If you, your child, or someone you know has been diagnosed with ADHD, you probably know that it can make everyday life a struggle, or at least mor challenging.
CBD oil has recently become a hot topic when it comes to alternative treatment for a range of symptoms – from acne and anxiety to epilepsy and rheumatism. Many people now believe that CBD oil can also relieve symptoms in both adults and children suffering from ADHD – but is that really true?
In this article, we will describe how CBD oil could possibly replace – or function as a supplement to – common ADHD medications.
What is ADHD and how can CBD oil help?
ADHD is a type of neurological disorder that is diagnosed based on symptoms rather than underlying causes (which we unfortunately do not yet fully understand).
Examples of common symptoms that characterize ADHD:
- Focusing difficulties
- Difficulties to focus on several things at once
- Difficulties to complete projects and tasks
- Avoiding tasks that require a lot of thought effort
- Difficulty to manage stress
- To be disorganized
- Difficult with planning and keeping times
- Mood swings
- Difficulties sleeping
We should also add that ADD also shares several of these symptoms, but differs mainly from ADHD by not including hyperactivity.
ADHD: Dopamine and CBD
ADHD is believed, among other things, to be due to low levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine fulfills important functions in systems that are involved and regulate, among other things, motivation, alertness, attention, joy, enthusiasm and motor skills.
Most ADHD medications have a central stimulant effect by increasing dopamine levels in the brain, leading to increased ability to concentrate, while reducing impulsivity and hyperactivity; A study from 2017 showed that even intake of CBD oil can lead to increased dopamine levels in the brain, and which may explain positive results from a number of ADHD studies where CBD oil has been used.
A small study published in 2016 indicated that the CBD drug Sativex (also containing THC) could possibly help adults, with ADHD, increase their ability to concentrate and reduce their hyperactivity. (Source).
King’s College London then published, in 2017, a study giving CBD to adults with ADHD. The results of the people included in the study were increased concentration and focus, as well as reduced hyperactivity. (source).
A German study, published the same year, also found that intake of CBD (fixed – just like in the study from 2016 – in combination with THC) led to increased concentration and reduced hyperactivity, as well as better sleep. (Source).
A study from 2016 showed that CBD may also help children with ADHD who suffer from anxiety and sleep difficulties. (source).
ADHD: Cortisol and CBD
Studies that have examined stress levels in people with ADHD have shown that cortisol appears to be involved and contribute to certain ADHD symptoms; People with ADHD have been shown to have higher cortisol levels in general, and that their cortisol production can skyrocket just by starting to think about something they feel stressed about. (source).
A 1993 study showed that CBD can reduce cortisol levels in completely healthy individuals (without ADHD) and why there is reason to believe that CBD oil could also help ADHD people suffering from high cortisol levels. (source).
The most common ADHD medications
There are several different ADHD medications. Some are of the methylphenidate type while others are of the amphetamine type, and there are a couple of additional types that are not central stimulants (but which are usually only used when central stimulant drugs for various reasons do not considered appropriate).
Some of the most common ADHD medications are:
- Concerta (methylphenidate)
- Equasym Depot (methylphenidate)
- The drug and Ritalin (methylphenidate)
- Elvanse (amphetamine)
- Attentin (amphetamine)
- Atomoxetine / Strattera (not a stimulant)
- Guanfacin / Intuniv (not a stimulant)
Several of these medications are – unlike CBD oil – unfortunately addictive, and can cause a number of side effects.
Side effects: Medications v.s. CBD
The problem with the ADHD medications available – especially the stimulants – is not that they do not work; Many people who take these medications experience relief from their symptoms. The problem is that the negative side effects are both common and numerous in number.
Some of the most common negative side effects of ADHD medications are:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- High blood pressure
- Bad mood and irritation
The most common negative side effects of using CBD oil, on the other hand, are dry mouth and drowsiness – both of which can usually be remedied by lowering the dose slightly.
CBD Oil: Dosage Guide
How large a dose of CBD oil is needed to alleviate ADHD symptoms is very individual and it is therefore always best to test yourself. We will here go through how you in a safe and systematic way arrive at what works for you, and with some guidelines for approximate recommended doses you can start from.
For both children and adults, we recommend that you consult a doctor before using CBD oil to relieve various ADHD symptoms. In the end, it is up to you to decide what is right for you or your child, but especially if prescription drugs and / or other forms of treatment are already in the picture, it is important that the treating doctor is informed.
NOTE !: Allergy test first (applies to both children and adults):
- Drop a drop of CBD oil on the back of the forearm and wait for about 30 minutes
- If you do not see any signs of a rash, you can continue with a drop in your mouth
- If no side effects occur after about two hours, you can continue with half the recommended dose
- If half of the recommended dose did not lead to any side effects, you can, the next day, increase to a little more than half of the recommended dose
- Then increase the dose in small steps, day by day, until you either reach the recommended dose or until negative side effects (eg drowsiness) start to occur
If you can take the recommended dose without experiencing any allergic reactions or other adverse side effects, it is recommended that you then start by sticking to it for a month. This is because – for some – it can take several weeks of regular use before symptoms are relieved.
You can then increase the dose gradually, month by month, until you no longer feel that increasing the dose leads to any improvements, or that negative side effects have started to occur.
If you or your child has been shown to be allergic to CBD, it could be that it only applies to so-called “full spectrum” CBD, and in that case you can instead test CBD isolate to see if it works better.
Keep a diary where you answer the following questions:
- On a scale of one to ten, how troublesome are my symptoms?
- On a scale of one to ten, how much do I feel about the negative side effects of CBD oil?
- How many hours did I sleep last night?
When the month is over, you add up the respective values (symptoms, side effects and sleep separately) and divide by the number of days in the month so that you get average values for the month.
If you continue with this for a few months, while experimenting with the dose, you will probably begin to see patterns in how different high doses tend to correlate with your symptoms.
Sleep is included because you should not be fooled by positive or negative effects that may depend on how much or how little you slept.
When it comes to recommended dose guidelines, it largely depends on how much you weigh. Dosage also differs depending on whether it is an adult or a child.
Research into using CBD oil to relieve ADHD symptoms is still in its infancy, but so far looks promising. ADHD symptoms are largely related to low dopamine levels and high cortisol levels, respectively; Studies have shown that CBD oil improves both dopamine and cortisol levels, and seems to have a positive effect on a number of ADHD symptoms.