Research about the consequences and effectiveness of using marijuana to treat children, teens, and young adults is mixed.
A person with ADHD may find it hard to focus on tasks, and they may be fidgety, restless, and unable to stay still or quiet. ADHD can lead to problems in relationships and in academic work, despite normal intellectual abilities.
Scientists think that the condition may stem from a lack of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex region of the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that transmits signals between nerve cells in the brain. Dopamine affects the thought processes, such as memory and attention.
ADHD and marijuana
ADHD drugs help to correct dopamine levels in the same way that marijuana may help. Use of the drug is controversial and highly debated.
Treatments for ADHD usually involve stimulant medications, such as Ritalin or Adderall that are prescribed by doctors. These medications help correct the dopamine levels, but they may have unpleasant side effects.
To avoid these adverse effects, some people with ADHD use marijuana as a treatment option. In theory, this is viable, as it has the same effect on dopamine levels as prescription medications.
Marijuana is one of the most commonly used recreational drugs in the United States. It is popular among younger adults. Most people smoke or eat the plant in order to produce a "high."
Supporters of marijuana often claim it is a safe drug and there is no risk of addiction. Opponents call it a "gateway drug," and say that it is more dangerous than some believe.
In more recent years, marijuana has made news as an alternative treatment for a variety of health conditions, including pain and mental health problems. However, its safety and effectiveness have not been fully confirmed, and its use remains controversial.
In a study of 268 separate online discussion threads, 25 percent of people said they believed that marijuana was useful. The researchers point out, however, that research proving a connection between marijuana and positive therapeutic outcomes is limited.
Other limited studies have suggested that marijuana would improve cognitive ability and impulse control, so it may be useful for ADHD.
Other research shows that marijuana use had no effect on cognitive abilities, or possibly made them worse, particularly if an individual started using it at a younger age. Some evidence suggests that potential side effects may make it hazardous.
Supporters point out that marijuana has similar effects to conventional medication in restoring balance to dopamine levels in the brain.
On this basis, they suggest that because people with ADHD do not experience any adverse effects, marijuana is better for treating ADHD than traditional medications with known side effects.
Is medical marijuana available for ADHD?
People who use marijuana as a treatment for ADHD often self-medicate, which means the marijuana is not recommended or prescribed by a doctor.
The evidence for medical professionals to recommend or prescribe marijuana as a treatment for ADHD is not sufficiently compelling, in most cases.
Proponents of medical marijuana hope that research will eventually prove it to be an effective and safe treatment for ADHD.
Young people with ADHD may be more likely than the general population to use recreational drugs, including marijuana. It has not been conclusively proven that the drug will help alleviate the symptoms of the condition, however.
Some research suggests that long-term use of marijuana may lead to anxiety and depression, although this is often debated.
Some research suggests there are long term, negative effects to using marijuana.
These include the following:
- Impacting negatively on cognitive development in children and adolescents
- Increasing depression, anxiety, psychosis, and other mood disorders
- Negatively affecting intelligence
- Causing problems with attention, learning, memory, and other brain functions
It has also been reported that substance use disorders often occur with ADHD. Because of these effects, people with ADHD should be cautious about using marijuana.
More research is needed to prove the safety and efficacy of marijuana before it can be safely considered as a treatment for ADHD.
Can children with ADHD be treated with medical marijuana?
Mounting evidence suggests that potential side effects from using marijuana are worse in children, and that they may outweigh any potential benefits.
A child's brain is not yet fully developed. Using marijuana may hinder their neurological development, leading to adverse cognitive effects.
Children and teens who use marijuana may also be more likely to use other drugs
Some people defend the use of marijuana in children with ADHD, based on anecdotal evidence from their personal experience. They may have observed a child or adolescent responding well, with a reduction of ADHD symptoms.
But even if individuals see good results, wider evidence is needed to confirm that marijuana is safe for children and adults to use. Until then, treating children with marijuana will be risky.
Does marijuana interact with available ADHD treatments?
Marijuana may interact with other available treatments, but some people claim that it can enhance or eliminate the need for traditional medications.
At this point, researchers are unable to conclude that marijuana has a positive or negative effect on people with ADHD, and especially children.
Future studies may prove that marijuana alleviates symptoms, but more research is needed before marijuana can be used as a treatment for ADHD.