By Aaron Oman
The author of this received an ADD diagnosis in their mid-teens and has experienced many of the symptoms, treatments, as well as side effects discussed within into adulthood. Personally prescribed microdosing of sativa Cannabis has shown some effectiveness, through slightly uplifting cognition, and narrowing focus upon specific tasks. A personal recommendation for an excellent uplifting sativa strain is Durban Poison.
Trainyard of cogitation: what is attention deficit disorder?
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) recognized ADD/ADHD as a disorder in 1960 which was formerly referred to as hyperkinetic impulse disorder (1). Attention deficit disorder is a neurological disorder associated with over stimulation or malfunction of the central nervous system. The conditions that incur attention deficit disorder group are likely caused by a dysfunction within the dopamine and neurotransmitter systems (2). For adult diagnosis of attention deficit disorder symptoms must have chronically persisted throughout childhood and into adulthood. The American Psychological Association now affirms in the 4th edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that there are three subtypes of attention deficit disorder; predominantly-inattentive type (ADD), predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type (ADHD), and combined type; these terms have often been used interchangeably which inaccurately depicts our current understanding of ADD/ADHD.
How does attention deficit disorder affect adult patients?
Symptoms may be associated with difficulty in sticking to tasks and a sense of general forgetfulness. They can also be represented by an overarching reluctance to engage in sustained mental activities. Adults with attention deficit disorder may have problems losing objects and could experience feelings of restfulness. They might experience management problems with relationships and management of expenses. Attention deficit disorder patients may zone out in the midst of a conversation and can be easily distracted by disturbances. An overall lack of feeling of control may be present as well as feelings of nervousness and insomnia.
Pharmaceuticals and attention deficit disorder
Some commonly used pharmaceutical treatments include neurological modulators like adrenaline reuptake inhibitors and central nervous system (CNS) stimulants. CNS stimulants are closely related to amphetamine and some of these show a rather large potential for abuse compared to less dangerous drugs. How do some of the popular pharmaceutical treatments for attention deficit disorder differ though, what are their inherent benefits and risks? Methylphenidate: most commonly referred to as Ritalin,
“…is used alone or combined with behavioral treatment as an adjunct to psychological, educational, social, and other remedial measures in the treatment of ADHD (hyperkinetic disorder, hyperkinetic syndrome of childhood, minimal brain dysfunction) in carefully selected children 6 years of age and older…(3).”
Ritalin is thought to have brainstem and cortex excitatory properties which give it the stimulant effects. This is thought to improve cognitive functions in certain clinical settings for example ADD/ADHD. Ritalin can also be prescribed to some adults as well.
Atomoxetine HCL or Strattera is a noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor. It was metaphorically the bane of my developing emotional health for nearly a year in my teens. I would urge any parent to seriously consider the effects Strattera might have on your child, even if it is prescribed by a doctor. My personal experiences with Strattera included nausea, vertigo, hot and cold flashes as well as an overall dumbed-down feeling. Albeit there are claims that “Strattera is indicated for the treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)…(4)”
It’s worth mentioning that Strattera has been implicated in association with thoughts and considerations of suicide, a condition that I was not excluded from while under the influence of this substance.
Lisdexamfetamine or Vyvanse is generally used for treatment for children 6-12 years old and was approved for adult treatment of attention deficit disorder in 2008. Vyvanse “…functions primarily to release dopamine and norepinephrine which are neurotransmitters from nerve storage areas (5).” It has similarities to other amphetamine based treatments like Ritalin though the effects are usually less intense and occur over a longer period of time.
Is microdosing sativa a safer option for treatment of adult ADD/ADHD?
One potential treatment for attention deficit disorder that has surfaced in the last decade, due to it being implicated in modulatory roles of the central nervous system, is Cannabis, though this treatment should absolutely be avoided for children. The CB1 of the endocannabinoid system is being increasingly implicated as a potential target for cannabinoid/attention deficit disorder treatments.
Is Cannabis really a viable and effective treatment option for adults suffering from attention deficit disorder, and what evidence do we have? The research is technically occuring in case studies but is illuminating some promising results.
A 2003 study was published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews titled “Prenatal elevation of endocannabinoids corrects the unbalance between dopamine systems and reduces activity in the Naples High Excitability rats (6).” This might suggest that excitability patterns in neurological processes like ADD/ADHD could potentially be modulated with bioactive compounds found within Cannabis. This remains a postulation, but evidence in support of medical marijuana use is mounting. Cannabis is overtly a non-dangerous substance unlike some of the aforementioned pharmaceutical drugs, and has even been shown to be moderately effective in treatment of attention deficit disorder. It may not be as effective as pharmaceutical treatments and is sometimes used in combination with pharmaceuticals. It usually functions in this combination of drugs adjunctly, meaning it might be prescribed for symptoms that occur due to consumption of drugs like Ritalin or Vyvanse.
Users of Cannabis have reported that it may reduce “jitters” associated with use of pharmaceutical stimulants used to treat attention deficit disorder. Understanding terpene profiles within particular strains of Cannabis may help us improve the effectiveness of it used for treatment of ADD/ADHD in the near future. Using Cannabis strains containing high myrcene in microdoses of >2.5 milligrams of delta-nine-tetrahydrochloride (THC) has shown to improve focus for up to an hour and a half. The action of this focus can give enough cognitive momentum to curb the need for any further use to accomplish a task. High dosage use of Cannabis showed effectiveness in a case study, though this approach may be improper due to the potential to develop dependencies to Cannabis.
Using a Cannabis extract placed underneath the tongue may be useful for treatment of attention deficit disorder symptoms. This is due to the rapid intake of cannabinoids into the bloodstream when absorbed underneath the tongue; full ingestion of Cannabis has reported to be overly sedating rather than therapeutic in adult attention deficit disorder. Vaporizing Cannabis is another efficient way to consume relatively low doses of cannabinoids. When using this method, care should be taken as to avoid overmedication. Try using a mechanism that provides controlled doses.
If you don’t have an extract tool like a specially designed oil pen, try to establish a baseline in accordance to microdosing. I personally use many sources and listen to blogs to learn about using natural remedies and their dosages. Establishing a microdosing protocol for Cannabis takes time and usually includes taking a very low treatment and assessing how it makes you feel, break for a couple of days, then run the experiment several times to establish a baseline dosage of Cannabis. The goal of such a treatment is usually to provide cognitive stimulation while not experiencing a feeling of euphoria, i.e. getting high. Some other recommended strains for this include narrow-leafed THC types consumed at low doses like Trainwreck and Neville’s Haze.
For more info on treating ADD naturally with CBD, read Everything You Need to Know About Treating Attention Deficit Disorder with CBD
- Backes, M. (2014). Cannabis pharmacy : The practical guide to medical marijuana (First ed.). New York: Black Dog & Leventhal.
- American Society of Health-System Pharmacists 2015; Drug Information 2015. Bethesda, MD. 2015, p. 2547
- NIH; DailyMed. Current Medication Information for Strattera (Atomoxetine Hydrochloride) Capsule (Updated: June 2015). Available from, as of January 20, 2016: https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=309de576-c318-404a-bc15-660c2b1876fb
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Database; CID=11597698, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/11597698 (accessed Dec 15, 2017).
- Cannabidiol attenuates cardiac dysfunction, oxidative stress, fibrosis, inflammatory and cell death signaling pathways in diabetic cardiomyopathy. Rajesh et al. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2010 Dec 14; 56(25): 2115–2125.
- Strohbeck-Kuehner, Skopp, Mattern, Cannabis improves symptoms of ADHD, Cannabinoids 3 (2008): 1-3.
I’m an undergraduate environmental ecology student at The Evergreen State College. I’m especially passionate about synergistic agriculture, botany, and phytochemistry. I believe that the natural world holds many undiscovered medicines yet to be revealed through science. I’ve been a Cannabis enthusiast for over 10 years and believe the medicinal potential that it holds is vastly underestimated. The content I write is an exploration of bioprospecting natural medicines and is dedicated to validating the natural world.