Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurological syndrome characterized by hyperactivity, distractibility, and a tendency towards impulsivity. Roughly 5% of Australian children are diagnosed with ADHD; most will outgrow their symptoms but for some they will continue through adolescence and adulthood.
Cannabinoid therapy has been shown to improve mood and anxiety as well as curtail hyperactivity. Specifically, cannabidiol (CBD) has anxiolytic and neuromodulatory properties which are thought to provide symptomatic relief from ADHD.
This image is a simplification for website aesthetics only. For more information please refer to the clinical studies referenced below.
Specific benefits of Endocannabinoid Activation with Cannabidiol
An anxiolytic is a medication or other intervention that is used to control anxiety. The endocannabinoid system is a proven regulator of mood and cognition. Additionally, CBD mimics natural serotonin in its ability to bind to some of the same receptors, most importantly the 5HT1A receptor. Agonists of this receptor has been shown to improve mood and reduce anxiety and depression.
Endocannabinoids are synthesised and released on demand from the postsynaptic neuron in order to mediate the “firing” of neurotransmitters across the synaptic cleft. This retrograde signalling is characteristic of the endocannabinoid system’s modulatory role in maintaining homeostasis.
Patients with ADHD often exhibit a dopamine deficiency. Cannabinoids have been shown to indirectly increase dopamine by blocking the action of another neurotransmitter called GABA. GABA acts to dampen the amount of dopamine released in the nucleus accumbens. When GABA is blocked by cannabinoids however, the result is an increase in the amount of dopamine released.
Conventional ADHD treatment usually includes behavioral therapy and emotional counseling combined with sympathominetic medications (drugs that stimulate the sympathetic nervous system), such as methyphenidate hydrochloride (Ritalin) or dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), Atomoxetine (Strattera), amphetamine mixture (Adderal) or long-acting methylphenidate (e.g., Metadate LD, Concert and Ritalin), that oftentimes make the ADHD patient far more manageable. Unfortunately these medications have many unacceptable side effects such as
- Sleep Problems
- Reduced Appetite
- Delayed Growth
- Stomach Pains
- Mood Swings
Based on the available literature, CBD is not likely to produce significant adverse effects over the short or long term.
Campos, A. C., Moreira, F. A., Gomes, F. V., Del Bel, E. A., & Guimaraes, F. S. (2012). Multiple mechanisms involved in the large-spectrum therapeutic potential of cannabidiol in psychiatric disorders. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 367(1607), 3364-3378.
Crippa, J. A. S., Derenusson, G. N., Ferrari, T. B., Wichert-Ana, L., Duran, F. L., Martin-Santos, R., … & Hallak, J. E. C. (2011). Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report.Journal of Psychopharmacology, 25(1), 121-130.
Lu, A. T., Ogdie, M. N., Jarvelin, M. R., Moilanen, I. K., Loo, S. K., McCracken, J. T., … & Smalley, S. L. (2008). Association of the cannabinoid receptor gene (CNR1) with ADHD and post-traumatic stress disorder. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, 147(8), 1488-1494.
Schier, A. R. D. M., Ribeiro, N. P. D. O., Hallak, J. E. C., Crippa, J. A. S., Nardi, A. E., & Zuardi, A. W. (2012). Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an anxiolytic drug. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria, 34, 104-110.