Article written by
Shanti RyleContent Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurological condition that affects millions in the United States and is known to cause impulsive behavior, hyperactivity, and difficulty focusing. Though there is no conclusive evidence that medical marijuana helps manage ADHD, preliminary research and many anecdotal reports show promising signs that medical cannabis could be used as an alternative to the many prescription ADHD medications on the market.
Specific components in medical marijuana may be more effective than others for managing ADHD symptoms. Per user reports, some of the best strains for ADHD include:
- Jack Herer
- Green Crack
- True OG
- Sour Diesel
Despite the evidence and anecdotal reports, ADHD is not listed as a qualifying condition in states with a medical marijuana program. Those who have ADHD and have comorbidities such as medication overuse (stimulants), anxiety, depression, and insomnia may qualify for medical cannabis in some states.
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How Cannabis Affects ADHD
The impact of cannabis on mental disorders such as ADHD is a complex topic, with many variables involving an individual’s symptoms, metabolism, and physiology. What we do know is that people with ADHD have a higher-than-normal amount of dopamine receptors (i.e., the chemical involved in reward-seeking behavior and well-being) that remove the hormone too quickly and drive individuals to seek rewards more intensely.
In adults, evidence suggests marijuana may be a helpful way to alleviate ADHD symptoms and reduce reliance on prescription medications by boosting dopamine levels. This is possible because of how cannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).
When these compounds interact with the receptors within the ECS, dopamine levels are boosted, and the compulsion for hyperactive behavior is reduced. In fact, one study found that adults who took higher doses of cannabis saw improvement in their symptoms and a reduced dependency on their ADHD medication.
Medical cannabis may also be a helpful tool for avoiding the side effects of ADHD medicines like stimulants which can cause insomnia, headaches, nausea, and heart palpitations. Cannabinoids like CBD and CBN and terpenes like myrcene and beta-caryophyllene can relieve stress and help control hyperactivity or impulsive behavior without these effects.
Additionally, in a 2021 survey study, many people reported cannabis use for acute ADD/ADHD symptoms and to mitigate their current medication’s side effects, allowing them to accomplish their daily tasks.
Best Ways to Use Cannabis for ADHD
The best consumption method for people with ADHD depends entirely on individual needs. For fast-acting cannabis relief, smoking or vaping cannabis flower or extracts provides fast-onset symptom relief, lasting up to two hours.
Conversely, edibles take much longer to kick in (up to 90 minutes) but provide more potent effects at lower doses that last for many hours. Tinctures act as a middle-man method, as the cannabinoids are absorbed via salivatory glands and kick again after the tincture is digested.
How to Dose for ADHD
When exploring medical cannabis as a replacement or complement to ADHD treatment, accurate dosing is paramount. First-time users should start at a lower dose and gradually increase the amount consumed to determine what works best for their needs.
Overconsuming THC can lead to anxiety, paranoia, and increased heart rate, among other unwanted side effects. There’s also a theory that some people with ADD/ADHD may be more sensitive to THC than the average consumer, so starting with smaller doses is crucial.
People with ADHD should also consider cannabis products with a high CBD content and certain terpenes. CBD’s anxiolytic (i.e., anxiety-reducing) and anti-inflammatory properties benefit one’s mental health and can also mitigate the unwanted side effects of THC. Other terpenes like limonene, pinene, and beta-caryophyllene have proven promising to control stress and anxiety while boosting energy and focus.
Best Strains for ADHD
Cannabis products with a full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes may produce heightened therapeutic effects known as “the entourage effect.” It’s important to note that using products with a specific cannabinoid or terpene profile is of greater importance than seeking out a particular strain.
Jack Herer is an award-winning sativa-dominant strain (i.e., cultivar) that reportedly produces a balanced high with cerebral and physical effects appropriate for daytime use. It features a terpene profile with higher levels of terpinolene, which helps to reduce anxiety, and limonene, which produces focus and mental clarity.
Green Crack is reportedly one of the most popular strains for soothing the anxiety and restlessness of ADHD while still promoting focus and concentration. Its beta-caryophyllene and pinene content each help to banish depression and anxiety while motivating users to accomplish daily tasks.
The strain has a THC level between 13%-21%, which is relatively high. People sensitive to THC should dose low and slow or may want to skip this strain to be safe.
Users report that Cinex is an excellent sativa strain for combating the impulsiveness and distraction of ADHD. Its effects are mood-elevating in smaller doses, though the cultivar can cause some anxious thoughts if one overdoes it. Again, those with sensitivity to THC should proceed with caution.
Harlequin is a high-CBD strain with approximately a 2:1 ratio of CBD to THC. This balance allows users to benefit from the entourage effect, with CBD, THC, and the terpenes myrcene and limonene working together to elevate mood and reduce stress levels without too much euphoria.
True OG is one of the only indica strains on this list due to its ability to slow down racing thoughts while allowing consumers to retain focus. According to anecdotal reports, True OG can help calm anxiety while allowing users to continue focusing on daily tasks.
Sour Diesel combines Chemdawg and Super Skunk with higher-than-average THC levels, meaning a little goes a long way. This cultivar’s mix of limonene and myrcene balances energetic focus with the relaxation of racing thoughts and stress. However, dosing too high could lead to adverse side effects like paranoia or heightened anxiety.
Zkittlez is an aromatic cultivar with higher levels of beta-caryophyllene, which interacts with the CB1 receptors in the ECS to soothe anxiety and uplift depressive moods. It’s also a perfect strain to calm down the hyperactive symptoms of ADHD without being too sedating.
The Bottom Line
The best cannabis strains for ADHD vary for each individual, but promising evidence presents a strong case for medical marijuana as an alternative or complementary therapy. Varieties high in limonene, pinene, beta-caryophyllene, myrcene, and moderate levels of THC and CBD seem particularly beneficial, according to anecdotal reports.
It’s important to discuss concerns with a knowledgeable medical marijuana doctor to determine whether you would benefit from acquiring a medical card. Always consult a physician before making changes to your treatment plan.
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