There has been a lot of hype in recent years around cannabidiol (CBD) and whether or not it can be used to treat anxiety, depression, MS, epilepsy and many other debilitating conditions.

CBD as a treatment option is a subject that has been largely studied, and while research is still in the early stages in establishing which cannabis products represent a viable treatment for these conditions, the people who’ve used them claim an overall decrease in symptoms.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved Epidiolex—a drug containing purified CBD—for the treatment of seizures associated with two epilepsy syndromes, making it the first FDA-approved drug that contained a purified drug substance derived from marijuana. Now, with the passage of the 2018 farm bill and the full legalization of industrial hemp, CBD is set to become a nation-wide home remedy.

But what about CBD to treat ADHD?

Before we dive into this subject, let’s look at what CBD is exactly, does it have any real health benefits, and is it even safe?

What is CBD exactly?

Cannabinoids are substances in medical cannabis that act on cells in the body, including the brain. The two main cannabinoids used in medicine are:

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is the component that causes the ‘high’
  • Cannabidiol (CBD) which, while a product of the marijuana (cannabis) plant, does not have any psychoactive effects as the THC has been removed.

CBD comes in a variety of forms, such as capsules, hemp oil, vape oil, pure CBD oil, gummies, tea and other edibles, and it is not physically addictive.

CBD can affect your serotonin levels – a neurotransmitter that helps relay messages from one area of the brain to another –  which is why using CBD might prove to be an effective treatment of certain mood disorders. As CBD becomes more well-known as a natural treatment option and for its therapeutic and medicinal benefits for other ailments and disorders, sufferers of ADHD are eager to try CBD in the hopes that it can help with their condition in a similar way.

It is true that millions of people around the world use CBD regularly without experiencing any medical complications (i.e. it is safe), however, a lack of medical complications does not mean there are no side effects. The side effects of CBD in general are known to be sleepiness, diarrhea, fatigue, dizziness, low blood pressure, and decreased appetite.

Is CBD legal in the United States?

In the United States, CBD’s legal status depends on whether is is derived from marijuana or hemp.

  • CBD derived from marijuana is considered a schedule 1 drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and is therefore illegal.
  • Hemp-derived-CBD is legal for purchase and consumption in all 50 states, however, if you’re considering purchasing it, be very cautious about knowing the source of your CBD as you wouldn’t want to inadvertently break the law.

While the FDA does approve CBD as a supplement for a wide range of medical and psychological conditions, companies are not permitted to market any cannabidiol as a ‘100% guaranteed’ cure for any medical conditions.

CBD to treat ADHD. What does the research say?

Anecdotal evidence and preclinical research suggests that CBD may be helpful for people with ADHD, but so far, there has been no research that can find an irrefutable link between CBD and ADHD symptom relief. There have been a couple of studies but there were no conclusive results.

  • A 2015 study in Germany sought to determine the relationship between cannabis (containing both CBD and the psychoactive THC) and ADD, and it found that all 30 patients studied experienced better sleep, better concentration, and reduced impulsivity. The study did not look at the effects of CBD in isolation.
  • In 2017, a study observing the use of CBD oil in adults suffering from ADHD found that the oil improved some symptoms, but that more studies were needed to confirm its findings.

While the side effects of CBD in general are well-known, there has yet to be a single research study on the possible side effects of CBD on patients with ADHD. Consider also that this is all relatively new and the long-term effects are a mystery.

Why are there so few studies on the effects of CBD in the United States?

As mentioned above, some forms of CBD are considered a schedule 1 drug, and therefore it’s difficult to obtain grants to study a federally illegal drug. Despite the approval of the FDA for the inclusion of CBD in Epidiolex, there have not been any further approvals for the use of CBD in other drugs to treat neurological disorders.

Marijuana has also been perceived negatively for several decades, being thought of as a gateway drug to more extreme drugs and addictions. However, with its legalization in Canada, and use in drugs like Epidiolex, opinions are changing, and the medicinal benefits are becoming more accepted.

Self-medicating CBD for ADHD treatment

As mentioned above, some forms of CBD are considered a schedule 1 drug, and therefore it’s difficult to obtain grants to study a federally illegal drug. Despite the approval of the FDA for the inclusion of CBD in Epidiolex, there have not been any further approvals for the use of CBD in other drugs to treat neurological disorders.

Marijuana has also been perceived negatively for several decades, being thought of as a gateway drug to more extreme drugs and addictions. However, with its legalization in Canada, and use in drugs like Epidiolex, opinions are changing, and the medicinal benefits are becoming more accepted.

Anxiety, a common, undesired symptom of ADHD, has been proven to be reduced with the use of CBD. Often, the mere possibility of relief from anxiety symptoms is enough for many people to consider trying CBD as a treatment for ADHD without any doctors advice or supervision.

With the significant lack of research into the link between CBD and ADHD, there are no documented negative links. This does not mean they do not exist, it simply means they have not yet been formally researched. While there may be patients whose ADHD symptoms improve after adding CBD to their system, there are equally as many who experience no change, or notice their symptoms worsen.

We do not recommend experimenting with CBD as a treatment for ADHD. If you are currently taking medications for the symptoms of ADHD, there is no knowing how the CBD might affect those medications and their effectiveness, and because CBD is packaged and consumed in oils, tinctures, or edibles, each one is absorbed differently by a person’s body

CBD is a natural substance, but that does not necessarily make it safe to use as an ADHD treatment. Without research, clinical trials, or any kind of solid evidence, you might end up achieving the opposite to what you want.

Ultimately, there is no scientific basis from which CBD should be recommended for use as a treatment for ADHD, nor is there any research into products, dosages, side effects etc.  At St Louis Neurotherapy, we firmly believe that neurotherapy – where no substances are introduced to the body – is one of the most effective ways to treat ADHD, but we know that there are various other treatment options available, including medication.