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ADHD & CBD Oil: A Possible Alternative to Stimulants

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a commonly diagnosed condition with a range of behavioral symptoms which include inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

While there are treatment options available for ADHD, they do not work effectively for every person and they do not come without their own risks and side effects. In some cases, individuals taking prescription medications for ADHD may experience high levels of anxiety and sleep disturbances that only serve to compound the condition.

Research into the use of CBD oil for ADHD is in its infancy, but current evidence suggests that CBD may be an effective option, especially considering its calming and relaxing effects.

As cannabis legalization becomes more common and research options expand, we will understand more clearly how CBD works on the endocannabinoid system and all of the ways it may be able to help with ADHD and its many symptoms.

Keep in mind, the information presented on this page is intended to serve only as an informational guide—a starting point of reference—and should never be considered medical advice. You should always speak to your doctor before trying CBD oil.

Benefits Of CBD Oil for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the two most well known and well researched cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. While THC does have some therapeutic benefits, CBD has emerged as the leading option for symptom relief, in part because it does not cause the intoxication associated with THC. In other words, CBD oil will not get you high.

Typical medical treatments for ADHD have their downfalls, limitations, and side effects. CBD oil may offer a better treatment fit without the same side effect risk. If you’re considering adding CBD oil to your current ADHD treatment plan, or are thinking about using it alone, first speak to your doctor and take a look at the following chart.

ADHD Medication Potential Side Effects CBD Oil for ADHD Potential Side Effects of Medication + CBD Oil
Adderall (amphetamine) Nervousness; restlessness; dizziness; agitation; headache; fear; anxiety; tremor; weakness; nausea; insomnia. CBD oil can reduce anxiety and promote sleep which can reduce the symptoms associated with ADHD without the same side effects. There are no known side effects associated with using CBD oil and Adderall but that does not mean they do not exist.  Always consult your doctor before use.
Ritalin (methylphenidate) Nervousness; agitation; anxiety; insomnia; stomach pain; weight loss; nausea; headache; palpitations. CBD oil can reduce anxiety and promote sleep which can reduce the symptoms associated with ADHD without the same side effects. There are no known side effects associated with using CBD oil and Ritalin but that does not mean they do not exist.  Always consult your doctor before use.
Concerta (methylphenidate) Stomach pain; loss of appetite; headache; dry mouth; nausea; insomnia; anxiety. CBD oil can reduce anxiety and promote sleep which can reduce the symptoms associated with ADHD without the same side effects. There are no known side effects associated with using CBD oil and Concerta but that does not mean they do not exist.  Always consult your doctor before use.
Focalin (dexmethylphenidate) Stomach pain; vomiting; heartburn; dry mouth; insomnia; drowsiness; dizziness; nervousness; headache. CBD oil can reduce anxiety and promote sleep which can reduce the symptoms associated with ADHD without the same side effects. There are no known side effects associated with using CBD oil and Focalin but that does not mean they do not exist.  Always consult your doctor before use.
Daytrana (methylphenidate patch) Dizziness; mood swings; insomnia; nausea; vomiting; stomach pain; redness or itching at the application site. CBD oil can reduce anxiety and promote sleep which can reduce the symptoms associated with ADHD without the same side effects. There are no known side effects associated with using CBD oil and Daytrana but that does not mean they do not exist.  Always consult your doctor before use.
Dexedrine or Dextrostat (dextroamphetamine) Nausea; upset stomach; dry mouth; headache; diarrhea; insomnia; nervousness; sweating. CBD oil can reduce anxiety and promote sleep which can reduce the symptoms associated with ADHD without the same side effects. There are no known side effects associated with using CBD oil and Dexedrine or Dextrostat but that does not mean they do not exist.  Always consult your doctor before use.
Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate) Dry mouth; weight loss; loss of appetite; insomnia; increased heart rate; anxiety; irritability; nausea; vomiting; diarrhea; constipation. CBD oil can reduce anxiety and promote sleep which can reduce the symptoms associated with ADHD without the same side effects. There are no known side effects associated with using CBD oil and Vyvanse but that does not mean they do not exist.  Always consult your doctor before use.

Given the side effects that can accompany common ADHD medications, it is no wonder that people are looking for a similar, more natural, solution.

Effectiveness of CBD Oil for ADHD

Cannabidiol oil offers a range of potential benefits for people struggling with ADHD. Here’s a closer look at some of the ways CBD oil may be effective for addressing ADHD symptoms. Note that most of the cited studies were not done in people with ADHD. So while it's plausible that CBD oil can help these people because it addresses common ADHD symptoms, evidence seems to be lacking. This should be made clear here for parents seriously considering CBD for kids.

CBD Oil for Children with ADHD

ADHD is a condition most commonly diagnosed during childhood which can, understandably, complicate the use of CBD oil as a potential treatment.

Given the stigma and legal issues that surround cannabis and cannabis-derived products, there are very few studies that involve children. Despite this limitation, there is evidence to suggest that CBD oil is safe for children to use. In fact, one of the most widely publicized uses for CBD oil is in the treatment of children with epilepsy disorders like Dravet syndrome and Lennox Gastaut syndrome.

Before administering CBD oil to a child, it is essential to consult a pediatrician. By clearly and openly discussing your child’s condition, symptoms, and experiences, you can decide if this is a path you want to take.

More research is necessary to determine if CBD oil can be used to effectively treat conditions like ADHD in children, but given the currently available information, things look promising. For more information on using CBD oil for children with ADHD, check out our article, ADHD and CBD Oil: Is Cannabidiol Safe for Kids?

CBD Oil for Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are not uncommon in adults with ADHD. If an individual is experiencing anxiety directly related to their ADHD, it should disappear with treatment, but if the anxiety exists outside of the ADHD diagnosis, and is due to another condition like generalized anxiety disorder, traditional ADHD treatments could make things worse.

This is due, in part, to the fact that some ADHD medications are stimulants. Stimulants work wonders for treating the attention deficit aspect of ADHD, but they are not particularly helpful when it comes to anxiety.

CBD oil may be able to help relieve the anxiety that is not improved by ADHD prescriptions.

CBD activates a serotonin receptor, called 5-HT1A. This receptor boosts serotonin levels in the brain. Low serotonin is linked to both depression and anxiety. Typically, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are prescribed as a treatment for anxiety, but they come with a list of unpleasant side effects like nausea, insomnia, and decreased libido. Through its actions on the 5-HT1A receptors, CBD is able to act in a similar way to an SSRI without the negative side effects.

A handful of studies have found that CBD oil can reduce the symptoms of generalized anxiety and brain scans have shown that CBD increases cerebral blood flow patterns, which can indicate lower levels of anxiety. In the study referenced above, it looks as though CBD improved symptoms of anxiety by increasing activity in the limbic and paralimbic area of the brain.

CBD Oil for Sleep

Sleep can be hard to come by sometimes, but for people with ADHD, it can be much more difficult, all of the time.

One study that compared adults with sleep disorders like narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia to adults with ADHD found that there is a significant overlap in symptoms. In the end, these findings may be the result of an initial misdiagnosis, or, comorbidity of sleep disorders in adults with ADHD. The study seemed unclear as to whether the results were as a result of similar pathophysiology or inaccuracies in the self-reporting scale.

More studies need to be done to determine exactly how these conditions could be related. Regardless, adults with ADHD report significant levels of daytime sleepiness compared to adults without ADHD.

Unfortunately, the situation isn’t any better for children with ADHD. When children have disturbed sleep patterns, it can not only exacerbate the condition, but can lead to increased levels of daytime sleepiness. Children with ADHD may also have higher incidences of sleep disordered breathing, restless leg syndrome, and periodic limb movement syndrome.

Not only can hyperactiveness make it difficult to turn off and fall asleep at night, but the medications prescribed for ADHD are stimulants and may still be present in the body at bedtime.

CBD oil may present a way to get a better, fuller night’s sleep without the stimulating side effects of traditional ADHD medications. CBD oil can be used to calm anxiety, creating a more peaceful sleep environment. It has also been shown to reduce levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone,” which allows your body and mind to relax more fully when it’s time to hit the hay.

When it comes to restless leg syndrome and involuntary muscle movements, CBD oil can reduce pain, cramping, and spasticity. By increasing levels of dopamine in the brain, CBD oil can reduce involuntary muscle movements, providing a deeper sleep.

Cannabidiol (CBD) works on several different systems and functions to indirectly contribute to a better night’s sleep. And quality sleep can, in turn, reduce the severity of ADHD symptoms.

How to Take CBD Oil for ADHD

Before you consider taking CBD oil, it is important that you consult with your physician. While CBD oil may be relatively safe, it does have the potential to interact with some common medications like antidepressants and antibiotics. There is no need to feel awkward bringing up the subject of CBD oil with your doctor. The more open and honest you can be, the more likely you are to find a solution that works for you.

If you are finding your ADHD symptoms are not improving or you are experiencing anxiety and sleep disruptions, CBD oil may be a viable option.

There are lots of different ways to take CBD oil. The best CBD products for your symptoms will depend largely on your needs and your personal preferences. For fast relief of symptoms, you can consider using a CBD vape or smoking CBD flower. This can be useful when addressing sudden symptoms of anxiety, for example. Because the CBD can be absorbed directly through the lungs, you can feel the effects within minutes. The downside is that the effects do not last for too long, and are often gone within an hour. Another downside is the common risks associated with smoking.

For more regular supplementation, sublingual CBD oil drops and tinctures, CBD edibles like gummies, or capsules are also available. All of these delivery methods are much more discreet than a CBD vape or CBD flower.

Edibles and capsules offer consistent dosing but can take a while to show effects. In these instances, the CBD must be processed through the digestive system and processed by the liver before being absorbed into the bloodstream. Depending on the speed of your metabolism and the amount of food already in your stomach, it can take up to an hour for the effects to set in, but they usually last 4 to 6 hours.

CBD oil drops and tinctures are used sublingually, meaning they are placed and held under the tongue and where the CBD is absorbed. These delivery methods typically show effect within a half hour, and can last from 2 to 4 hours. CBD oil tinctures and drops offer the best dosage control: Because these CBD oils are administered via a dropper, you can control the amount you use right down to a single drop.

Be sure to discuss your needs with your doctor, and together you can determine the best path forward. You may have to try a few formats before you find the right product, or combination of products, for your specific situation.

Because most doctors do not specialize in this area and may not be familiar with the latest research, you might consider consulting with a naturopathic doctor. These individuals may be able to give you a more detailed response to your questions concerning how CBD oil works, the amount you should be taking, and any drug interactions you may experience.

CBD Oil Dosage for ADHD

Unfortunately, there is no universal dose of CBD oil for ADHD. Because no two people are the same, no two people will respond to CBD oil in the same way. Factors like weight and metabolism play a role in determining the correct dosage.

Because of this, we recommend you begin slowly and follow the recommended serving size listed with your product. If the CBD is for a child, you may even consider starting with a fraction of the recommended dose on your CBD product.

If your product does not have a suggested serving size, we have analyzed hundreds of products and come up with the following:

The CBD Oil Review Serving Standard is 25 mg of CBD, taken twice daily

If you are not getting results from this amount, we recommend increasing the serving size by 25 mg every 3 to 4 weeks until you find relief.

For more information about dosage, check out our dosage guide here.

Best CBD Oils For Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

If you’re ready to try CBD oil for ADHD but don’t know where to start, these tips can help. There is no particular brand or product that is the best CBD oil for ADHD, but you can narrow down your search by weeding out the inferior products right away by following these steps:

  • Always read the ingredients list.  A quality CBD oil will be derived from organic hemp and contain only natural ingredients. Most oils will contain CBD and a carrier oil like MCT oil or hemp seed oil. Some CBD oils will also contain terpenes or essential oils for flavoring. If you see artificial or chemical additives, take a pass.
  • Understand the laws.  In states that have legalized recreational and/or medicinal cannabis, you may be able to purchase a full-spectrum CBD oil that contains more than 0.3% THC. If you do not live in one of those states, however, you will only be able to legally purchase a product that contains 0.3% THC or less, or no THC at all. So, if you live in one of the more cannabis restrictive states, opt for a broad-spectrum CBD oil (contains everything in a full-spectrum CBD oil except THC) or a CBD isolate.
  • Read Certificates of Analysis.  Trustworthy CBD brands will get an independent lab to test their extracts and post the results online in a Certificate of Analysis. This analysis will help you verify the THC and CBD concentrations listed on the label while helping you determine exactly what is in the final product, including harmful chemicals and heavy metals.

CBD oil can be a useful tool in combating ADHD and the sleep disturbances and anxiety that come with ADHD treatments. If you are hoping to use CBD oil to treat ADHD, be sure to talk to your doctor first.

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