CBD oil has been touted as a potential treatment for ADHD, but does it actually work? Learn more about the research, side effects, and safety. Many patients report that CBD can have profound positive effects on the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
CBD Oil for ADHD: Research, Considerations, and Side Effects
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.
Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Verywell / Alex Dos Diaz
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound found in cannabis that is purported to have a number of mental health effects. This has led many people to speculate that it might also have potential uses in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Before you decide to try it, it is important to learn more about what CBD oil is, what the research says about what it can do, and what benefits and side effects it might have for alleviating symptoms of ADHD.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is most often diagnosed during childhood. It can cause symptoms including inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
What Is CBD Oil?
CBD oil is derived from the marijuana plant. CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant and mixed with a carrier oil such as hemp seed oil, grapeseed oil, olive oil, or sunflower oil. Studies suggest that it appears to be relatively safe and well-tolerated, although further research is needed to look at the possible long-term effects.
The cannabis plant contains hundreds of different compounds. The best known of these is tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC) and it is the most abundant. It is also the substance responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects. In other words, THC is what causes people to experience the euphoric high associated with marijuana use.
CBD, on the other hand, is the second most abundant cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. Although it will not cause the high that TCH will, it does have an effect on the brain and is associated with some mental health benefits, including potential benefits for people who have ADHD.
Reasons to Consider Using CBD
Some people who advocate for the use of CBD oil for ADHD suggest that:
- It might be more effective than some other treatments
- It might have fewer side effects than traditional medications
- Anecdotal evidence suggests it may help with ADHD symptoms
- It may have other mental health benefits
Part of the appeal of using CBD oil may be to avoid some of the side effects that are associated with traditional ADHD treatments.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that between 70 and 80% of kids who have ADHD experience a reduction in symptoms after taking stimulant ADHD medication, they can cause side effects including sleep issues, decreased appetite, and mood changes.
Before you decide to try CBD oil to treat ADHD, it is important to consider the available research. Most importantly, you should always talk to your doctor before you try any alternative remedies.
So what do the experts have to say? Is CBD oil really effective for treating ADHD? Interest in the use of CBD has largely outpaced the research into its uses, safety, and effectiveness.
While some proponents have made a number of claims, the truth is that research on the use of CBD as a treatment for ADHD is extremely limited. Most of what researchers already know stems from research on the use of smoked or ingested marijuana and not directly on the effects of CBD oil or other CBD products.
Even the available studies on the use of marijuana in the treatment of ADHD is very limited. Many of these studies also rely on self-reported data, which does not provide as much support as a randomized clinical trial.
CBD May Reduce Hyperactivity
A 2013 study looked at cannabis use and ADHD subtypes. The data collected from more than 2,800 participants found that people were more likely to self-report hyperactive-impulsive symptoms when they were not self-medicating with cannabis. This suggests that people who use marijuana to self-treat may find relief for symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity.
CBD May Reduce ADHD Symptoms
One small 2017 randomized controlled trial found that adults with ADHD treated with the cannabinoid medication Sativex (which contains THC and CBD) showed a minor reduction in ADHD symptoms with no cognitive impairments. However, it is important to note that these improvements were small and were not enough to demonstrate that cannabinoids were significantly more effective than treatment with a placebo.
A 2020 study found that higher doses of medical cannabis were associated with a decreased use of ADHD medication in adults. The products containing a higher dosage of CBD were associated with lower ADHD scores.
Further Research Is Needed
While such results suggest that cannabis and cannabinoid compounds have promise as treatments for ADHD, they don’t indicate that CBD oil on its own might have an impact on the symptoms of the condition. Further research is also needed to determine the role that the endocannabinoid system plays in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
CBD for ADHD Symptoms
While the evidence that CBD oil might be useful as a treatment for ADHD remains scant, it may be useful for managing some of the symptoms that are sometimes associated with the condition. ADHD is often associated with a variety of co-occurring conditions including anxiety and depression.
CBD has shown promise as a potential treatment for a number of mental health conditions, so it might be helpful for reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression in people who also have ADHD.
While further research is needed to explore CBD’s effects, some studies have shown that it can be effective in reducing symptoms of a number of anxiety conditions including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. CBD has also been found to have an antidepressant-like effect, which may make it useful in the treatment of depression.
It is important to be aware that much of this research is still in the early stages. More work needs to be done to explore the effects of CBD, what conditions it may treat, and what doses may be the most effective.
If you are thinking of taking CBD, you should also be aware that while it is usually well-tolerated, it may lead to some side effects.
Potential Side Effects
CBD oil may cause a number of side effects. Although many of these symptoms are mild, it’s important to note some of the common complaints:
- Appetite changes
- Mood changes
- Stomach upset
Side effects may be more common at higher doses, although research suggests that CBD appears to be safe and well-tolerated at doses up to 1,500 mg per day. It is also important to note that CBD can impact the metabolism of certain medications.
In addition to the most common side effects, there are also concerns about the potential worsening of some ADHD symptoms. Some of the effects associated with marijuana use are also common symptoms of ADHD.
While CBD oil does not have psychoactive properties, it may also contain small amounts of THC, which could potentially exacerbate some ADHD symptoms.
The memory and attention impairments that are associated with the use of cannabis are one potential concern.
In an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), points out many of the potential negative side effects of marijuana use. Among these are impaired attention and memory, problems that can be long-term and become worse with chronic cannabis use.
Another concern is that ADHD can be a risk factor for drug and alcohol misuse. Having impulsive symptoms may cause people to be more likely to misuse cannabis or develop a cannabis use disorder. This presents concerns when it comes to using cannabis or cannabis-related products in the treatment of ADHD symptoms.
Whether the use of CBD oil might contribute to later marijuana use remains unknown. However, marijuana can potentially have negative effects on things like attention and motivation. Young people who smoke marijuana can also experience lasting detriments to cognitive ability and IQ.
Some research suggests that very high doses may pose a risk of liver damage. In a study where mice were given very high doses of CBD, researchers observed that there was an increased risk for liver toxicity. Of course, more research is needed to determine if these same risks apply to humans.
So should you try CBD oil for ADHD? Some important things to remember:
- It shouldn’t be a substitute for other treatments. While there is evidence that CBD may have mental health uses, this does not mean that it is the best option for the treatment of ADHD. There are a number of effective treatments currently available to manage the symptoms of this condition. Until further evidence demonstrates the usefulness of CBD for this purpose, it is better to stick to known treatments that have a solid track record of effectiveness.
- Just because something is perceived as being more “natural” does not mean it is the best choice. CBD oil appeals to some people because it is seen as a natural product. But it is important to remember that “natural” does not necessarily mean that it will be safe. While CBD oil appears to have few or minor side effects in the short-term, researchers still are not sure about any long-term impacts it may have.
- We don’t know if it actually works. The jury is still out on whether CBD might be effective for treating ADHD and answers won’t become clear until further research is done.
- CBD oil and other CBD products are not regulated. When you purchase these products, you have no way of knowing if you are getting what you think you are getting. There are no regulations or manufacturing oversight that allows consumers to feel secure about the purity of the products that they are purchasing.
There are different types of CBD oil to choose from and it is unclear which CBD products might be helpful in the treatment of ADHD. These types vary depending on what they contain. CBD oil isolate contains only CBD. Broad-spectrum products contain CBD as well as other cannabinoids, but not THC. Full-spectrum products, on the other hand, contain CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids.
Some research has found that CBD may play a role in counteracting some of the negative side effects associated with THC.
When it comes to ADHD, people who are thinking of trying CBD oil need to understand that there is a major lack of research on the topic. There are no randomized controlled trials that indicate whether it is effective or ineffective. There is also no research comparing CBD oil to other treatments for ADHD.
How to Use CBD Oil
If you decide to try CBD oil for ADHD or other reasons, it is important to purchase it from reputable sources. Products containing CBD are frequently mislabeled, and since there is no federal regulation over these products, it is difficult to know exactly what you are getting.
There is also no research comparing the effects of different forms of CBD. In addition to being available as an oil, CBD can also be purchased as capsules, gummies, sprays, tinctures, candies, beverages, and vaping oils.
Is It Legal?
While CBD is growing in popularity, its legal status varies depending on where you live. All states permit CBD, but many have restrictions based on the THC levels found in the product. It is important to note that while many states have passed laws legalizing CBD and other cannabis products, any product containing more than 0.3% THC is illegal according to federal law.
The FDA has also issued warnings about companies illegally selling unapproved CBD products boasting unsupported claims about their effectiveness in the treatment of ADHD and other conditions including Alzheimer’s disease and autism.
The Federal Trade Commission Act prohibits manufacturers from claiming that a product can prevent, treat, or cure a disease unless such claims are backed by reliable scientific studies.
The FDA warns that consumers should be wary of such claims. “This is especially concerning when companies are peddling unproven CBD products for use in vulnerable populations like infants and children,” explained FDA Acting Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D.
A Word From Verywell
While CBD oil and other CBD products may show promise for relieving some symptoms of ADHD, there simply is not enough evidence to support using it as a treatment for ADHD. If you do decide to try it, be sure to talk to your doctor first. Your doctor will be able to suggest the most effective and safest ways to help you better manage your symptoms.
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Treatment of ADHD.
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CBD and ADHD: 4 Benefits of Using CBD Oil for ADHD
A chief chemical compound found in the hemp plant, cannabidiol, or CBD, has begun to attract attention for its medical and therapeutic effects. And though the research is in early stages, many patients report that CBD can have profound positive effects on the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). If you think cannabidiol might help with your ADHD symptoms, it’s important to know what the current research says about everything from potential benefits to side effects. We’ll walk you through some of the documented benefits of using CBD to treat ADHD so that you can have an informed conversation with your doctor about what’s right for you.
4 Benefits of Using CBD Oil for ADHD
- Relaxed Feelings
- Reduced Impulsivity
- Increased Dopamine
- Improved Sleep
It’s important to remember that CBD is just one of the key compounds found in the hemp and cannabis plants. If you’re worried that using CBD to treat ADHD symptoms can have psychoactive effects or produce a feeling of being high, it should ease your mind to know that the psychoactive effects of the cannabis plant are associated with a different compound—tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Unlike THC, which is the active compound associated with marijuana, cannabidiol does not produce a high or have any hallucinogenic or psychoactive properties.
What CBD does offer is an interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system , which helps maintain a sense of balance within the body and regulate the production of several key brain chemicals. In fact, the endocannabinoid system is a key player in many physiological functions that underlie symptoms of ADHD, like memory, cognition, mood, concentration and more. According to some ADHD patient reports, using CBD can help stimulate the body’s production of its own endocannabinoids, which may help reduce everything from anxiety and pain to inflammation and even some of the common symptoms associated with ADHD, like hyperactivity and impulsivity.
One thing is clear from the medical community: cannabidiol treatment at this time should be confined to the treatment of adult ADHD symptoms. Because of the lack of research into the specific mechanism of action, along with long-term effects, CBD is not recommended to treat ADHD symptoms in children.
Can You Take CBD Oil for ADHD?
Yes, you can. CBD products are widely available, and you do not need a prescription in order to purchase them. While the research on the medicinal benefits of CBD is in the extremely early stages, there is documentation that some ADHD sufferers find a therapeutic effect from using CBD.
In most patients, ADHD causes an inability to pay attention or maintain focus, sometimes along with an intense physical restlessness that may make it difficult to concentrate on work or school. Because cannabidiol has been shown to relieve feelings of anxiety in some patients, there may also be reason to explore CBD’s effects on the similar symptoms of ADHD.
Though not much research on treating ADHD with CBD exists, one 2012 study showed that mice with symptoms of hyperactivity, including a reduced attention span, began to exhibit “normalized” behavior when treated with CBD. Another study from 2020 showed that higher doses of medical cannabis were associated with a decreased use of ADHD stimulation medication in adults.
It’s important to note that much of the connection between CBD and ADHD has historically come from the reports of individuals with ADHD who self-medicate with cannabidiol. It’s also important to keep in mind that ADHD often goes hand in hand with other challenges, like anxiety and restlessness, both of which have been shown, at some level, to improve with CBD treatment.
While this offers hope that more research will show a more direct link between CBD use and improved ADHD symptoms, it’s wise to talk with your physician before treating ADHD symptoms on your own. This is especially true if you’re currently taking medication for any other medical condition, some of which may react adversely with cannabidiol.
4 Benefits of Using CBD Oil for ADHD
Let’s take a closer look at some of the reported benefits of using CBD to treat symptoms of ADHD.
1. Relaxed Feelings
It’s no small thing that ADHD is often accompanied by anxiety. Some studies have shown that CBD has great promise in treating a wide variety of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. In addition, it has a bit of an antidepressant effect. These combined effects can help generate overall feelings of calm and well being.
2. Reduced Impulsivity
One of the key symptoms of ADHD is extreme impulsivity, which may be reduced by using CBD as a treatment. One study of ADHD subtypes , conducted in 2013, showed that out of nearly 3k participants, those who did not self-medicate using cannabis reported a higher incidence of hyperactive-impulsive symptoms, which may indicate that participants who used marijuana to self-medicate found relief from symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity.
In addition, a 2017 pilot study of 30 adults with ADHD found that cannabidiol was associated with small improvements in hyperactivity/impulsivity and inattention among participants. Continued research may reveal additional details about how CBD helps reduce impulsive behavior.
3. Increased Dopamine
Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter produced by our brains. It activates the brain’s pleasure center and leads to feelings of satisfaction, reward, and wellbeing. In addition, dopamine helps regulate mood, improve memory and focus, and support learning, planning, and productivity.
Some patients with ADHD also have lower than typical levels of dopamine, which can greatly affect focus and concentration. Because CBD can encourage the production of anandamide, a naturally occurring cannabinoid found in the body that helps regulate both dopamine and serotonin, cannabidiol treatment ultimately can help increase a patient’s dopamine levels .
4. Improved Sleep
While sleep is essential for overall good health and wellbeing, patients who deal with anxiety, ADHD, and other mental health issues often can find it difficult to relax and fall asleep at night—or they may find it difficult to stay asleep once they fall asleep, failing to get the deep and restorative sleep they need for optimal health.
Studies have found that CBD may have an overall calming effect on the nervous system, which not only helps with feelings of peace and wellbeing during the day, but also can help the nervous system transition into a stage of deep, restful sleep. And while research remains in early stages, there is some indication that CBD therapy may help patients overcome sleep issues such as excessive daytime sleepiness , insomnia , or REM sleep behavior disorder .
And in addition to better overall health and wellbeing, improved, more restful sleep often can help patients with ADHD better manage symptoms , such as poor focus, impulsivity, and hyperactivity during the day.
What Forms of CBD are Used for ADHD?
CBD oil is generally the most common form of treatment, though CBD also is available in a supplement or capsule form, or even as CBD gummies . There is no current research comparing the efficacy of different types of CBD delivery methods. If you’re trying CBD for the first time, oil is a good way to begin, since it allows you to know exactly what dosage you’re getting, and you can start with the smallest dose possible and work up until you find the dose that provides a therapeutic effect without adverse side effects.
Before buying any CBD product, be sure to make sure the company has a positive reputation. Look for products
- Clearly labeled as to be free of herbicides or pesticides
- Registered or certified by a State agency to verify potency
- Clearly labeled with a reference to third-party testing to back up the safety of the CBD
While CBD also can be inhaled, we recommend avoiding this delivery method. Inhaling CBD puts the compound into the bloodstream faster, which might not be a good idea if you’ve never used it before. Also, in general, the medical community has significant concerns about the inhaling or vaping of CBD— including the likelihood of breathing difficulties, long-term lung damage, and even death. It is much safer to take CBD orally, through either an oil, a CBD tincture , or a capsule.
What is the Recommended Dosage for ADHD?
It’s important to keep in mind that because CBD is not an FDA-approved medical or therapeutic ADHD treatment, the FDA has issued no guidelines when it comes to effective dosage. And remember that research into treating ADHD with CBD is scarce and still largely in early stages, though one 2018 study has suggested that a single 300-milligram dose may be enough to reduce anxiety. In addition, CBD has been shown to be well tolerated at doses of up to 1,500 milligrams per day.
The best way to find your ideal CBD dosage is through a process known as titration or stepwise dosing. Starting with a minimum baseline dose, you’ll gradually increase your dosage (usually every three days) until you find your most effective dose. The most effective dose will be the dose that provides the most therapeutic effect with the least amount of adverse events or side effects. A good place to start is with a five to ten milligram dose, one to two times per day, providing a total daily dose of 10 to 20 milligrams. After a seven-day base period, gradually increase dosage by five milligrams every three days until you reach the effect that’s best for you.
It’s important to remember that everyone responds differently to CBD treatment, so you may have to experiment a bit to find the dosage—whether pure CBD oil, CBD soft gels , or CBD capsules—that is ideal for your body and your particular symptoms. There is no standard CBD dosage for every person or for every condition. As always, it’s important to speak with your doctor about your desire to treat your ADHD symptoms with CBD, and to work with them to develop a plan to find your ideal dose.
CBD is a Promising Option for Those Living with ADHD
While there is certainly optimism around CBD’s ability to manage the symptoms of ADHD, more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between CBD and ADHD. Until then, make sure to talk with your doctor if you’re considering treating ADHD symptoms with CBD. They can help you understand the legal requirements of your state and talk with you about proper dosing.
If you’re ready to try CBD for ADHD, consider shopping FarmerAndChemist.com. We offer a wide variety of high quality CBD products that could provide a bit of relief for your ADHD symptoms. Our pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are more than happy to help if you have any questions! Just visit our store in Midvale, Utah or call us at 385-900-8997.