What’s the dynamic between marijuana and ADD/ADHD?
Is there a place in the ADD/ADHD treatment plan for it?
As marijuana slowly becomes legal across the country, more and more ADD/ADHD sufferers are considering it as a possible treatment option for their symptoms. What do we really know about the combination of marijuana and ADD/ADHD?
Marijuana is still illegal in most states, but as it becomes more widely available, research is starting to show possible benefits to its use.
Marijuana use is still a touchy and controversial topic. But at this point, a serious discussion needs to be had about its risks, benefits, and alternatives.
Some believe that the depressant effect of marijuana can be an effective counter to the hyperactivity that ADD/ADHD lends itself to.
Others believe that it is an irresponsible route to take because it lacks enough clinical evidence of effectiveness.
Is there any merit to either of these claims? Is marijuana effective – or harmful – in managing symptoms of ADD/ADHD?
What does the evidence say about marijuana use and ADD/ADHD? Well, simply put, there isn’t a lot of research to pull from at the moment. However, evidence is slowly surfacing and the preliminary findings are optimistic.
Some research is showing that compounds in the marijuana plant work on the brain’s dopamine production. ADD/ADHD brains tend to have lower dopamine levels, and stimulant medications seek to increase dopamine levels as well.
While marijuana and stimulants use different pathways in the brain, they seek to accomplish the same thing.
This may be good news!
If it has the potential for clinical effectiveness, it’s certainly something that warrants more research.
Helpful Tool? Or A Crutch?
Where marijuana use for ADD/ADHD becomes concerning is when we start to examine the motives behind its use. Is it being used properly, or is it being abused?
The impulsivity that is characteristic of ADD/ADHD lends itself towards addictive behaviors of all kinds.
In some cases, rather than finding a sustainable form of relief from their symptoms, ADD/ADHD sufferers report that marijuana ends up being an effective distraction. They use it because life feels out of control and they need a way to cope or escape.
On the other hand, there are others that report that the marijuana use is genuinely helpful in keeping their symptoms at bay.
Some even report that it is the only thing that works. There are also reports that marijuana offsets the unpleasant side effects of their stimulant medication.
So, the real question is: what is your motivation for turning to marijuana? Only you can truly answer that.
Finding Other Options
Too often, undiagnosed ADD/ADHD teens turn to marijuana to “chill out.” They can’t pinpoint what their actual problem is – they just know that they feel out of control and that marijuana makes them feel that they can reclaim some of that control.
The appropriate approach would include a medical diagnosis, and comprehensive treatment plan that may include medication, ADD/ADHD Coaching, therapy and a healthy lifestyle.
Adults can do the same thing. They turn to marijuana simply when they think that they have no other option. They feel that the only way that they can manage their anxiety and impulsivity is through self administered means – including marijuana.
What’s dangerous about self-medicating is that, while research shows some potential benefit, we still do not know proper dosage, recommended frequency of use and long term harmful side effects.
So there may be risks. We don’t know what they all are at this point.
While there isn’t enough solid research to dismiss marijuana use for ADD/ADHD, there isn’t enough to openly promote it yet either. Anecdotal reports from ADD/ADHD sufferers tend to be positive about the effects.
So while we wait for more research to come along, make sure you are aware of the alternatives that are available to you.
A genuine assessment of your motivation for marijuana use would be prudent as well, to make sure you are wanting to use it for all of the right reasons.