Can CBD Oil Help With ADD, and if So, How?

  • Evidence has demonstrated that CBD may modulate the body’s dopamine system(1). By doing so, CBD may enhance cognitive processes, such as attention, learning, memory, and mood.
  • Research shows that CBD possesses anxiety-reducing and antidepressant properties, which may help manage anxiety and depression – two commonly associated disorders with ADD(2)
  • Anecdotal reports also point toward the efficacy of cannabis usage for ADD(3).
  • Still, substantial scientific evidence is lacking. More research is needed to determine whether or not CBD can help with ADD.

What is ADD?

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a neurodevelopmental syndrome characterized by symptoms of inattention and impulsivity(4)

ADD, now considered an outdated term, has been classified as a subtype of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), where the majority of the symptoms fall under inactivity(5), followed by the inability to relax or concentrate, mind-wandering, and emotional instability(6)

Why People are Turning to CBD Oil for ADD

Millions of people in the US alone have been diagnosed with ADD. A study conducted in 2016 states that about 6.1 million children have been diagnosed with ADD(7). About 60% to 70% of these diagnoses persist in adulthood(8)

Children with ADD can have learning impairments, poor self-esteem, and social dysfunction. Meanwhile, ADD in adults is frequently associated with other psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse(9).

ADD medications include a combination of stimulants (methylphenidates and amphetamines) and anti-stimulants (atomoxetine)(10)

While studies have concluded that these medications produce favorable effects to ADD patients(11), side effects were still present. 

Common side effects include nausea, insomnia, decreased appetite, and increased blood pressure.

One product that has emerged to be a potential alternative treatment for ADD is CBD. Medicinal cannabis has received increased research attention over recent years due to changing global regulatory landscapes. 

While CBD has been reported to be effective in treating physical conditions, much is yet to be studied on its psychiatric effects(12)

Anecdotal evidence also points toward the efficacy of cannabis usage for ADD. Many adult ADD patients, for instance, have used cannabis as a self-medicating coping strategy for their disorder. This evidence was highlighted in a study conducted on ADD/ADHD-related content on online forums(13). These, obviously, do not have strong scientific evidence.

While most evidence has been anecdotal and recent studies have yet to produce conclusive results, they support the need for further studies on the connection between CBD, its effects on the endocannabinoid system, and ADHD/ADD treatment.

How CBD Oil Works to Help with ADD

The human body possesses the endocannabinoid system or ECS, responsible for regulating a wide range of body functions, including pain sensation, immune response, metabolism, and memory. It also impacts sleep, mood, and appetite.

The ECS has two main types of receptors, CB1 and CB2, which signals it to perform its functions. These two receptors are found in specific parts of the human body, each having a particular function in the ECS.

CB1 receptors, mostly located in the central nervous system, play a role in motor regulation, memory processing, appetite, pain sensation, mood, and sleep(14)

CB2 receptors, when triggered, stimulate a response that fights inflammation, reducing pain, and minimizing damage to tissues(15).

The ECS also responds to chemical messengers outside the body, such as phytocannabinoids CBD and THC.

Evidence has demonstrated that CBD modulates the dopamine system, which is responsible for how the brain processes its “stress and reward” system(16)

Scientists have observed that dopamine levels in individuals with ADD differ from those without ADD(17).

By modulating the dopamine system, CBD may enhance cognitive processes, such as attention, learning, memory, and mood.

Researchers have also found evidence that CBD might affect the hippocampus, a part of the brain that houses memory, regenerates nerve cells, and helps improve memory and other cognitive functions(18).

While CBD as an alternative treatment for ADD needs further exploring, there has been a moderately strong connection to using CBD to manage ADD’s symptoms and associated disorders, such as anxiety, depression, anti-social disorder, and substance abuse disorder(19).

Research demonstrates that CBD possesses anxiolytic or anxiety-reducing properties, which may help manage anxiety – a commonly associated disorder with ADD. 

By regulating serotonin, a chemical that influences the brain’s mood, researchers believe that CBD could reduce anxiety and stabilize one’s mood(20).

With these functions, researchers hypothesized that CBD oil could pose as an alternative to pharmaceutical antipsychotic, antidepressant, and anxiolytic drugs.

The Pros and Cons of CBD for ADHD

Pros Cons
Studies have shown that CBD might be beneficial in alleviating ADD symptoms and comorbid disorders. Studies on CBD’s efficacy as a treatment for conditions, such as ADD, are still limited.
CBD has been shown to have a better side effect profile, which may compel patients to comply and adhere to treatment(21). As of writing, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved CBD use on epilepsy via Epidiolex(23).
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that CBD “is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.” CBD may also trigger side effects, such as diarrhea, reduced appetite, fatigue, and drowsiness(24).
In a 2015 article, Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), stated that “CBD is non-addictive”(22) CBD may adversely interact with patients’ medications(25).


Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD is a neurodevelopmental syndrome characterized by symptoms of inattention and impulsivity. 

The majority of its symptoms fall under inactivity, followed by the inability to relax or concentrate, mind-wandering, and emotional instability. It is a disorder that interferes with functioning or development.

Millions of people in the US, mostly children and teenagers, have been diagnosed with ADD. The majority of the diagnosed cases, however, persist throughout adulthood, where it is noted to have comorbidity with other psychological disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.

As of writing, there is still no remedy for ADD. However, available treatments can help reduce symptoms and improve cognitive functions.

Researchers have been studying CBD as an alternative option to help with ADD. While results are promising, more research is needed to achieve comprehensive results.

  1. Renard, J., Norris, C., Rushlow, W. and Laviolette, S., 2017. Neuronal and molecular effects of cannabidiol on the mesolimbic dopamine system: Implications for novel schizophrenia treatments. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 75, pp.157-165.
  2. Schier, A., Ribeiro, N., Coutinho, D., Machado, S., Arias-Carrion, O., Crippa, J., Zuardi, A., Nardi, A. and Silva, A., 2014. Antidepressant-Like and Anxiolytic-Like Effects of Cannabidiol: A Chemical Compound of Cannabis sativa. CNS & Neurological Disorders – Drug Targets, 13(6), pp.953-960.
  3. Mitchell, J., Sweitzer, M., Tunno, A., Kollins, S. and McClernon, F., 2016. “I Use Weed for My ADHD”: A Qualitative Analysis of Online Forum Discussions on Cannabis Use and ADHD. PLOS ONE, 11(5), p.e0156614.
  4. Hergenrather, J., Aviram, J., Vysotski, Y., Campisi-Pinto, S., Lewitus, G. and Meiri, D., 2020. Cannabinoid and Terpenoid Doses are Associated with Adult ADHD Status of Medical Cannabis Patients. Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal, 11(1), p.e0001.
  5. Mayo Clinic. 2020. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) In Children – Symptoms And Causes. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 July 2020].
  6. Cooper, R., Williams, E., Seegobin, S., Tye, C., Kuntsi, J. and Asherson, P., 2016. Cannabinoids in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a randomised-controlled trial. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 26, p.S130.
  7. Danielson, M., Bitsko, R., Ghandour, R., Holbrook, J., Kogan, M. and Blumberg, S., 2018. Prevalence of Parent-Reported ADHD Diagnosis and Associated Treatment Among U.S. Children and Adolescents, 2016. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 47(2), pp.199-212.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Prud’homme, M., Cata, R. and Jutras-Aswad, D., 2015. Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addictive Behaviors: A Systematic Review of the Evidence. Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment, 9, p.SART.S25081.
  10. Diamond, A., 2005. Attention-deficit disorder (attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder without hyperactivity): A neurobiologically and behaviorally distinct disorder from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (with hyperactivity). Development and Psychopathology, 17(03).
  11. Ibid.
  12. Fredriksen, M., Halmøy, A., Faraone, S. and Haavik, J., 2013. Long-term efficacy and safety of treatment with stimulants and atomoxetine in adult ADHD: A review of controlled and naturalistic studies. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 23(6), pp.508-527.
  13. Cumyn, L., French, L. and Hechtman, L., 2009. Comorbidity in Adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 54(10), pp.673-683.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Volkow, N., Hampson, A. and Baler, R., 2017. Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Endocannabinoids and Cannabis at the Intersection of Stress and Reward. Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology, 57(1), pp.285-308.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Leweke FM, Piomelli D, Pahlisch F, et al. Cannabidiol enhances anandamide signaling and alleviates psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. Transl Psychiatry. 2012;2(3):e94. Published 2012 Mar 20. DOI:10.1038/tp.2012.15.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Russo, E., Burnett, A., Hall, B. and Parker, K., 2005. Agonistic Properties of Cannabidiol at 5-HT1a Receptors. Neurochemical Research, 30(8), pp.1037-1043.
  21. Iffland, Kerstin, and Franjo Grotenhermen. “An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies.” Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research 2, no. 1 (2017): 139–54.
  22. NIDA. Researching Marijuana for Therapeutic Purposes: The Potential Promise of Cannabidiol (CBD). National Institute on Drug Abuse website. July 20, 2015. Accessed July 20, 2020.
  23. Commissioner, Office of the. “FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products: Q&A.” Accessed July 20, 2020.
  24. Brent A. Bauer, M.D. “CBD: Safe and Effective?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, December 20, 2018.
  25. Ibid.
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