Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is fraught with distractibility and hyperactivity. Attention deficit disorder, or ADD, has similar symptoms but without the hyperactivity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports these two conditions cost $3.7 billion a year in lost work. Both are treated medically with psychostimulants like Adderall, Ritalin and Concerta, but they come with side effects including headaches, loss of appetite, restlessness, agitation, dry mouth, constipation and insomnia, In some cases, these drugs can cause heart palpitations and increase blood pressure. They may also be habit forming.
How ADD/ADHD Affects the Brain
One of the key physiological issues with ADD/ADHD is the shortage of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical neurotransmitter utilized in cognitive processes like attention, memory retention and focus. Conditions like Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia and restless leg syndrome tie back to dopamine levels as well.
Why Cannabis May Work as an Alternative
Although there is not a lot of research to prove that medical marijuana is a suitable alternative treatment, initial trials show that it is a possibility. Current therapeutic treatments stimulate dopamine production, improving attention in the process, but it comes at a cost due to the potentially serious side effects. David Bearman, MD, a pioneer in the field of administrative medicine and cannabinology, suggests that the cannabinoids found in marijuana interact with the brain's dopamine management system by increasing the availability of the neurotransmitter.
With ADHD, the brain becomes overwhelmed with information. If taken correctly, medical marijuana could work therapeutically to correct the dopamine balance. Cannabis and Ritalin have different mechanisms, but produce very similar results.
Drugs like Ritalin bind with dopamine to prevent a breakdown of the chemical, in a sense increasing the level available as well. The cannabinoids found in cannabis could correct the dopamine deficiency by increasing its availability when properly dosed. The effect is similar to psychostimulants, but without unpleasant side effects.
Medical science is currently looking deeper for anecdotal evidence that cannabis is an effective and safe treatment for ADD/ADHD, adding these two conditions to the long list of benefits from the therapeutic use of cannabis.