ADHD and the Benefits of Medical Marijuana
ADHD is a disorder of the nervous system that affects anywhere between 3-5% of children and adolescents today. ADHD is characterized by a lack of attention span, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. It can be considered one of the most common childhood neurobehavioral disorders; however, only ten percent (10%) seek medical treatment for their symptoms.
It has been estimated that around 2%-4% of adults in the United States suffer from ADHD, with many adults self-medicating with marijuana to ease their symptoms.
Marijuana has been known to provide ADHD patients with soothing relief from the following symptoms:
- Lack of focus or concentration
- Depression and mood swings
Although many people don’t realize it, medical marijuana to treat ADHD is nothing new. Cannabis has been used as medicine throughout history. The answer is simple – marijuana contains chemicals called cannabinoids which stimulate certain receptors in the brain responsible for keeping you calm. This provides a feeling of relaxation without inducing drowsiness. Although cannabinoids have only recently become popular as a treatment for ADHD/ADD, their use can be traced back centuries.
What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
ADHD is a neurobehavioral disorder that makes it difficult for the person to control their impulses and stay focused. Symptoms include:
- Impulsiveness (acting without thinking)
- Restlessness or hyperactivity
- Frequently shifting from one activity to another
Difficulty paying attention in class, listening carefully, focusing on tasks, or being organized.
Causes of ADHD There are many theories about what causes ADHD, but research has been unable to find a single cause causing all cases of ADHD. Genetics have been found to play a role in some cases of ADHD. It also seems that exposure to lead or other environmental toxins during childhood may be a factor in some cases. Some possible causes that are not related to environmental factors may include:
- Serious head injury or brain damage during birth (ADHD may be more common among children with these conditions)
- Prenatal exposure to nicotine, alcohol, or other sedatives
- Brain tumors or structural problems with the brain.
Symptoms of ADHD
Current diagnostic criteria require that symptoms become apparent before age twelve and continue for at least six months. A thorough evaluation may include all of the following symptoms:
Hyperactivity – this is considered one of the most important features of ADHD. People with ADHD find it difficult to sit still, act restless, move around frequently, squirm in their seat, etc… Oftentimes people also tap their feet, fidget with their hands or play with nearby objects.
Impulsiveness – This is the tendency to act before thinking. ADHD impulsive individuals often experience problems inhibiting inappropriate behaviors and may find it hard to keep themselves under control.
Distractibility – Even outside of hyperactivity this can be a very important part of diagnosing ADHD; children with inattentive ADD are usually not noticed by parents or teachers because they tend to daydream and space out rather than cause problems for others. They seem like they aren’t paying attention when in fact they are trying very hard but just unable to focus on anything long enough for it to stick (this is especially apparent when they do something like try to read); they may also be easily distracted by outside stimuli such as noises, smells, etc…
Inattention – This refers to a child’s inability to focus attention on organizing and completing a task or learning new information.
Problems with Working Memory – this is the part of short-term memory that actively holds multiple pieces of transitory information so the brain can use it while performing tasks. For example, if you were trying to memorize a telephone number and repeat it back without writing it down your working memory would be responsible for holding onto that number long enough for you to dial it. People who have problems with their working memory appear forgetful and disorganized because they keep forgetting things they need to do; many times they’re not even aware of how much they’re forgetting.
Impulsiveness – this is similar to symptoms of ADHD and may be part of the diagnosis for those who have symptoms such as aggression or self-injurious behavior.
Causes of ADHD Symptoms
There are many theories about what causes attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms, however, research has been unable to find a single cause causing all cases. Genetics have been found to play a role in some cases. It also seems that exposure to lead or other environmental toxins during childhood may be a factor in some cases. Some possible causes that are not related to environmental factors include:
Serious head injury or brain damage during birth (ADHD may be more common among children with these conditions) Prenatal exposure to nicotine, alcohol, or other sedatives Brain tumors or structural problems with the brain.
Does Medical Marijuana Help with ADHD Symptoms?
According to a couple of different studies, medical marijuana may help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with ADHD. In one study from 2013, participants were given either 2.5 mg or 5mg doses of Ritalin or marijuana. Participants who received both treatments experienced a 50 percent reduction in their hyperactivity and impulsivity compared to those who only received one treatment. Another study found that concentration levels increased by nearly 75 percent after smoking marijuana compared to only 25 percent for those taking a placebo pill. More research is needed before any strong conclusions can be made, but this may point to medical marijuana as a viable option for attention deficit disorder patients.