The benefits and risks of CBD for ADHD

The benefits and risks of CBD for ADHD


Kerry is an experienced author specialising in content and business writing for health and cannabis industries, with expertise in social equity plans, licensing applications, and marketing materials.

medically reviewed

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurological condition that affects cognition, perception, attention, and impulsivity. It is one of the most commonly diagnosed neurological disorders in the UK, with 3% to 4% of the adult population diagnosed. 

Although pharmaceutical medications are often prescribed to manage ADHD symptoms, and behavioural therapy helps patients develop coping strategies, many patients are seeking alternative, additional treatment options. An increasing number of patients are trying cannabidiol (CBD) as research is emerging regarding its potential as a safe, potentially effective option. 

This article will review the possible benefits, risks, and basic information about using CBD to manage ADHD symptoms. 

Definition of ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition most likely caused by genetics, premature birth, or nicotine and alcohol abuse in pregnant mothers. Individuals with ADHD usually have average or above average intelligence, but not always. 

Sufferers of ADHD may have difficulty processing information, focusing on activities, or controlling impulsive behaviour. They can become overly fixated on interests, and they are typically skilled at noticing patterns. They may also experience depression and anxiety. Constantly managing ADHD symptoms while navigating a world designed by and for neurotypical individuals can cause significant stress and emotional distress.  Patients with ADHD may also struggle with self-confidence. 

Researchers are not completely sure what causes ADHD, but they suspect genetic and environmental factors play a role. Over 1.5 million people in the UK may have ADHD, but only 120,000 have a formal diagnosis

Benefits of CBD

Many patients are trying medical cannabis to manage ADHD symptoms. CBD offers a wide variety of potential therapeutic benefits, and has been shown to hold anti-inflammatory, anti-pain, antianxiety, anti-nausea and antibacterial properties. Many studies have indicated that CBD is generally considered safe and well tolerated. 

CBD has been found to interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a network of receptors, signalling chemicals, and enzymes. The ECS is the largest neurotransmitter system in the human body, responsible for homeostasis. It helps control pain signals, emotional regulation, sleep-wake cycles, appetite, and pretty much every other system in the body. CBD has an affinity to the CB2 receptor (and also a much weaker interaction with the CB1 receptor), which is found mostly in the peripheral nervous system. The body of research currently available suggests that CBD may help modulate the ECS and could potentially be used as an adjunct therapy for ADHD.

CBD may also reduce the breakdown of our own endocannabinoids, leading to an enhancement of the endocannabinoid interaction, resulting in longer-lasting effects. This is being studied as a potential mechanism for the therapeutic effects of CBD, particularly in terms of its anti-inflammatory benefits. 

CBD also interacts with receptors outside the ECS, including serotonin, dopamine, and adenosine.

Since studies have shown CBD is an effective neuroprotectant, it has significant potential to minimize cognitive and mental symptoms that interfere with daily functioning. Patients have reported increased clarity of thought, an elevated mood, and less anxiety while administering CBD. 

Overview of the research relating to ADHD

Patients who use medical cannabis report substantial improvements in ADHD symptoms and quality of life. They report that CBD helps them establish focus to work on tasks, and it seems to be effective in alleviating anxiety associated with meeting daily responsibilities.  

Research on CBD, and cannabis in general, has been severely limited due to the past restrictions on cannabis research. With legalization trends happening globally and the growth of the UK medical cannabis programme, we are now seeing the opportunity for peer-reviewed research opening up. Many UK citizens are not familiar with CBD regulations, and this lack of awareness is a barrier to safe quality CBD. 

One recent paper, titled “Cannabis for the Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Report of 3 Cases” concluded that cannabis therapy showed improvements in depression, emotional regulation, and inattention, as well as mild adverse events such as short-term memory problems, dry mouth, and sleepiness. Now, it goes without saying that a study containing inly 3 participants is totally insufficient in terms of making definitive claims, but it does show the potential that cannabis may hold in treating the symptoms of CBD. 

Health care professionals advise that there is not sufficient research data to claim that CBD manages ADHD symptoms effectively. However, emerging data indicates that careful and moderate dosing of CBD is safe and effective for most patients. Some patients prone to liver damage should consult their physician.

What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of using CBD for ADHD?

CBD can be used for a wide array of therapeutic benefits. CBD provides general wellness support by strengthening the immune system and acting as an antioxidant. It may also reduce inflammation, enhance sleep, function as a neuroprotective agent, and produce a calming mental and physical effect. Many with ADHD struggle with fidgeting and racing thoughts, so CBD’s calming effect potentially restores mental focus.

Sativa strains tend to mitigate unfocused behaviour that often accompanies ADHD. Some patients report feeling more aware and attentive after consuming sativa products. 

Several studies have suggested that the higher-dose consumption of MC components (phytocannabinoids and terpenes) is associated with ADHD medication reduction. In addition, high dosage of CBN was associated with a lower ASRS score. This essentially means that some patients have administered CBD to offset negative effects of ADHD medication. 

One study found a significant improvement in symptoms when a cannabinoid spray (Sativex) given to ADHD patients. Adults with ADHD can struggle with impulse control, but CBD helps some adults by encouraging mental clarity and calm needed to pause and reflect on what one says and does. 

It has also been shown to potentially reduce the levels of subjective anxiety that a person may feel, which could be extremely beneficial for ADHD sufferers. Anxiety and hyperactivity can go hand-in-hand at times, as does lack of sleep. The above linked study found that CBD may be effective in reducing anxiety while also increasing sleep duration and quality.

Several other studies have also indicated that CBD enhances sleep.

How to Use CBD for ADHD

It is important to consult your physician and neurologist about taking CBD for ADHD. They can determine if you should be aware of any potential drug interactions, dose amounts, and when how frequently a patient should take CBD. 

Dosage guidelines

We strongly advise steering clear of over the counter CBD products, and seeking the advice of a doctor who is experienced in prescribing medical cannabis. Only they will be able to recommend safe and effective dosages. 

CBD can be taken as an oil, tincture, capsule, or edible – but that's not where the choices end. CBD products will be either isolates, broad-spectrum or full-spectrum. Isolates contain only CBD, while broad-spectrum and full-spectrum products include other cannabinoids from the hemp plant. 

Risks and side effects of using CBD

CBD has been found to be safe and well-tolerated in many clinical trials. CBD has less harsh side effects than many pharmaceutical medication choices. The more common side effects of CBD include dry mouth, lightheadedness, fatigue, and change in appetite. 


CBD may very well be a safe and effective choice for managing ADHD symptoms. It has been shown to provide a soothing and focused effect for a patient feeling overwhelmed by organizing, planning, and executing daily responsibilities. CBD may also help promote quality and duration of sleep and mood enhancement. These benefits indicate CBD consumption can improve the health quality of life for ADHD patients.   

Don't let the stigma surrounding medical cannabis prevent you from getting a suitable treatment. Releaf provides tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection, all based on your medical cannabis prescription.

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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