Can Marijuana Treat ADHD?
Marijuana is sometimes used as a self-treatment by individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Advocates for marijuana as an ADHD treatment say the drug can help people with the disorder handle some of the more severe symptoms. These include agitation, irritability, and lack of restraint.
They also say that marijuana has fewer side effects than traditional ADHD medications.
Read more about what research has discovered about the use of marijuana in individuals with ADHD.
Laws and research
Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. Each year, more U.S. states have passed laws allowing the sale of marijuana for medical purposes. Some states have legalized it for recreational purposes, too. Many states still outlaw any use of marijuana. At the same time, research into the effects of the drug on health conditions and diseases has increased. This includes research on marijuana use in individuals who’ve been diagnosed with ADHD.
Online health forums are filled with comments from people saying they use marijuana to treat symptoms of ADHD.
Likewise, individuals who identify as having ADHD say they have few or no additional issues with marijuana use. But they aren’t presenting the research on adolescent use of marijuana. There are concerns for the developing brain’s learning and memory.
“Many adolescents and adults with ADHD are convinced that cannabis does help them and has fewer side effects [than ADHD medications],” says Jack McCue, MD, FACP, an author, physician, and emeritus professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “It may be that they, not their doctors, are correct.”
Dr. McCue says he’s seen patients who report classic marijuana use effects and benefits. They report intoxication (or being “high”), appetite stimulation, help with sleeping or anxiety, and pain relief, for example.
Dr. McCue says these people sometimes report effects that are often seen with typical ADHD treatments, too.
“The limited research on what patients say cannabis does for ADHD symptoms indicates that it is most helpful for hyperactivity and impulsivity. It may be less helpful for inattentiveness,” Dr. McCue says.
Research in 2016 analyzed some of these online threads or forums. Of the 286 threads the researchers reviewed, 25 percent of posts were from individuals who reported that cannabis use was therapeutic.
Only 8 percent of posts reported negative effects, 5 percent found both benefits and harmful effects, and 2 percent said using marijuana had no effect on their symptoms.
It’s important to remember that these forums and comments aren’t clinically significant. They’re also not evidence-based research. That means they shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. Talk with your doctor first.
“There are descriptive accounts and demographic surveys that report that individuals with ADHD describe marijuana as being helpful in managing inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity,” says Elizabeth Evans, MD, psychiatrist and assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center.
However, Dr. Evans adds, “while there certainly may be individuals who experience benefit in their symptoms of ADHD, or those who are not adversely impacted by marijuana, there is not sufficient evidence that marijuana is a safe or effective substance to treat ADHD.”
Cannabidiol (CBD) is also promoted as a helpful treatment for individuals with ADHD.
CBD is found in marijuana and hemp. Unlike marijuana, CBD doesn’t contain the psychoactive element tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). That means CBD doesn’t produce a “high” the way marijuana does.
CBD is promoted by some as a possible treatment for ADHD. Dr. McCue says that’s because of “anti-anxiety, antipsychotic effects of CBD.”
However, “the lack of a potential paradoxical benefit from the stimulating effects of THC make CBD theoretically less attractive,” he says.
Dr. Evans adds, “There are no large-scale clinical trials looking at CBD for ADHD. It is not considered an evidence-based treatment for ADHD at this time.”
Some people with ADHD report that they find therapeutic benefit from using marijuana. Despite these anecdotal stories, research doesn't support marijuana, or CBD, as a treatment for ADHD. Who's right?
Adderall and Weed: Learn More About the Combo
A way to level up, or a dangerous drug cocktail? There’s lots of enthusiasm and skepticism out there about the weed and Adderall, aka “weederall,” combination, and plenty of misleading and concern-trolling information about taking the two together. And that makes learning actual, useful, credible info about the combo difficult. But don’t worry, we’ve done the digging for you. Depending on who you ask, Adderall and weed are an ideal combo, a perfect pair of stimulant and depressant. Yet others who’ve combined the two have had unpleasant and sometimes distressing experiences involving racing hearts and shallow breathing.
Both experiences are true and possible. Complex drugs lead to complex effects, especially when combined in experimental ways. Everyone’s results will vary, but knowing how and why those effects can be so different is important. So if you’ve ever wanted to learn more about the Adderall and weed combo, read on.
Why Do People Mix Adderall and Weed?
So what’s behind the cannabis and Adderall combination that’s so attractive to the people who consume and take the two drugs?
One major reason is the way that cannabis can help counter some of the more negative side-effects of taking Adderall. Vice versa, some claim Adderall helps keep them alert, focused and feeling more intelligent than they do after consuming THC, that it helps overcome some of the “dumbing down” effects of cannabis.
Another motivating factor is the similarity between the effects of the two drugs. Researchers have only began investigating this relationship, but there are studies suggesting cannabis could replace Adderall prescriptions for some users.
When it comes to studies, however, most researchers have taken a more pessimistic approach toward the weed and Adderall combination. For decades, most studies looked at how ADHD, the prescriptions used to treat it and marijuana interacted. But these studies were geared toward documenting “cannabis use disorder” as part of a broader substance abuse problem linked to prescription drugs. In other words, these studies suggest people mix Adderall and weed because each drug reinforces dependency on the other.
What Are The Combined Effects of Weed and Adderall
The combined effects of weed and Adderall, however, have hardly been studied at all. Most of the information we have on combining them comes from the experiences of the people who have tried it. And according to them, the combined effects vary dramatically.
Generally, though, you can expect the following to happen when you use Adderall and weed in combination.
- Increased Stimulation. Adderall will raise your heart rate, which is something THC can also do, especially if taken in significant quantities. While heart pounding can be a thrilling and exciting experience for some, and shouldn’t pose too much of a risk for people without a heart condition, the intensity can be too much for some and easily tip over into an unpleasant experience.
- Heightened Euphoria. Both THC and Adderall, an amphetamine, increase dopamine levels in the brain, leading to pleasurable, euphoric sensations. Adderall, however, can quickly deplete the brain’s dopamine supply. But THC can reduce the “crash” associated with burnout by stimulating dopamine production and stimulation in the body’s endocannabinoid system.
- Reduced Anxiety. Connected with dopamine production and stimulation, the weed and Adderall combination can reduce some of the side-effects associated with use, like paranoia, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite and irritability.
- Increased Long-Term Health Risks. There’s no known lethal dose of cannabis. You just can’t kill yourself with THC. The same cannot be said for Adderall, however. Adderall also presents a number of long-term health risks and negative effects ranging from panic attacks and mood swings to heart disease, depression and fatigue. And since taking weed and Adderall together can reduce some of the immediate sensations of those side-effects, the combo can actually lead to more Adderall use, increasing long-term risks.
The Dangers of Mixing Adderall and Weed
Most of the information we have on how Adderall and weed interact is anecdotal—the stories people tell about it. So the biggest danger facing those who use the two together is the lack of credible information and hard evidence. Without scientific studies of the two drugs in combination, it’s impossible for users to judge dosage and determine when and how they should take weed and Adderall together. And that means people have to experiment to find what works for them. But experimentation can be risky when it comes to Adderall, even if it’s less so with cannabis.
We just don’t know what, if any impact cannabis has on the effects and side-effects of Adderall use, especially long-term. We just know that Adderall’s long-term effects as a stimulant are more deleterious than THC’s long-term effects. Both are insufficiently understood. But that’s likely to change as barriers to researching cannabis fall and the drug gains more mainstream acceptance and legal recognition. For now, however there’s no sufficient evidence to show that weed and Adderall interact in any particularly dangerous way. And that has led many prescription and non-prescription Adderall users to embrace the two together.
The Benefits of Weed and Adderall Combined
Many people report that mixing Adderall and weed proved beneficial and in their experience, safe. Again, cannabis isn’t likely to make Adderall any riskier than it already is on its own. To the contrary, those who’ve had good experiences mixing both substances say weed helps deal with everything that’s harsh about taking the amphetamine: crashes, irritability, emotional distress. At the very least, combining weed and Adderall is going to present fewer risks than combining Adderall with alcohol or other prescription drugs.
And as research continues, we might learn how cannabis treatments could eventually replace amphetamine treatments for ADD/ADHD. Adderall alone accounts for tens of millions of prescriptions annually, not including its ubiquitous non-prescription use. So perhaps one of the most significant benefits of Adderall and weed combined is its potential to reduce Adderall use and dependency.
But that’s the future. In the present, cannabis use can benefit prescription and recreational Adderall users alike by reducing negative side-effects and heightening desirable effects. Whether those benefits ultimately outweigh the risks is something each person has to decide for themselves.
More people are embracing the Adderall and weed combination, but we don't know much about how they really interact.