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Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a neurobehavioral disorder primarily diagnosed in children who present traits including impulsiveness, inattentiveness, and hyperactivity. Children with this disorder often have difficulty maintaining attention for a long time and staying focused.
Globally, about 12% of children within the grade school age bracket reportedly suffer from ADHD. Epidemiological studies have also shown that ADHD is more commonly diagnosed in boys than in girls. However, the prevalence rate in adults appears to not be significantly different.
A progressive clinical course of ADHD has been linked with many health complications and social impairment in any population where it is diagnosed. The standard diagnosis modality for ADHD is based on the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
ADHD is well-studied and diagnosis is relatively straightforward using psychological tests and questionnaires. A positive diagnosis is confirmed when a subject presents six or more of the symptoms associated with the disorder.
Benefits of cannabidiol in the management of ADHD
In 2017, the Journal of European Neuropsychopharmacology published the report of early research investigating the effects of cannabinoids in patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Using a participant pool of randomly selected 30 participants with ADHD, the researchers examined how CBD specifically affects cognitive performance and activity level in this population. Preliminary reports from this study supported the self-medication theory of cannabis use for ADHD and also set the platform for further study of CBD’s potential (Cooper et al., 2017). The medical community now understands how this compound can help improve symptoms in people with ADHD.
CBD and the alleviation of symptoms of ADHD
Symptom improvement is a therapy goal in the management of neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric disorders. CBD has long been known to have calming effects on people with anxiety. It is also widely used in the treatment of drug addiction and substance abuse disorders. Animal studies have shown that CBD can also help improve the range of symptoms presented in people with ADHD. Publications credited to the Frontiers of Pharmacology have reported the results of an investigation examining the effects of CBD on symptoms improvement in animal models of ADHD.
By infusing CBD into the hippocampus of AMPA receptor-deficient mice, researchers concluded that CBD dampens the hyperactivity signaling in the hippocampus (Aitta-aho et al., 2019). Another 2018 study of this journal provided a conclusive evidence supporting the use of CBD for symptoms improvement in spectrum disorders. Following approval for CBD use, 53 children at a median age of 11 were treated with oral CBD for about 66 days. At the end of the study, CBD has improved hyperactivity symptoms in 68.4% and also improved sleep disorders in about 71.4%. Anxiety also resolved in about 47.1% of the total population (Barchel et al., 2018).
CBD and increased dopamine levels in people with ADHD
The symptoms presented in neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric conditions are mostly ascribed to altered neurotransmission productions and signalling in the brain. Researches focused on examining any possible link between the onset of ADHD and neurotransmitter imbalance in the brain. Early imaging studies in People with ADHD reported morphological changes in the brain region, which are naturally innervated with dopamine-containing neurons. This means that there is an alteration in dopamine production and signaling in the brains of people with ADHD.
This observation explains the basis of conventional therapy for ADHD using drugs that increase the dopamine levels in the brains of ADHD patients. These stimulant drugs include amphetamine and methylphenidate. Cannabidiol has long been known to increase dopamine signaling and neural activity through a CB1 receptor-dependent mechanism (Oleson et al., 2012). This also explains the use of CBD in the management of Sleep disorders. By increasing dopamine levels in these patients, CBD can help reduce the frequency of impulsiveness, restlessness, and hyperactivity in ADHD.
CBD and enhance cognitive performance
Children with ADHD have been observed to show continued inattentiveness, restlessness, and varied level of impulsiveness. This symptom combination lowers executive function skills and impairs cognitive performance in these children. Adults with this condition are also known to show the varied level of aggressiveness, which at a time causes social impairment and an associated decline in cognitive ability. Studies have shown that in addition to increasing dopamine levels in the brain, CBD can also improve dopamine signaling within the mesolimbic pathway (Renard et al., 2017). By modulating the activities of the mesolimbic dopamine system, cannabidiol can effectively improve the symptoms of cognitive impairment in ADHD patients.
More research and clinical studies examining the potential of CBD in the management of ADHD are in progress. Medical experts are also experimenting with novel therapy methods in the treatment of ADHD.