Does CBD oil work for ADHD?

  • Research demonstrates that cannabidiol (CBD) may help reduce anxiety, a condition that is often seen concurrently in people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Studies show that CBD helps regulate the “reward” pathway of the dopamine system, which may help improve attention, memory, and mood.
  • Researchers of a study reported that symptoms of hyperactivity and anxiety levels were reduced in most of the participants who took CBD.
  • However, most of the research on CBD and ADHD focuses on cannabis use and not CBD alone.
  • The side effects of CBD for ADHD symptoms may include drowsiness, upset stomach, or changes in weight or appetite.
  • Still, the results from studies on CBD use to manage ADHD symptoms are promising that mainstream medicine should be investigating CBD for ADHD further.

Why People Are Turning to CBD for ADHD

Although more medical research is needed to understand how CBD treatment could help with ADHD, anecdotal evidence has been influential in prompting people with ADHD to turn to hemp products to help their symptoms.

ADHD medications and treatment options typically used to manage symptoms include stimulants, non-stimulants, or anti-depressants.

However, these pharmaceuticals may be accompanied by adverse side effects, including sleeplessness, lack of appetite, and an increased risk of heart, psychiatric, or medication abuse problems.

At least 70 % of children diagnosed with ADHD are being treated with stimulants for their symptoms. However, many popular ADHD medications, like stimulants, have been in short supply, particularly the less-expensive generics.

Other drugs, such as Shire’s Adderall XR and its two authorized generics are in good supply, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

Still, the drug shortages have affected the two main classes of ADHD drugs, methylphenidates and amphetamines, and left many of those with ADHD without medication.

This situation has caused parents to search for alternative methods for treating symptoms of ADHD, and CBD has emerged as one of these alternative products.

While stimulants work well for many people, if another treatment worked as well and induced no side effects, it may be helpful as an add-on.

Much of what experts know about CBD as an ADHD treatment comes from research on cannabis and not CBD as an isolated compound.

Researchers concluded in a report that there is substantial evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults.

Forest Tennant, MD, of Intractable Pain Management, in a report based on his research, suggests that there is a correlation between ADHD and chronic pain.

In a 2013 review conducted by the University at Albany Psychology Department, researchers found that those who used cannabis to manage ADHD symptoms reported symptoms of hyperactivity when not using the substance.

A 2016 study explored the relationship between ADHD, depression, and marijuana use. While the researchers established that some of the participants in the study used marijuana to manage depressive symptoms, its effect on these symptoms was unclear.

There have been no studies specifically investigating the effects of CBD on ADHD. Evidence of CBD’s effectiveness in treating symptoms of ADHD is mostly anecdotal, with people claiming that they feel more focused and less distracted with its use.

Meanwhile, some medical professionals believe in the therapeutic effects of CBD on ADHD.

Dr. David Berger, a pediatrician in Tampa, Florida, frequently suggests CBD to his young patients suffering from symptoms of ADHD. An advocate for the Autism Research Institute, he launched the Wholistic ReLeaf to help qualified patients use medical cannabis as a treatment option.

Berger has seen patients whose ADHD symptoms have improved after using CBD. He said that, although the results are partially a placebo effect, CBD is a much safer treatment than traditional pharmaceutical stimulants.

CBD treatment is also an attractive alternative because patients can stop using it any time without any complications, according to Berger.

He said that stimulant medications and CBD have similar pharmacodynamic properties. Research is still needed to show this.

Joy Neely, who runs a CBD brand in Kansas, also believes in CBD’s potential benefit for ADHD.

Neely found out about CBD while looking for another way for her nephew, who had been smoking marijuana, to treat his ADHD. She also uses CBD to treat her ADHD.

She says that CBD slows things down in hyperactive individuals so that they can focus better. Meanwhile, many of her customers use CBD to replace pharmaceuticals like Ritalin, saying that CBD helps them get off prescription drugs for ADHD.

However, all of these reports are without scientific evidence, and Neely recognizes the challenges caused by the lack of scientific research on CBD. Thus, she and her group continue to work to gain scientific backup for this claim.

To learn more about CBD and, at the same time, help her consumers understand it, she helps them monitor their progress and figure out the doses that work best for them.

Although clinical research surrounding the use of CBD oil to manage ADHD symptoms is far from comprehensive, results from small-scale studies and anecdotal use of CBD point to the fact that mainstream medicine should be investigating CBD for ADHD further.

How CBD Oil Works to Help with ADHD

ADHD does not lead to other psychological or developmental problems. However, according to Mayo Clinic, those with ADHD are more likely than others to also have medical conditions such as anxiety disorders and mood disorders like depression.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a nonpsychoactive constituent in the cannabis plant. It reacts to the endocannabinoid system that exists in the human body to help it utilize its naturally-occurring endocannabinoids more efficiently.

CBD oil engages with two receptors in the body. These cannabinoid receptors type 1 (CB1) and type 2 (CB2), have a direct effect on specific parts of the body.

CB1 is most abundant in the brain and is directly related to epilepsy, while CB2, which is more abundant in the immune system, is connected to pain and inflammation.

Brain receptors are not only responsive to neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine but also chemical messengers outside the body, such as phytocannabinoids (plant cannabinoids) like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or CBD.

According to a study, individuals with ADHD often have lower than healthy levels of dopamine.

In a study, CBD has been shown to regulate the “reward” pathway of the dopamine system, which may enhance cognitive processes such as learning, attention, memory, and mood.

Research demonstrates that CBD possesses anxiety-reducing characteristics and may help those living with ADHD.

It has been hypothesized that CBD activates serotonin receptors in the body and causes the brain to release dopamine. This action is similar to the function of many medications for conditions like anxiety, depression, and ADHD.

Researchers studied the effects of CBD on animal models that were selected for their deficiency in the AMPAR, rendering them a suitable model for hyperactivity disorders such as ADHD.

AMPARs (α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptors) are abundant and widely distributed in the central nervous system, where they facilitate fast communication between neurons or nerve cells.

The researchers of the study found that when CBD is introduced into the hippocampus, the region of the brain in charge of spatial learning and adaptation, CBD reduced manifestations of hyperactivity. This finding suggests that CBD may inhibit hyperactive networks in the hippocampus and other parts of the brain.

Behaviors linked to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can look a lot like ADHD. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fourteen in 100 children with ADHD also have ASD.

Researchers of a study on children with ASD reported the experiences of parents who gave oral CBD oil to their children with ASD and assessed symptoms including self-injury, rage, and hyperactivity.

Self-injury and rage improved in about 36 of the 53 children (ages 4 to 22) who received CBD for about 8 weeks. Symptoms of hyperactivity reduced in more than half of the participants, while anxiety levels lowered in almost half of them.

However, the other participants either did not experience any changes or had negative experiences. Adverse effects were sleeplessness and change in appetite, although they were mild.

In another review, the authors discussed CBD as a treatment for conditions associated with ASD, such as anxiety and behavioral problems. They noted that CBD could help normalize social deficits, improve cognition, and guard against hippocampal cell death.

The authors also emphasized that CBD reduced anxiety levels in both animal and human models when administered at moderate doses of 300 milligrams.

The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for ADHD


  • In a review, CBD has been shown to be well-tolerated at doses of up to 1,500 mg per day.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) says that “CBD is generally well-tolerated, with a good safety profile.”
  • Unlike other ADHD medications like stimulants and nonstimulants, which require a prescription, CBD oil may be purchased without a prescription in locations where they are legally available.


  • Due to several factors, it can take at least 20 minutes to two hours before the effects of CBD can be felt.
  • The side effects of CBD for ADHD symptoms may include drowsiness, upset stomach, or changes in weight or appetite.
  • In one study, CBD-rich cannabis extract was demonstrated to increase the risk of liver toxicity in mice that received high CBD doses.
  • CBD may interact with other supplements, prescription medications, or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.

The CYP450 family of enzymes is responsible for metabolizing several cannabinoids. However, during this process, CBD also impacts how the CYP3A4 enzymes metabolize some medications, as one study shows.

If the drugs are metabolized too fast, there may not be enough of the medication in the system at one time to treat specific health issues or improve health conditions.

If the drugs are metabolized too slowly, there may be more medication in the system at one time than intended, resulting in unwanted or harmful side effects.

  • CBD has not been studied specifically to treat ADHD. Thus, it is best to talk to a doctor before starting a CBD regimen.
  • Due to findings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding vaping or other inhalation methods of CBD and related products, inhalation may not be the safest method to use.

How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for ADHD

Proponents for CBD oil claim that its effects on the body are gentler and possibly effective for ADHD because it is a natural product, made from a plant.

However, the CBD that is synthesized from a hemp plant must go through multiple mechanical and chemical processes to become usable and has little resemblance to the plant from which it started.

The purer the CBD product, the less natural it is. The end product does not exist in a natural form as one cannot chew on a cannabis leaf and receive any benefits from cannabidiol oil.

John Mitchell, Ph.D., researcher and assistant professor at the Duke ADHD Program, reminds CBD oil or cannabis products enthusiasts that there have been no studies showing the effectiveness or safety of CBD products in ADHD management.

On the other hand, Mitchell added, there are well-researched and beneficial non-medication treatment options, like lifestyle adjustments and parent training, that are shown to be effective in managing ADHD symptoms.

Also, CBD products are currently unregulated products, making it challenging for consumers to know whether or not they are actually getting what was being advertised.

Thus, unlike with other prescription pharmaceuticals, it is difficult to determine accurately the CBD dose that comes in every CBD product available in the market.

CBD may have the potential to treat other ailments and disorders, but CBD oil is getting misrepresented, Mitchell said. When people say CBD works for ADHD, this is going way beyond the data.

How to Choose the Right CBD for ADHD

Oral ingestion of CBD is less likely to induce side effects. This method allows CBD oil to be used sublingually, or by taking it in the form of capsules, gummies, or CBD-infused foods and beverages.

However, regardless of the form of CBD product one chooses, careful consideration must be exercised in choosing the best CBD oil for ADHD.

The following factors are essential to ensure the safety and reliability of the CBD products purchased:

  1. Research on the exact legal stipulations applicable to CBD in the area where it would be purchased and used.
  2. Purchase only from legitimate and reliable big brands. Majority of companies that manufacture the best CBD oil products purchase their hemp from farms that are located in California, Texas, Europe, and Colorado.
  3. When buying from an online store, research product reviews. When buying from a physical store or dispensary, check whether the store is authorized by the government to sell CBD.
  4. One important thing to look for in CBD products is certification codes. Several certification authorities approve certain products only after some thorough screening tests.
  5. Compare company claims about their products’ potency with that of the third-party lab reports.
  6. Consulting with a trusted medical professional who is experienced in CBD use is ideal before one purchases his or her first bottle of CBD.

CBD Dosage For ADHD

Although more research is needed, one study recommends that a single 300-mg dose of CBD may be enough to reduce anxiety, a condition that is often seen in people with ADHD. Without more research, there can’t be a recommended dose for ADHD.

Experts advise that if one is new to CBD, starting with the smallest dosage possible is the best course of action. Gradually increasing the dosage allows the body to get used to the oil and reduce the risk of side effects.

How to Take CBD Oil for ADHD

CBD oil for ADHD is typically taken via vaping or consuming through oral ingestion.

Oral ingestion of CBD is considered less likely to cause side effects. The user can put a few drops of the oil under the tongue, take CBD capsules, or consume CBD-infused edibles like gummies, brownies, and CBD-infused beverages like juices, coffee, and weight loss teas.

Meanwhile, inhaling CBD, through smoking or vaping, delivers the compound to the bloodstream more rapidly than other techniques.

However, medical experts are growing increasingly concerned about vaping and whether it is safe.

To date, there are no formal guidelines on how to use CBD oil to treat traditional ADHD symptoms, such as irritability, hyperactivity, and fidgeting.

Understanding CBD

Derived from the plant Cannabis sativa, medical marijuana is one of the longest-established and commonly-used drugs in the world. Of the more than 60 cannabinoids in marijuana, only THC has intoxicating effects.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that marijuana is the most commonly used psychotropic drug in the United States, after alcohol. Marijuana has both short-and long-term effects on the brain, and its use may have a wide range of effects on both physical and mental health.

Marijuana use disorders are often associated with dependence. However, results from a study on medical marijuana users engaged in substance abuse treatment indicate that medical marijuana may not adversely affect positive treatment outcomes.

CBD oil may be derived from either a hemp plant or marijuana plant, although most CBD oil products in the market are hemp-derived. CBD is nonpsychoactive, making it favorable to those who want to experience its health benefits without the ‘high’ induced by THC.

Hemp, which is legally defined as a cannabis plant that has less than 0.3 percent THC, is often referred to as a low THC variety.


The National Institute of Mental Health describes attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a condition characterized by “an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.”

It is typical for people to exhibit some form of inattention, impulsivity, and unfocused motor activity, but for those with ADHD, these behaviors are more severe.

While there is no cure for ADHD, available treatments can help reduce symptoms and improve functioning.

CBD use is becoming increasingly popular as more and more people try it for its health benefits. However, clinical research surrounding the use of CBD to manage ADHD symptoms is far from comprehensive.

Still, results from limited studies and anecdotal use of CBD look promising that mainstream medicine should be investigating CBD for ADHD further.

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