CBD Oil for ADHD: Does It Work and Is It Safe?

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You might have noticed the recent buzz surrounding CBD oil—whether that’s a friend raving about the treatment or natural grocery stores stocking their shelves with the product. While it is becoming a popular alternative treatment for conditions like anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), how safe is CBD oil? And does it even work to relieve symptoms of various disorders?

Before we can explore those questions, we need to understand what CBD is. CBD or Cannabidiol oil is a product of the marijuana plant which is part of the plant species cannabis.  For CBD oil, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound that provides the euphoric high, is removed, therefore CBD is not a psychoactive drug. CBD comes in a variety of forms such as an oil, tincture, edible, and CBD isolate—a crystalline solid or powder made of almost 100 percent pure CBD. 

Some of CBD oil’s major proponents claim it can be used to help manage ADHD and alleviate symptoms associated with the disorder like anxiety. However, the research is limited and relatively new regarding its impact on ADHD. More research is present relating to CBD oil and its effects on epilepsy and anxiety. 

What Research Says

A study published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology in 2017 gave a trial cannabinoid medication to a small sample of 30 adults with ADHD. The participants’ symptoms and cognitive performance were then assessed using a series of standardized tests. The researchers classified their results as inconclusive given there was an insignificant improvement in symptom reduction and mental performance and a slight improvement for impulsivity and hyperactivity. The authors noted, however, that “this study provides preliminary evidence supporting the self-medication theory of cannabis use in ADHD and the need for further studies of the endocannabinoid system in ADHD.”

In 2015, German researchers studied the effects of CBD and THC on individuals with attention deficit disorder (ADD). The sample was, again, small, with only 30 participants, but all of the patients reported better sleep and concentration and reduced impulsivity when using cannabis. 

A 2013 study on the subtypes of ADHD and cannabis use in the journal Substance Use & Misuse analyzed information from more than 2,000 cannabis users. The researchers found that when cannabis users did not have their daily intake they reported hyperactive-impulsive symptoms. 

While these studies may indicate possible benefits for ADHD patients, more research needs to be done in order to fully understand CBD’s relationship to ADHD. Unfortunately, the stigma associated with CBD as an illegal drug (it still isn’t legal on the federal level) makes it difficult to conduct further research. 

How CBD Works

When consumed, CBD oil interacts with cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) and type 2 (CB2). CB1 is associated with brain activity and epilepsy while CB2 deals with pain and inflammation. The compounds in CBD encourage your body to then use these cannabinoids naturally, leading to benefits such as reduced anxiety and hyperactivity. 

Is CBD Safe?

ADHD is typically treated using a combination of pharmaceutical medications and ADHD therapy. Behavioral therapy for ADHD can help alleviate symptoms, especially when used with medication. However, these medications can cause side effects like:

  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Headache
  • Mood changes

CBD oil does not have any dangerous side effects and is usually tolerated well in large doses. Yet that doesn’t mean no side effects exist. CBD oil users may experience nausea, fatigue, and appetite changes. Starting with a lower dose can help minimize the chance of side effects. It is recommended to check with your medical professional before taking CBD oil and make sure you know the product’s source and ingredients.