Research on how CBD can help children with ADHD and concentration problems is still sparse. Most of what is currently known stems from research on cannabis as a whole. The established benefits of CBD on mental health conditions are encouraging as is the newer research coming out on its effects on behavioral and neurological conditions.
The potential benefits and side effects that are known so far are documented below.
What is ADHD?
ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is one of the most common symptoms of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). It is believed that about 7% of children, mostly males, have ADD. ADHD is characterized by constant movement and fidgeting while other ADD symptoms include poor concentration and impulsivity.
What is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of over 100 active compounds found in the cannabis plant. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant is removed. CBD is then manufactured in various forms like oil, tincture, or gummies.
How does CBD work?
CBD oil engages with two receptors found in the endocannabinoid system of the body. These are called the CB1 and CB2 receptors and they affect specific parts of the body. While CB1 receptors are more abundant in the brain, CB2 is more copious in the immune system. The body does not use any of the compounds found in the oil, but they trigger the body to use the cannabinoids that it produces naturally and effectively to relieve it from a whole range of ailments. These include anxiety, stress, pain and hyperactivity. The effectiveness of CBD on epilepsy has already been proven and for the first time last year, a CBD medication, Epidiolex, was approved for use on rare forms of childhood epilepsy.
Current Research on ADHD
Both cannabis use and ADHD are associated with impaired attention. Many researchers believe that the use of cannabis exacerbates the symptoms of ADHD and of concentration problems.
In a 2015 study, researchers explored the relationship between ADHD, depression and the use of marijuana in undergraduate students. It was established that some students used marijuana to cope with the symptoms of depression; its overall effect on the symptoms was unclear.
Other interesting findings came from a previous study in 2013. The study involved the collection of data from 2,811 cannabis users and explored the relationship between ADHD subtype and cannabis use. Researchers found that those that used cannabis daily reported symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity when not using cannabis. This is an early indication of a link between cannabis and the alleviation of ADHD symptoms.
Clearly, more research is needed to understand CBD and its benefits for those that suffer from ADHD and concentration problems.
ADHD and substance abuse
Researchers have concentrated their studies on ADHD and the risk factor for developing substance use disorder.
A 2014 study assessed 376 undergraduate students on cannabis use and ADHD symptoms. The findings showed that their current and childhood inattention were associated with more severe cannabis use and dependency. It was established that participants that had hyperactive-impulsive behavior as children began to use cannabis at an earlier age than those that didn’t.
In 2017, a separate study of 197 undergraduate students investigated the role of impulsivity in young adults with ADHD and the risk factors for alcohol and drug abuse. In their conclusion, the scientists noted that young people with ADHD were more likely to use illicit drugs and alcohol.
Traditional treatments versus CBD
There are two traditional categories of treatments for ADHD: stimulants and non-stimulants. Both can only be administered by prescription only and their use can only be continued after the child is re-examined regularly by a doctor.
Almost 80% of American children are on stimulant ADHD medication in order to try and address some of their symptoms. Unfortunately, stimulant medications come with many undesired side effects that include: insomnia, poor appetite, weight loss, headaches, mood changes and continual dryness of the mouth.
Non-stimulant medications are considered milder and have fewer side-effects, but these are still possible. Some of these are upset stomach, poor appetite, weight loss, nausea, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, and mood changes.
On the other hand, the side effects of CBD oil are considered minimal and may include an upset stomach and drowsiness. It is well tolerated at doses of up to 1500 mg per day in adults and its effects are felt after 20 minutes to 2 hours after ingestion, depending on the dose.
Since CBD oil is now legally available throughout the US and in many countries around the globe, it can be purchased without a prescription. It is always advisable to get advice from a medical professional on what strength and dose to begin with. Consideration should also be given to what other medications a child may be taking.
How CBD oil can be taken?
With children, the oral ingestion of CBD is recommended. A few drops, placed under the tongue or a CBD infused treat is best. Older children can also use capsules.
There are currently no formal guidelines on how to use CBD for ADHD and concentration problems, so the best is, to start with the smallest dose possible before moving up. This also helps reduce the risks of any side effects.
CBD oil as a treatment for ADHD in children
Even though CBD oil is not a miracle cure, it does have many proven benefits to the skin, stress and anxiety, inflammation, insomnia and as a painkiller. When used correctly CBD oil has no side effects and since it does not have a psychoactive effect, it is safe for children as long as they are monitored by a doctor.
Up until now, most studies have focused on ADHD and the prevention of addiction to its medications and other substances. In one study, the positive reports on CBD and its alleviation of the symptoms of ADHD are encouraging. The new status of CBD in the US is going to spur on the research effort and hopefully, in the near future, there will be more results that will present a clearer picture than the one we have now.