A neurological disorder that impacts the parts of the brain that help us plan, focus on, and execute tasks, ADHD affects approximately 11 percent of children and almost five percent of adults in the U.S. ADHD symptoms typically show up at an early age, though they can become more noticeable when a child starts school. The average age of an ADHD diagnosis is 7 years old.
ADHD symptoms fall into three sub-types (inattentive, hyperactive, or combined) and can be more difficult to diagnose in girls and adults.
Hyperactive: People with hyperactive ADHD tend to act with little impulse control. They may exhibit symptoms like fidgeting, squirming, and talking at inappropriate times, trouble sitting still, or acting without thinking.
Inattentive: People with the inattentive subtype of ADHD have difficulty focusing, finishing tasks, and following instructions. They are easily distracted and forgetful. They may be characterized as daydreamers–losing track of conversations, work assignments, cell phones, etc. often.
Combined: Combined-type ADHD sufferers display a mixture of all the symptoms described above.
According to the Mayo Clinic, standard treatments for ADHD in adults typically involve medication, education, skills training, and psychological counseling. A combination of these is often the most effective treatment. These treatments can help manage many symptoms of ADHD , but they don’t cure it.
ADHD drugs are thought to help improve symptoms by enhancing and balancing neurotransmitters. Medications used to treat ADHD include stimulants, such as amphetamines or Adderall, and nonstimulants, such as atomoxetine (Strattera) or bupropion (Wellbutrin). Non-stimulants can be used if the side effects from stimulants are too much to handle or if other medical conditions prevent use of stimulants.
While these drugs can effectively improve concentration, they can also cause some serious potential side effects including sleep problems, mood swings, loss of appetite, heart problems, and even suicidal thoughts or actions.
Children with ADHD tend to have more problems focusing and may not grow out of this behavior at the same rate as their peers. The CDC notes that when a child is diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), parents often have concerns about which treatment options to choose. What works best depends on the individual child and the family. It is recommended that parents work closely with others involved in their child’s life—healthcare providers, therapists, teachers, coaches, and other family members.
ADHD is not on the autism spectrum, but the two conditions have some of the same symptoms. And having one of these conditions increases the chances of having the other. In recent years, experts have changed the way they think about how autism and ADHD are related. Sometimes these overlapping symptoms cause a child to be incorrectly diagnosed.
While most ADHD diagnoses occur in childhood, some people aren’t diagnosed until adulthood. ADHD doesn’t start in adulthood, though. While they may not have been recognized or diagnosed, the symptoms were present.
Adults with ADHD often have accompanying disorders such as personality disorders, anxiety disorders, intermittent explosive disorder, learning disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). ADHD symptoms in adults can be mistaken for other mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
Outdoor Exposure: A 2011 study supports the claim that regular exposure to outdoors and green space is a safe and natural treatment that can be used to help people with ADHD.
Behavioral Therapy: Therapy can sometimes be beneficial for children with more severe cases of ADHD. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that behavioral therapy should be the first step in treating ADHD in young children. This approach works on resolving specific problematic behaviors and offers solutions to help prevent them.
More research is needed to determine if cannabis can have benefits for adults with ADHD. Most states with medical cannabis programs do not include ADHD as a qualifying condition for getting a license, but a few such as Oklahoma and Pennyslvania leave the decision up to doctors.
These days, more ADHD patients and parents of children with the condition are curious about whether cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive extract of the cannabis plant, can be beneficial in managing ADHD symptoms.
CBD has shown promise for treating some health experts, and many experts believe its calming effects could help those with ADHD. However, research is still emerging and caution should be used.
There’s little research about the effects of different forms of cannabis for people with ADHD. However, CBD seems to show more promise for treating ADHD, compared to cannabis that contains THC and CBD. Talk to your healthcare provider about your specific situation.
As with all treatment options, you should talk with your physician or medical team to discuss the benefits and potential risks of medical marijuana for treating your ADHD and whether it might be right for you!
Author: Gabrielle Dion Visca
Gabrielle has been writing and editing professionally for the medical and wellness industries for more than 20 years. She’s held positions with The Journal of Pediatrics, Livestrong, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and Patient Pop. She currently writes articles about medical marijuana for Duber Medical, and is the founder of the Ohio cannabis journalism non-profit, MedicateOH.