrhea. So experts recommend consulting with a professional before starting any new treatment practice.

For these reasons, if an individual chooses to go forward with their child’s treatment, the best method is to start with small doses, and incrementally work up until effects are felt. Be aware of the symptoms and side effects, and closely monitor how the CBD is affecting the child. Always consult with a pediatrician. 

Although there haven’t been many definitive or conclusive studies, some parents have started their children on CBD regimens in place of traditional medicine. 

Some parents have found success for their children, especially academically and behaviorally, while on the oil. However, other parents felt that CBD oil had no effect on their child’s symptoms, and preferred traditional medicines to treat ADHD. Researchers have also begun looking into the impact of CBD on children with autism, to see if it further lessens symptoms of aggression, hyperactivity, and repetitive behaviors.

 

The dangers of using CBD oil in an individual with ADHD

In a majority of cases of individuals using CBD oil, there have been no major negative side effects. This is not to say it is entirely without side effects.

Each person experiences their own individual set of ADHD symptoms. The reason for consulting with doctors about the illness is that not all individuals respond to medications or treatments the same way. Two people with ADHD might experience different reactions to the same medical prescription, one finding relief, the other not.  

The same can be said of CBD oil. How an individual reacts is sometimes their own unique experience and there is no guarantee that two people will experience the same relief.  

Some people who have taken CBD oil, regardless of whether it was for ADHD or not, experience some of the following symptoms:

  •     Nausea or changes in their appetite (some experienced an increase while others experienced a decrease) 
  •     Irritability or swift changes in mood
  •     Fatigue or drowsiness 
  •     Diarrhea
  •     Dry mouth

Some of these effects might coincide with the symptoms of ADHD, to a negative effect. 

Another challenge with CBD oil is in relation to the manufacture of the product. While federal law stipulates that CBD must contain less than .3% THC, it is difficult to regulate the vast amount of CBD products hitting the market.  

There is not one specific uniform dosage or ratio that exists among the federal regulations. So, while manufacturers may indeed stick with the .3% THC requirement, products might not actually contain as much CBD as the buyer thinks.  

The regulations lack specificity on how many milligrams of CBD a single dropper should contain. In one study, it was revealed that around 26% of CBD products on the market contain less CBD than advertised.  

This makes it dosing and finding the effective amount of CBD to take challenging. If directions say half a dropper, or.5mg, that’s not to say every bottle contains the same strength of CBD and delivers the same dose.  

A high concentration of CBD oil might be mixed with a small amount of coconut oil, for example, with a specific set of directions, while a lower concentrated product might have a higher amount of coconut oil and less CBD and no instructions. There is a clear level of inconsistencies on the market.  

This is not to say that CBD oil is dangerous in any way. Studies and personal testamonials have shown there to be very little in the way of side effects or dangers. What’s important is that a buyer know the source, research the source, and question the source, to be able to gather as much information for themselves as possible. 

 

Summary

Although it is being praised for its ability to treat anxiety, stress, and epilepsy, CBD oil does not yet have the proof needed to indicate it’s an effective method of treatment for ADHD.  Studies have begun, and there is promise in those studies. Even in these early stages of research, it has become clear that CBD can potentially assist the brain in a variety of functions and shows promise with conditions like Alzheimer’s.  

As a condition, ADHD occurs in both adults and children. Although there is no lab test to diagnose the condition, symptoms include difficulties with maintaining attention and focus, hyperactivity, the need to fidget or move about, and struggles with completing tasks or finishing jobs. These symptoms often lead to struggles in daily life, whether in work or at school, and can inhibit an individual’s ability to find success in the workplace or in the classroom.  

CBD oil is a hemp-derived extract that contains cannabinoids. When ingested or inhaled, these cannabinoids interact with the body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors, which affect the brain and the immune system, respectively. They work with the body’s own endocannabinoid system, ECS, to help achieve a sense of balance and homeostasis.  

The positive effects of CBD oil have been shown to alleviate stress and anxiety, assist in making it easier to fall and stay asleep, maintain a better sense of balance throughout the day, provide relief from daily pain, and relief from seizures in severe forms of epilepsy. In addition, it is also being investigated as a treatment for cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, ALS, Lupus, Crohn’s disease, and other immune conditions. 

Although the last decades of studies and use have largely indicated that CBD oil is safe for human consumption, challenges arise when the federal regulations mean that there is a lack of consistency from one brand and seller to the next. Federal regulations stipulate that CBD oil can contain no more than .3% THC, but they do not stipulate how much CBD should be in one bottle. 

If someone wants to use CBD oil as a treatment method for ADHD, they should first consult with their medical doctor to ensure it is the right decision for them as with any product we put into our bodies.

Marina Turea

Marina has been calling Chicago home since 2007. She's a world traveler and an avid reader.

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