CAN HEMP OIL HELP TO RELIEVE THE SYMPTOMS OF ADHD?
What is ADHD
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a medical condition that predominantly first gets diagnosed in children, but which can also affect people well into adulthood. A child with ADHD has differences in the way in which their brain develops, where the resulting pattern of brain activity affects the person’s ability to sustain attention and/or exert self control. This often leads to an inability to sit still, concentrate on single tasks for longer periods of time, impulsivity, and in some cases even affect cognitive functioning 1, 2.
Depending on which symptoms are most prominent as well as the severity thereof, ADHD is classified into three main types.
Types of ADHD
People diagnosed with inattentive type ADHD (previously referred to as attention deficit disorder or ADD) predominantly suffer from an inability to focus on tasks or conversations for prolonged periods of time and is easily distracted. The main differentiating factor between this and other types as that inattentive lack the hyperactivity and impulsivity associated with other types.
These individuals are characterised by displaying what is thought of the “typical” symptoms of ADHD - and inability to stay still combined with impulsive behaviours that are often disruptive and sometimes harmful. Hyperactives/Impulsives always seem to be on-the-go, tend to talk excessively, and tend to be socially interruptive.
As is suggested in the name, people diagnosed with combined type ADHD, display symptoms of both of the other types.
Dopamine Model of ADHD
Although the exact mechanisms underlying ADHD is not understood exactly, we do know that it is a multi-factorial condition that involves genetics, neurobiological issues, as well as environmental factors. Currently, the most popular model with the largest body of evidence supporting it, is the Dopamine Model of ADHD. Dopamine is responsible for regulating emotional responses, decision making, and taking action towards a specific goal or reward. In other words, dopamine controls pleasure, reward and control systems within the brain.
Scientists observed that ADHD patients produce lower levels of dopamine, in addition to presenting with cortico-structural differences such as a reduced amount of dopamine receptors, and a larger amount of dopamine transporters (something called dopamine transporter density or DTD) in the limbic system. Dopamine transporters block the ability of dopamine receptors to take up dopamine, preventing it from moving between cells, and thus lessening the effects of dopamine. And it seems to be this concomitant pattern of lower dopamine release, fewer dopamine receptors and high DTD that produce the majority of ADHD symptoms 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
The Endocannabinoid System, Cannabinoids & ADHD
The Role of Endocannabinoids & Cannabinoids in Dopamine Release
It is no secret that many adolescents and adults have turned to cannabis in an attempt to self medicate. A 2016 qualitative analysis of 55 separate ADHD forum threads estimates that up to 25% of posters experienced therapeutic benefits from using cannabis to treat their symptoms 8.
The reason for this can be found in the fact that their seems to be a cross-talk between the dopaminergic system and endocannabinoid system, whereby the endocannabinoids anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG) block the action of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is primarily responsible for reducing neuronal excitability and inhibiting dopamine release. So, when cannabinoids block the release of GABA, the levels of dopamine in the brain automatically increase, and dopamine uptake can resume normally.
This makes cannabinoids unique in the spectrum of treatment options for people with ADHD. By increasing the availability of dopamine by blocking GABA, cannabinoids have the same effect as stimulants like methylphenidate (Ritalin) and dexedrine amphetamine but without the nasty side-effects such as insomnia, jitters, and dopamine “burn-out”. This is because, unlike stimulants which over-excite the dopaminergic system in an attempt to shock it into pumping out more dopamine, cannabinoids allow for dopamine release to occur normally by blocking GABAand in turn allowing for an increased ability to absorb dopamine and creating a natural balance within the dopaminergic system.
Cannabinoids & Symptom Relief
However, not only is the endocannabinoid system implicated with the regulation of dopaminergic system and directly helping to restore homeostasis within the dopaminergic system, but recent evidence also shows that the introduction of cannabinoids into the body helps to support the endocannabinoid system in such a way that it directly aids in decreasing the physical and behavioural symptoms of hyperactivity 9, 10. Research shows that an increase in CB1 receptor activity, induced either by stimulating endocannabinoid production or by introducing cannabinoids to the body, are associated with lowered levels of physical activity 11.
Moreover, further evidence suggests that cannabinoids can help people with ADHD in other ways as well: Firstly by helping to relieve other issues that present themselves along with ADHD symptoms, as well as helping to mitigate many of the side-effects of pharmaceutical treatments.
Many people suffering from ADHD present with a co-morbid cluster of other psychological and physiological issues. Anxiety and depression are extremely prevalent amongst people with ADHD 12 with others suffering from tic disorders as well as both fine and gross motor difficulties 13. Cannabinoids such as CBD have been shown to significantly help with treating the symptoms of anxiety and depression 14. Similarly, tic disorders have long been shown to also improve significantly when introducing cannabinoids based treatments 15, 16while also showing to be helpful in controlling motor function 11.
In addition, for people suffering from adverse side-effects that result from the use pharmaceutical treatments, cannabinoids can be extremely helpful in relieving many of the side effects such as insomnia, and nausea 17, 18.
The uses of cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) for helping to relieve the symptoms of ADHD, can roughly be classed in three ways:
Although research into the use of cannabis as a treatment option for ADHD is in its infancy, there is an increasing body of scientific evidence showing that cannabinoids can be a valuable complementary, if not primary treatment option for people suffering from the symptoms associated with ADHD.