Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurological disorder that can have a considerable negative impact on the lives of those that suffer with it. This condition causes difficulties with attention spans and managing behavior. People with ADHD often find their minds wandering and can have a hard time sitting still. As a result, many people with ADHD can find themselves having problems at work, school, and in interpersonal relationships. In most cases of ADHD, both adults and children are often treated with a combination of pharmaceutical medications and psychological counseling. Unfortunately many of these patients report feeling unsatisfied with these conventional treatments and frequently cite the many negative side effects as the reason. Accordingly, patients are turning to alternative therapies with medical cannabis (also known as medical marijuana) being one of the most popular. Let’s take a closer look at ADHD, its symptoms, current treatments and their side effects, and how medical cannabis can help to treat the symptoms.
What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) currently affects up to 9 percent of children and 5 percent of adults worldwide. ADHD is usually diagnosed by the age of seven with boys being diagnosed at twice the rate as girls. There have been numerous identified causes of ADHD ranging from genetics to the patient’s environment and developmental issues of the central nervous system. Furthermore, families with mental health histories may be at a higher risk of developing ADHD as are families whose children are exposed to alcohol in utero.
There are three main subclassifications of ADHD which include Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Combined, and Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type. The three main hallmarks of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. When a person has difficulty maintaining attention, it can be difficult for them to stay focused on tasks and their thoughts and behavior patterns are often disorganized. Hyperactivity refers to regularly moving about or fidgeting even when it is not appropriate to do so. Impulsivity denotes cases where the person makes hasty and careless actions or behaviors that could cause potential harm to themselves or other people. These symptoms are a general indicator of the type of ADHD that the patient is experiencing, though it is not uncommon for symptoms to change with time and age.
Seeing as how the symptoms of ADHD can take a negative toll on relationships and overall functioning in the workplace and school, patients can have problems with mental health. Living with these symptoms can lead to feelings of low self esteem, anxiety, and even depression. For example, ADHD symptoms can lead to a person feeling worries about their lack of organizational skills which can lead to performance issues in their workplace. These worries can trigger feelings of anxiety which can compound the problem of clear and rational thinking and, if left untreated, can result in physiological symptoms such as a racing heartbeat, tremors, and excessive sweating. Depression is also a concern for ADHD patients who can at times feel a sense of helplessness and chronic sorrow. When a person with ADHD is experiencing depression they can become overwhelmed with feelings of guilt which only compounds their negative feelings. As a result of depression, patients can have difficulties with sleeping, weight gain or loss, and added difficulty with concentration.
Current Treatments and their Side Effects
The current treatment for ADHD hinges on the combination of behavior modification therapy and psychiatric medications. The dosage amount will depend upon the age of the patient. The two main types of medications prescribed for the treatment of ADHD are methylphenidates and amphetamines. Methylphenidates are usually known by the brand names Ritalin and Concerta and commonly prescribed amphetamines are known by the names Dexedrine and Adderall. Doctors can prescribe these medications alone or in combination with other types of medications. Regrettably, these medications have many known negative side effects such as difficulty sleeping, irritability and moodiness, decrease in appetite, stomach problems, and delays in the growth of children. The long-term side effects of these medications unfortunately include the potential for addiction, heart disease, and seizures. Consequently, many patients and parents of patients with ADHD are turning to medical cannabis as a natural alternative treatment.
How Medical Cannabis Helps
Medical researchers believe that one of the leading causes of ADHD is the brain’s lack of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in regulating memory retrieval, attention, and other important cognitive processes. The medications prescribed by doctors are intended to increase the production of dopamine and boost the patient’s concentration. The chemicals found in medical cannabis known as cannabinoids have been shown to interact with the brain’s ability to regulate dopamine. As in the case of drugs like Ritalin, cannabinoids bind to the neurotransmitters and help to delay the breakdown process. Unlike with Ritalin, however, medical cannabis does not contain the long list of negative side effects. When taken at an appropriate dose and with the correct strain, medical cannabis can help to repair a dopamine deficiency and improve concentration.
In addition to regulating dopamine levels, the cannabinoids found in medical cannabis have the ability to ease many of the unpleasant side effects of conventional ADHD medication. Many patients taking medications such as Ritalin and Adderall can often find themselves with difficulty re after a day of using stimulating medication and find that medical cannabis has the ability to create a relaxing and restorative state of mind and help patients to sleep and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
Unlike with traditional pharmaceutical medications, medical cannabis is unique in its multiple methods of ingestion. This makes it a preferred alternative treatment due to its versatility and practicality. While smoking is not recommended (especially not for children), there are a variety of options available to patients that can be very effective. Tinctures are a popular way to use medical cannabis and allow for reliable dosing. Edibles are another safe and discreet way to take the medicine. For immediate results, vaping is a wonderful alternative to smoking. In addition to the various methods of ingestion, there are multiple strains of medical cannabis available and using the correct strain and dosage are both important for obtaining the best results. It is therefore advised that each patient speak with a reputable medical cannabis practitioner before taking any form of medical cannabis.