We Give CBD Oil To Our Sons With ADHD
April 16, 2019 Updated January 27, 2020
Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of the author and is not medical advice. Please talk to your doctor before utilizing any treatment(s) for your child.
When our son was diagnosed with ADHD, we were surprised to learn there was an explanation for his defiance. Honestly, we simply thought he was a child who’s rebellion was over the top, compared to other kids his age. But, with the ADHD diagnosis, we learned he also had oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) as well. Apparently, it’s quite common for kids, but mostly boys, to have a dual diagnosis when dealing with mood and behavior disorders. His doctor and therapist walked us down a long road between play therapy, medication, and occupational therapy. It can be exhausting.
My husband and I really struggled with the idea of putting our son on medication. Trust me when I say, we aren’t those parents who believe traditional medicine is the devil. We don’t disagree with that way of thinking either, we just prefer to identify a balance between homeopathic remedies and the need for traditional medicine, if we can. However, the concept of putting our young son on a medication that has addictive trends is not something we settled with easily.
But, we knew we had to entertain and establish a plan before he went into first grade, aside from our sanity. Because after all, our sons’ inability to control his impulses and his anger, were like that of a blender going off without its lid. We wanted to protect our son from the stigmas of children with mental disorders, as well as from bias opinions of the education system with all the technicalities. So, with great reservation, we agreed to our son taking Adderall.
After about a year on the medication, a good friend of mine whose daughter also struggled to find balance with her ADHD and ODD, recommended we consider CBD oil. We had read several articles, including testimonies from adults with ADHD, as well as parents with children fighting the disorder, who had found great success using CBD. It’s unlikely that you haven’t heard of CBD oil and its benefits, but in case you haven’t, CBD is also known as cannabidiol oil. Although it’s not marijuana, it does come from the hemp derivative, which is a part of the marijuana plant. THC is the compound that when ingested gives the euphoric or high feeling in its user. Legally, CBD can only contain a maximum of 0.3% THC, which really is nothing. Hence, the reason it’s legal for us to administer to children.
There is very limited research on whether CBD oil has actually helped kids with ADHD, though there are limited studies where kids and young adults with epilepsy or anxiety have seen improvements. Which is what prompted the discussion around CBD helping patients with ADHD. Recently, there have been small research groups who have concluded that they’ve seen no improvements in cognitive or memory behaviors in children with ADHD consuming CBD.
I am sure, with the growing interest to change the stigma around marijuana and it’s medicinal use, it’s the very cause for the increased enthusiasm around CBD oil and treating medical or behavioral health issues. People want it to work, so they can say, see a marijuana subsidiary saved my child. Either way, because we knew families who were experimenting with their children and found they either could decrease the amphetamine medication, or completely take their child off the medication, we wanted to see if CBD held our “miracle” too.
Let me begin by setting the stage for our experience with CBD oil. Our son is six years old, and his biggest problem is finding the right ways to control his impulses around being angry. Furious actually. He has a very short temper. Naturally, just like any kid his age when he hears the word No, he immediately switches to angers little minion. The difference with our son is he gets physically aggressive. We have two other boys who are younger than him, they observe and absorb everything he does, good and bad. To make matters even worse, our youngest son, who is three, has now began to show even more extreme symptoms of ADHD and possibly ODD. My husband and I made the decision based on the fact that we didn’t want to medicate our three-year-old, and with the circumstances of our oldest son we concluded that it was best to at least try CBD oil for both of our boys.
First, we bought a low-grade bottle of CBD oil at grocery store. We wanted to start out small and with a low milligram to test the effects. From the first drop of sublingual oil, we noticed a slight change in calming effects. That first night both of our boys slept through the night for the first time in months. In spite of the CBD, they both were still struggling behavior wise, but we didn’t expect a miracle overnight. After further research, we found a well known and established CBD product distributor, and made our first big purchase. We bought a variety of sublingual oils and gummies. The package included bottles of 500 mg and 1000 mg CBD.
Based on the available research, which is limited, because it’s still considered a fairly new product, finding the right dosage for each person/child is different. As suggested we started out small. We began with one vial dropper of the 500 mg sublingual CBD for each kid. Over a period of a month we found the right dosage for each one of our boys.
Brennden is currently taking 2 vials of the 500 mg three times a day sublingual, and Junior is taking 2 vials of the 1000 mg two times a day.
We knew we had found the right dosage for them each individually when specific areas of their lifestyles began to increasingly improve.
We have seen such a positive change in both of our boys since we established a healthy routine of CBD oil in their daily regimen. Our oldest son, Brennden, has not been able to stop taking his Adderall just yet, because the medication helps him focus in ways I am not sure CBD oil will ever offer him. Nonetheless, we have been able to reduce his Adderall milligram use per day. CBD oil has been incredible for our family. Not only has it helped our children in many ways, but both my husband and I have been able to use CBD to reduce anxiety, stress, and pain relief. We used to struggle as a unit to find balance and peace, as well as offer support to our children through the highs and lows of these disorders. But not so much these days.
With the combination of support and services of our therapist, the small dose of Adderall and CBD oil our kids experience:
– More balanced moods
– Better eating habits
– Less tantrums and quicker deescalation
– More focus at school which has led to academic growth
– Healthier relationships between friends and siblings
As a family we will continue to pack our days with adventures, mastering our love languages, play therapy, and CBD oil. We have a long road ahead of us, but we have new tools to make that road smoother and maybe a little less red-faced angry. Every day will be different but there is a hope for the future that wasn’t there before, because of CBD.
As a family we will continue to pack our days with adventures, play therapy, and CBD oil. Here's why CBD oil has helped my son with ADHD.
CBD oil and ADHD
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- Research overview
- The studies
- Patient perspectives
- What the experts say
- Bottom line
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that is often diagnosed in children around the age of seven. The characteristic symptoms of this condition include excessive restlessness, inattention, and impulsiveness, although those with ADHD may also experience mood instability, trouble coping with stress, depression, or anxiety.
While everyone may experience one or more of these symptoms at some point during their lives, ADHD is diagnosed when the symptoms are pervasive or disruptive enough to create ongoing problems in everyday life.
ADHD medications and treatment options commonly used to manage symptoms include stimulants, non-stimulants, or anti-depressants. These may be accompanied by side effects such as sleeplessness and lack of appetite along with an increased likelihood of heart problems, psychiatric issues, and addiction.
ADHD medications and treatment options that are commonly used to manage symptoms include stimulants, non-stimulants, or anti-depressants. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Many parents of ADHD children are concerned about the adverse effects of first-line medication and are open to trying alternative treatments. Cannabidiol (CBD) oil has garnered attention in recent years, with numerous anecdotal reports indicating it may help to ease anxiety and a variety of health conditions.
Studies that have investigated medicinal cannabis products such as Sativex as a treatment for ADHD have found it helped to alleviate symptoms such as hyperactivity and impulsivity; however, specific research into CBD oil is scant at present.
It has been hypothesized that CBD may help increase dopamine levels. Individuals with ADHD often have lower levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain. CBD has been shown to modulate the mesolimbic dopamine system, which may help enhance cognitive processes such as learning, mood, memory, and attention.
CBD also possesses anxiety-reducing properties and may help to relieve anxiety among those living with ADHD.
A 2018 study published in the Swiss journal “Frontiers in Pharmacology” reported on the experiences of parents who administered oral CBD oil to their children diagnosed with ADHD. Fifty-three children and young adults between the ages of four and 22 received CBD for a median of 66 days. Self-injury and rage improved in 68% of the participants but worsened in 9%. Symptoms of hyperactivity fell in 68% of participants, remained unchanged in 29%, and increased in 3%. Anxiety fell in 47% of children but increased in 24%. Adverse effects included sleeplessness and change in appetite, but they were noted as mild.
Preclinical studies and reviews indicate that CBD oil may help in the management of specific symptoms associated with ADHD, such as hyperactivity and anxiety. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
A 2019 study also published in “Frontiers in Pharmacology” studied the effects of CBD on mice. The mice selected for the study were deficient in the AMPA receptor, which is found in the central nervous system, rendering them a suitable model for hyperactivity disorders such as ADHD. The researchers found that CBD infused into the hippocampus, the region of the brain responsible for spatial learning and adaptation, reduced displays of hyperactivity in a new environment. This study suggests that CBD may dampen hyperactive circuitries in the hippocampus and other parts of the brain.
A 2017 review published in the peer-reviewed “Global Drugs and Therapeutics” discussed CBD as a treatment for pathologies associated with autism spectrum disorder, such as anxiety and behavioral problems. The authors of the study noted that CBD could help to normalize social deficits and cognitive impairments, protect against hippocampal cell death, and improve cognition. The authors also pointed out that CBD reduced anxiety in both animal and human models when administered at moderate doses of about 300 milligrams.
Brett Bartel, an adult living with ADHD, began taking a hemp-derived, full-spectrum CBD oil in April 2019 and has noticed a definite improvement in his symptoms. “I’ve been using CannaFocus,” he said. “It calms my mind in the evening and helps me sleep and I feel more awake and alert, better able to focus during the day.”
Eva Romano Olive’s son has been regularly using CBD oil after being diagnosed with ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder,sensory processing disorder, and social pragmatic language disorder, which is similar to Asperger syndrome “He was a nightmare for the school and daycare, got suspended twice, and almost kicked out,” she said.
Olive said that caring for her son was a constant battle, but the day that she gave him CBD, she cried when it helped. “He usually got five ‘smiley faces’ a day, because he mostly got negative reports, and the first day I used 500 milligrams of Charlotte’s Web, he got 35 smiley faces.”
After two weeks, some of the old behaviors returned, such as hitting, spitting, and meltdowns, so Olive increased the dose. She also emphasized that a change of diet significantly helped with managing ADHD symptoms.
Anecdotal evidence and self-reports that CBD oil may help with managing symptoms associated with ADHD. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
“Currently he takes 10 drops of Charlotte’s Web, and now I add in blueberry terpenes. He has been amazing in school,” she reflected. Olive notes that her son builds a tolerance to the CBD products after about three months, so she changes brands often.
Harriet Riley, whose name has been changed for this article, had a less favorable experience with CBD oil. “I tried it on my grandson, who is 11, for his ADHD. It didn’t work out that great,” she explained. “He became very emotional at school, and we had to take him off it. It could have been another medication that didn’t go well with it, though.”
What the experts say
James Polston, Ph.D., is the Chief Science Officer at Helius Therapeutics, an Auckland, New Zealand, biotechnology company focused on medicinal cannabis research and development. Polston observed that there is significant anecdotal evidence that CBD oil may help with managing symptoms associated with ADHD, but that there have been no rigorous clinical studies to specifically investigate CBD oil as a treatment for ADHD.
However, Polston acknowledged that scientific inquiry continues to investigate using CBD oil to manage the symptoms of ADHD. “There are many different ideas circulating about how CBD might help with the symptoms of ADHD,” Polston explained.
“Cannabidiol is now known to reduce inflammation, which has been shown to be a contributing factor in ADHD, depression, and autism spectrum disorders.”
Cannabidiol is now known to reduce inflammation, which has been shown to be a contributing factor in ADHD. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Polston also pointed to the work of Dr. David Bearman, an anesthesiologist in Goleta, California, who advocates dopaminergic regulation in the treatment of ADHD. “Traditional drugs used to treat ADHD typically work by increasing levels of dopamine in the central nervous system. Dr. Bearman has stated that cannabis appears to treat ADD and ADHD by increasing the availability of dopamine.”
The mechanism by which cannabinoids increase dopamine in the central nervous system is distinctive to how stimulants achieve this effect. “Cannabinoids may represent a novel approach toward dopaminergic regulation in the ADHD population,” he explained.
Polston also underlined that CBD oil boasts an improved safety profile over traditional pharmaceutical therapies for ADHD: “Cannabidiol has been shown to have one of the most beneficial safety profiles that one could ask for in a pharmacological intervention. The obvious benefit that CBD oil may have over first-line medications is that it could be much safer, with none of the abuse liability or concerns for addiction that accompany amphetamines and stimulants.”
On the other hand, CBD may not be as effective as traditional therapies, nor has it been studied for long-term effects. “However, considering that cannabis therapies have been around for thousands of years and adverse reactions are quite rare, the main disadvantage is most likely that it may not work for that individual person,” Polston said.
Animal studies and reviews indicate that CBD oil may help in the management of specific symptoms associated with ADHD, such as hyperactivity and anxiety. Anecdotal reports affirm the usefulness of CBD oil. However, until large-scale clinical studies and randomized controlled trials have been carried out, the benefits remain inconclusive.
CBD oil and ADHD Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents Research overview The studies Patient perspectives What the experts say