CBD for ADHD: Can it Help?

WRITTEN by Caleb

 | Last revised

Nov, 2022

Is your child bouncing off the walls, unable to focus in school, or displaying hyperactive behaviour with poor impulse control?

Or perhaps as an adult, you find it difficult to focus on the task at hand, feel disorganised, or perhaps you tend to hyper-focus on specific tasks, but it’s not what you should be doing.

All of these symptoms characterise a neurological condition known as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), which affects 1 in every 20 Australians.

Current treatment options include positive parenting strategies and behavioural therapy with support from health professionals, and in more extreme cases, stimulant-based pharmaceuticals, which are used to control behaviours associated with the condition.

I’ve witnessed first-hand the effects of medications such as Ritalin on people; while it may subdue hyperactive behaviour, it comes with a host of negative side effects. 

What about other natural options, such as CBD? Can this molecule effectively treat ADHD?

The research is limited, but a small cohort of people and doctors are using cannabinoid medicine with some astounding results.

Here’s what you need to know about CBD for ADHD.

What is ADHD?

ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder. It’s one of the most common developmental disorders in children. [1] 

Despite this, ADHD can last well into adulthood.

ADHD can be split into two groups – attention deficit and hyperactive/impulsive – each subtype has specific signs and symptoms, including:

Hyperactive/impulsive ADHD

  • Difficulty staying on task and focusing
  • Disorganisation 
  • Moving constantly, including fidgeting and squirming. 
  • They may talk excessively, especially in situations where it is not appropriate.
  • Displays poor impulse control
  • Difficulty playing quietly 

Inattentive/attention-deficit ADHD

  • Not paying attention leading to careless mistakes
  • Difficulty remaining focussed in class or during reading or conversations
  • Losing things easily
  • Daydreaming
  • Forgetful
  • Trouble listening when spoken to
  • Avoiding tasks such as homework that require a continuous mental effort

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list of symptoms, and there may be some overlap in symptoms.

What causes ADHD?

Despite ADHD being one of the most commonly diagnosed childhood disorders, researchers still aren’t 100% sure what triggers it.

Interestingly, studies show a correlation between the onset of ADHD and a decline in dopamine and norepinephrine, both of which are believed to facilitate normal cognitive processes and learning.

ADHD pharmaceutical medications work by stimulating dopamine production to improve concentration and reduce restlessness. The enormous uptick in ADHD prescriptions demonstrates the prevalence of this condition.

Some other risk factors associated with ADHD diagnosis include:

  • Family history/genetics
  • Food sensitivities to gluten, casein, sugar, food additives and preservatives
  • A poor diet that is high in sugar and refined carbohydrates and low in protein, essential fatty acids and fibre
  • Drug, alcohol and cigarette use during pregnancy
  • Premature birth or oxygen deprivation at birth
  • Heavy metal toxicity, particularly lead
  • Chemical exposure to pesticides
  • Blood sugar dysregulation
  • Early childhood trauma
  • Too much screen time

CBD for ADHD: What the Science Says

CBD may be beneficial for neurodevelopmental conditions, including both ADHD and autism.

As we mentioned above, there’s a link between low dopamine and ADHD.

Given what scientists have discovered about the endocannabinoid system’s (ECS) ability to modulate neurotransmitters such as dopamine, it makes sense that a dysfunctional ECS may also be a contributing factor.

“Dopamine and the ECS are thought to have a bidirectional relationship: while dopamine has been shown to promote endocannabinoid release in the brain striatum, the endocannabinoid system dampens excessive dopamine neuron release by retrogradely releasing endocannabinoids that bind to CB1 receptors.” [2]

Studies suggest CBD helps regulate the reward pathways of our dopamine system. For people with ADHD, this may help improve their attention, memory and focus.[3]

Since CBD is indirectly activating serotonin receptors, it may be causing the brain to release dopamine. If so, this would make CBD similar to how ADHD medications work.

There’s a direct link between ADHD and a low-functioning ECS, and scientists have discovered that CB1 signalling was impaired in rodent models displaying ADHD symptoms.

We know that THC directly activates CB1 receptors throughout the body to produce effects – medicinal or otherwise – part of which is the release of dopamine.

Many people report that cannabis helps manage symptoms; however, maintaining positive results is dosage-dependent.

Small amounts of THC appear to increase dopamine and attenuate symptoms, whereas higher dosages over longer periods seem to reduce the synthesis of this vital neurotransmitter. [11]

ADHD & Anxiety

Often people with ADHD also experience anxiety as part of the condition. Fortunately, CBD’s role in reducing anxiety is well-studied.[4]

In addition to anxiety, a symptom of ADHD is hyperactivity, which CBD may help reduce.[5]

A 2013 review found those using cannabis to manage ADHD symptoms reported higher levels of hyperactivity when not using the substance.[6]

A 2016 study on ADHD, depression and cannabis use found patients finding relief, but it was unclear how.[7]

Is ADHD Related to Autism?

Because of the similarities in behaviours, sometimes ADHD is confused with autism. But this confusion isn’t unwarranted.

According to the Australian government, 7% of people with autism also have ADHD or a learning disability.[8]

Researchers gave children with autism CBD and assessed their symptoms over eight weeks. They specifically looked at self-injury, rage, and hyperactivity.

They found CBD reduced symptoms of hyperactivity in more than half of the participants.

Another study looking at CBD for autism found it helped with behavioural problems and guarded against hippocampus cell death.[9]

While nothing is conclusive, CBD and ADHD look like a good pairing.

A green cannabis juice with two sticks of butter and a bowl of cannabis, on a pink table

What’s the Best Way to Take CBD for ADHD?

How do you take CBD for ADHD? Inhaling is the fastest delivery method. But if this is for your child, you may prefer CBD gummies for ADHD.

Whatever method you choose will determine how much CBD gets into your system. For example, eating CBD gummies means they’ll have to go through your digestive tract, slowing down the absorption and lengthening the onset time.

And depending on your metabolism, you could experience a 12-hour delay in benefits from when you first take CBD.

Inhaling is the fastest delivery method. But if you’re not into smoking, you can always try vaping CBD. Vaping allows the CBD to quickly enter the bloodstream while protecting your lungs against burning plant matter.

Beyond food, smoking and vaping, CBD is available in capsules, tinctures or oils. These products are the most accessible and easily administered and titrated.

When it comes to CBD for ADHD, full-spectrum products are the way to go. Every study we covered demonstrated benefits only when other cannabinoids beyond CBD were present.

You can find full-spectrum CBD products on the Australian green market or by speaking with a trained cannabis clinician or online clinic.

Where to Find Cannabidiol Oil ADHD in Australia?

The legal and most straightforward way is by visiting a cannabis clinic, getting a prescription for medical cannabis, and then visiting a pharmacy to order.

There’s nothing wrong with this method. But the CBD available through legal means remains cost prohibitive for most people.

However, the benefit of going through the medical pathway is access to a wider range of plant medicines that can be tailored to your unique circumstances.

However, many people are also exploring green market options to test the waters with CBD oil.

If you choose to go down this pathway, ensure you do thorough research on any business or product you’re considering.

Anything Else You Should Know about CBD oil and ADHD?

There’s a group of enzymes responsible for metabolising cannabinoids like CBD. However, studies suggest that CBD also impacts how these enzymes metabolise other medications.[10]

So if you or your loved one is already on ADHD medication, it’s highly recommended you speak to a healthcare professional first.

Cannabinoid medicine can be helpful for a range of conditions. Whether you’re dealing with symptoms of ADHD, insomnia, chronic pain, seizures or MS, CBD may be a helpful ally on your healing journey.

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1. N/A, "Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder".
2. Melanie C. Morse, Kari Benson, Kate Flory, "Disruptive Behavior Disorders and Marijuana Use: The Role of Depressive Symptoms".
3. Justine Renard, Christopher Norris, Walter Rushlow, Steven R Laviolette, "Neuronal and molecular effects of cannabidiol on the mesolimbic dopamine system: Implications for novel schizophrenia treatments ".
4. Esther M Blessing, Maria M Steenkamp, Jorge Manzanares, Charles R Marmar, "Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders ".
5. Dana Barchel, Orit Stolar, Tal De-Haan, et al., "Oral Cannabidiol Use in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder to Treat Related Symptoms and Co-morbidities".
6. Mallory Loflin, Mitch Earleywine, Joseph De Leo, Andrea Hobkirk, "Subtypes of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and cannabis use ".
7. Melanie C. Morse, Kari Benson, Kate Flory, "Disruptive Behavior Disorders and Marijuana Use: The Role of Depressive Symptoms".
8. N/A, "Autism in Australia ".
9. Bin Gu, "Cannabidiol provides viable treatment opportunity for multiple neurological pathologies of autism spectrum disorder ".
10. Satoshi Yamaori, Juri Ebisawa, Yoshimi Okushima, "Potent inhibition of human cytochrome P450 3A isoforms by cannabidiol: role of phenolic hydroxyl groups in the resorcinol moiety".
11. Michael A P Bloomfield et al., "The effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol on the dopamine system".


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Disclaimer. While we strive to relay the most factual education available, this shouldn’t replace official medical or legal consultation and recommendation. This is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Happy days.

Hinterland co. Byron Bay, Australia

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