Can Medical Cannabis be an Excellent Alternative to Adderall for ADHD?

Patients suffering from ADHD have been grappling to find an alternate drug to Adderall that works magic but with fewer side effects. Classified as a Schedule II drug, the same as crack and cocaine, it’s the most commonly used drug for ADHD, with over 77% of users according to research done on university students

The use of CBD, though showing positive outcomes, has been a contentious issue among health practitioners. Rightfully so. 

Since medical experts have to deal with different dynamics that impede the comprehensive research and collaboration with relevant institutions where possible. Here is the deal. 

To understand how medical cannabis marries into the treatment of ADHD,  we’ll have to look at the impact of Adderall on a patient.

What’s ADHD?

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that causes impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and difficulty in focusing. Usually, when a kid is between ages five to six, they should comprehend basic information, learn how to be successful, and focus.

Treatment For ADHD

Some challenges may affect this critical developmental stage; though the cause for ADHD, is unknown; finding on 30 twin studies conducted on Single nucleotide polymorphism identified that 75% of ADHD cases are genetically Instigated

Infographic Created by Author; IMAGE SOURCE  

There has been a gradual increase in ADHD diagnosis from 6.1% in the 1990s to 10% in 2016, estimated to be 6 million kids according to the National Health Interview Survey.

For a positive outcome, the treatment for ADHD should be sought early enough. Some of the drugs and methods for treatment include Stimulant medication, Non-stimulant, occupational therapy, and nutrition supplements.

Stimulant Medication

Stimulant medications are the most common forms of medication, as they target dopamine, the chemical that aids in movements,  emotional responses, and control motivation. In addition, the stimulant is geared towards building communication pathways in the brain, and kids will also learn appropriate skills. 

Meaning that the patient will not need outside stimulation as they’ll be able to focus and learn. Adderall falls under this category and is classified as an amphetamine/dextroamphetamine drug. This drug needs to be taken severally during the day as it lasts between three to six hours.

Side Effects

Stimulant drugs are characterized by a number of side effects, including loss of appetite, insomnia, increased heart rate, personality changes, and blood pressure. In other cases, children, especially teens, tend to abuse the drug.

Abusing Adderall can increase the risk of brain damage and neurotoxicity, which may eventually lead to irreversible psychological and physical complications. Even though Adderall is less toxic, it harbors similar effects and action mechanisms as that of methamphetamine.

Over 73% of University students are prone to abuse this drug, as they use it to enhance cognition and improve alertness, according to a 2014 study. The students use the drug to stay focused and finish academic assignments in due time. In addition, the students prefer Adderall as it’s more easily accessible than marijuana.

Now let’s consider CBD: it sure has several positive qualities. However, marijuana can also lead to an average drop of 15 points in one’s IQ. Hence, experts like Lev Goldentouch (PhD and founder of KeyToStudy) recommend avoiding marijuana before exams and other challenging or competitive exams. 

Impact of Marijuana On ADHD

Image Source: Pexels

The effects of Medical Marijuana are inconclusive, with several medical studies conflicting with each other. In addition, the benefits and impact of CBD work differently for different people and, this makes it hard to get conclusive evidence on its effect on mental health issues.

Though seen as an alternative to stimulant drugs as cannabis increases dopamine levels and is not likely to negatively affect sleep patterns and appetite, there are concerns about its effect primarily on developing brains.

Cannabis may impair the working memory, which is the short-term memory for handling immediate tasks. However, for cannabis to work better, patients are advised to stay off stimulant drugs.

The challenges of getting medical marijuana for patients who portray positive outcomes are prevalent as different states have different diseases that qualify for a marijuana card. This doesn’t alleviate the fact that the use of cannabis for ADHD therapy may be illegal in states where medical marijuana is legalized.

The Future Of CBD for ADHD

Though not medical certified, a qualitative analysis study on online forum discussion indicates that over 25% of medical cannabis users get therapeutic effects on ADHD, however, a limited number of less than 8% that state having harmful experiences.

References: – Mental Health Treatment Resource Since 1996. 2021. ADHD Treatment: Exploring Options for Kids and Adults. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 13 June 2021].

California Highlands Vistas. 2021. What Is Adderall Neurotoxicity and How Can It Be Avoided?. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 13 June 2021].

Drug, A., 2021. Adderall Study Drug | Los Angeles CA | Destination for Teens. [online] Destinations For Teens Mental Health Treatment Center. Available at: <> [Accessed 13 June 2021].

Demontis, D. et al. (2018) “Discovery of the first genome-wide significant risk loci for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder”, Nature Genetics, 51(1), pp. 63-75. doi: 10.1038/s41588-018-0269-7.

ADHD Throughout the Years | CDC (2020). Available at: (Accessed: 14 June 2021).

Lakhan, S. and Kirchgessner, A. (2012) “Prescription stimulants in individuals with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: misuse, cognitive impact, and adverse effects”, Brain and Behavior, 2(5), pp. 661-677. doi: 10.1002/brb3.78.

Mitchell, J. et al. (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. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0156614.

Author’s Bio

Authored by Ashley Stephan who is a graphic designer by day at a stealth startup, and a freelance health writer by night at Her hobbies include swimming, gardening, and binge-watching popular TV shows.

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