CBD Oil for ADHD: Can It Safely Treat the Symptoms?


Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of several active compounds found in the cannabis plant. It is still unclear whether CBD Oil can help ease symptoms of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Although CBD Oil has established benefits for certain mental health conditions, researchers are still trying to understand its effects on behavioral and neurological conditions. ADHD is a brain disorder marked by inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity. ADHD causes a dramatic lack of focus, learning difficulties, and behavioral problems. As random thoughts swirl wildly through their minds, teenagers with ADHD may struggle to concentrate or even sit still.

While some individuals have only one symptom of ADHD, many children deal with behaviors that disrupt daily life. Nearly two-thirds of children with ADHD have at least one additional mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder. Boys are three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD. Teenagers with ADHD are more likely than their peers to experiment with drugs and alcohol and to display delinquent behavior.

Children who suffer from the disorder may often be anguished by their inability to concentrate. Being impulsive, hyperactive, and distractible, many might often end up lonely and unpopular in the classroom. School becomes an environment of distractibility and defiance that often sets the stage for later difficulties. Untreated ADHD has been found to lead to long-term effects in terms of substance abuse, accidents, occupational underachievement, and relationship difficulties. While some adults with ADHD find that their brain compensates over time, others may spend their lives in a dreamy fog of loneliness and confusion.

More than six million American children age 4-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. Symptoms appear before the child is 12 years old, last more than six months, and cause problems in at least two settings — for example, school and home. Children suspected of having ADHD should have a full medical exam, including hearing and vision tests.

There is no specific test for ADHD according to the latest DSM-5. To be diagnosed with ADHD, someone must display one or more of the following:

  • Inattention: Individuals are disorganized, easily distracted, and have difficulty sustaining focus. These problems are not due to defiance or lack of comprehension.
  • Hyperactivity: Children with ADHD are constantly in motion, talking, interrupting, and fidgeting. An inability to sit still is the chief sign of the disorder in preschoolers. Adults show extreme restlessness and activity.
  • Impulsivity: People with ADHD act without thinking about consequences. They find it difficult to delay gratification, spend too much, and engage in risky behaviors. Impulsive people also may be socially inappropriate or difficult.

First, What Is CBD?

CBD is one of many phytocannabinoids, chemical compounds derived from cannabis plants, which means it can come from either industrial hemp or medical marijuana plants. The health benefits of CBD have taken the world by storm and seem to be constantly expanding as more people start to utilize their CBD products. First, CBD is safe. It is purified from hemp plants in a similar way to how corn oil comes from corn. It belongs to a chemical group called phytocannabinoids. These are all chemicals that are purified from various members of the hemp plant family.

You may have heard of marijuana, which is probably the most famous member of this family. According to the FDA, marijuana has over 80 active chemicals in it. Its primary active ingredient is called THC or tetrahydrocannabinol. Others are CBN, CBG, THCV, CBDV, and CBC. Of these, CBD appears to be the least harmful regarding side effects. However, industrial hemp plants do not contain a significant amount of THC, and therefore are a good, legal source of CBD.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is an international organization like our FDA. They recently released a report saying that CBD is safe and non-habit forming, or non-addictive. The Critical Review Report was issued a report studying use in animals and humans, the conclusion was that there were no safety concerns. Additionally, because of the lack of addictive potential, they recommended delisting it in terms of being a controlled substance. They also stated that CBD is well tolerated and has a very good safety profile. There is no evidence of any public health or safety issues related to CBD use according to this report.

They also stated that no conversion of CBD to THC occurs in humans who received an oral dose. They cited several studies where oral CBD administration resulted in no circulating THC in participants. Reviews of toxicology studies also showed no significant issues. They also listed several diseases that CBD can treat. One of these was epilepsy. Others were listed in varying degrees of potential treatment including Alzheimer’s, pain, Parkinson’s, and several more. Other serious research organizations have also claimed that CBD is very helpful in the relief of pain and swelling, and various psychological issues such as anxiety.

Second, How Does CBD Work?

It is thought that CBD works by enhancing the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and restoring balance (also known as homeostasis). It binds to cannabinoid receptors to produce its effects. Many CBD users prefer to use full-spectrum CBD products because they contain other cannabinoids in addition to CBD, which are thought to create a synergy and enhance the ECS even more than the effects of CBD alone.

However, more research into the mechanism of action of CBD is showing that it works on other receptors as well. Specifically relating to behavioral conditions, CBD is thought to work through serotonin receptors. This is like a meditation class that helps treat certain conditions known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). These drugs help increase serotonin levels, which is a neurotransmitter (aka a chemical messenger in the brain) that helps elevate mood and decrease behaviors. So, CBD is thought to enhance serotonin as well, which makes sense why many feel it helps them with behavioral symptom relief.

Third, What Types Of CBD Are Available?

CBD comes in a wide variety of forms. The most popular CBD form is the CBD Oil tinctures. However, there are other products such as CBD capsules, CBD gummies, topical products such as salves or creams, CBD water, and other CBD products. It depends on the experience of the CBD customer, but the variability of CBD oil products can either be appealing or just plain confusing.

With the wide availability of oral options such as gel capsules and edibles to topical products such as creams, it is easy to feel overcome. When deciding how to use CBD oil and which form to choose, how much of it gets absorbed can be a big factor in the decision.


Tinctures have a big difference in terms of absorption when comparing them to oral and topical CBD forms. The best advice for how to use CBD oil tinctures is to take it sublingually (aka under the tongue). This means that you place the drops under your tongue, let the CBD absorb (usually around 30 seconds), and then swallow. A lot of medications and supplements use this dosage form for absorption whenever their active ingredient can absorb through the tissue under the tongue. CBD is already naturally able to be absorbed there and can reach the blood vessels under the tongue.

Oral Products

The oral options have a lower absorption because CBD (and the other cannabinoids) have low bioavailability when absorbing through the digestive tract. Bioavailability is the amount of drug or chemical that is absorbed into the blood to act on the body. Even then, when CBD is absorbed, the liver quickly breaks down a good majority of the CBD. This means that each dose you take orally may only actually have 10 to 20% of it absorbed into the body.

Topical Products

On the other hand, topical products are also an alternative option for those looking to use CBD oil for pain relief on a certain part of their body – such as the joints. However, these products have an even lower bioavailability than oral products. The products that are oil-based, such as ointments and salves usually penetrate the outer layers of the skin, whereas the water-based products such as creams and lotions, can penetrate deeper layers of the skin where the blood vessels are located.

This means that in order to get larger amounts of CBD absorbed into the body through topical products, you would have to place a larger amount of CBD cream over a large area of the body. Additionally, absorbing CBD through this topical method would allow the CBD to not get broken down through the liver, which would be an advantage when comparing them to oral CBD products.

Research Research on CBD as a treatment for ADHD is sparse. Much of what we do know stems from research on cannabis as a whole and not the specific CBD compound. Cannabis use and ADHD are both independently associated with impaired attention, inhibition, and functioning. Because of this, many researchers theorize that cannabis use would exacerbate existing ADHD symptoms. However, there isn’t any evidence to support or contradict this. One 2015 study explored the relationship between ADHD, depression, and marijuana use in undergraduate students. Although the researchers established that some students used marijuana to cope with depressive symptoms, its overall effect on these symptoms was unclear. A 2013 study on ADHD subtype and cannabis use also posed interesting results. After collecting data from 2,811 current cannabis users, researchers found that people who used cannabis daily self-reported symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity when not using cannabis. More research is needed to truly understand what benefits if any, CBD may pose in ADHD management.

Most research is around ADHD as a risk factor for developing substance use disorder. One 2014 study Trusted Source assessed cannabis use and ADHD symptoms in 376 undergraduate students. The researchers found that current and childhood inattention were associated with more severe cannabis use and dependency. They also found that participants who demonstrated hyperactive-impulsive behavior as children began to use cannabis earlier than participants who did not. A separate 2017 study assessed 197 students of the same age group but looked more broadly at the role of impulsivity in young adults with ADHD and risk factors for alcohol and drug abuse. The authors concluded that young people with ADHD were more likely to use illicit drugs and alcohol. Traditional ADHD medications fall into two categories: stimulants and non-stimulants.

Stimulant ADHD medication is fast-acting and widely used. In fact, many American children use this type of treatment to address symptoms of attention disorder. However, stimulant medications aren’t without side effects.

These include:

· insomnia

· poor appetite

· weight loss

· headache

· dry mouth

· mood changes

Because of the stigma associated with marijuana, THC, and CBD, no well-developed studies or trials have looked at the use of CBD in children. Instead, most reports are case studies or individual anecdotes reported through doctors or researchers. For example, one report asked parents in California to complete a Facebook poll about using CBD Oil to their child to treat epilepsy. Nineteen parents reported administering the drug to their child. Side effects included drowsiness and fatigue.

In a similar 2015 Facebook poll, 117 parents of children with epilepsy reported safely administering the product to their child. These parents reported improvements in sleep, alertness, and mood with regular CBD use. Like these polls, many of the individual testimonials around the use of CBD oil in children are specific to epilepsy. However, that doesn’t mean that CBD can be used to treat symptoms of ADHD. It just hasn’t been studied specifically for this use.

If you feel that CBD Oil might ease your child’s symptoms, talk with your health-care provider regarding the possible risks and rewards. A pop-culture bias is to think that medications are only a “crutch” and that children eventually outgrow ADHD. In fact, imaging techniques reveal significant anatomical and structural differences in the brains of people with ADHD.

In most cases, ADHD can be treated with a combination of behavior therapy and medication. Finding the right medication often takes a bit of fine-tuning. Doctors do not completely understand why medications work. However, brain images convincingly show that ADHD medications change brain activity in regions vital to attention and behavioral control. In laboratories around the world, researchers have begun to identify how stimulant medications work to change brain function and reduce ADHD symptoms. New research points to the role of neurotransmitters in brain circuitry.

In simple terms, medications raise the level of a vital neurotransmitter, norepinephrine, within the brain. Stimulants work by causing the brain to synthesize norepinephrine. A non-stimulant like Strattera slows the rate at which norepinephrine is broken down.

Levels of another key neurotransmitter — dopamine — are also reduced in people with ADHD. Many medications for treating ADHD work by increasing dopamine and stimulating focus. Ritalin and Adderall work by blocking the reuptake of both dopamine and norepinephrine. Extended-release forms of ADHD medications smooth the “rebound” difficulties that can occur when the drug starts to wear off. Side effects can include moodiness, irritability, anger, nervousness, sadness, crying, fatigue, and even an increase in the severity of ADHD symptoms. Potential side-effects of stimulants include loss of appetite, irritability, sleeplessness, anxiety, and restlessness.

Although stimulant medications help some children concentrate better, they aren’t always effective, and may not be easily tolerated by some children. Newer non-stimulant medications increase levels of norepinephrine in the brain without the roller-coaster side-effects of stimulants. Particularly important is the need to find non-drug treatments, given concerns among parents about side-effects and unknown long-term effects on their children’s health from years of daily medication use.

Take Away Points

Overall, CBD dosing is going to vary from person to person. The amount of CBD you need depends on numerous factors. Always talk with a healthcare professional before starting any new CBD products.

If you are patient with the trial and error process and follow the popular advice of “start low and go slow”, you will soon find the right dose that should allow you to experience the anti-anxiety benefits of CBD.

While some may consider CBD a little risky, it is known as a safe material. There are no addictive properties, and it appears to potentially have many pos impacts on humans. The only consideration is for those taking prescription drugs that are processed in the liver – they need to consider adjusting CBD dosing to not impact those prescription drugs. This is true for many drugs and supplements on the market.

All in all, the data behind CBD looks promising and may offer additional help for certain health issues. However, you should always do your research and talk with health care professionals before starting any new medications or supplements for yourself and your children.

3 thoughts on “CBD Oil for ADHD: Can It Safely Treat the Symptoms?
  1. Avatar Gwen Decker says:

    I found that hemp cbd oil helped me along with the accompanying cbd gums ofcourse.

  2. Avatar Arlene Lewis says:

    I’m three weeks into my CBD journey. Liking it so far

  3. Avatar Greg Graves says:

    Hey y’all! So I want to try cbd for daily use! I want to try it to help many things including, depression, anxiety,anger, and adhd. Anger is the main reason for wanting to try. I don’t like smoking it though. Any suggestions on oil or gummies?

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