Tue | Feb 25, 2020

Weed Ed | Cannabis and ADHD

Published:Monday | March 18, 2019 | 12:13 AMLeVaughn Flynn/Contributor
A locally made steam chalice (left) and portable dry herb vaporisers

Approximately nine per cent of children and teens and five per cent of adults globally suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

This neurodevelopmental disorder is normally characterised by the inability to focus, or excessive hyperactivity and impulsivity. The condition normally disrupts learning in children, and adults with ADHD tend to be forgetful, suffer from anxiety, and experience mood swings.

ADHD is one of several disorders cannabis has shown much promise of treating. It is believed to be caused by a combination of factors that cause disruptions in the levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls memory and attention, and allows for the experiences of reward and motivation.

A 2010 study found that ADHD patients had fewer dopamine receptors and transporters in two areas of the limbic system – those responsible for emotion, and motivation/reward.

People with ADHD who self-medicate using marijuana are believed to experience positive results because THC naturally increases dopamine levels in the brain.

Pilot study

Researchers conducted a pilot study in 2017 to assess if cannabis medication could be an effective treatment for ADHD. The study, which included 30 adults taking SativexOromucosal Spray – which contains a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD – showed improvement in the cognitive, hyperactive and impulsive symptoms of ADHD.

“ADHD is a neurological disorder and cannabis is neuroprotective and neuroregenerative,” said Dr Lakisha Jenkins, noted naturopath and one of the most prominent women in the cannabis industry.

“Any condition affecting the central nervous system will benefit from cannabinoids. Cannabis has a calming effect and counters the hyperactivity of ADHD.”

Dr Jenkins said in her practice, cannabis is used with other herbs such as catnip and passion flower to further alleviate ADHD symptoms.

She also highlighted the importance the psychoactive compound THC plays in this process.

“THC is needed to activate CBD. CBD is not as effective as a standalone. It is not as readily bioavailable,” she noted.

Jenkins, an American, relocated to Jamaica in 2018, and she serves as president of Jenasis Cooperative Incorporated.

She describes Jamaica’s earth and sun-grown cannabis as “the most medicinal in the world” and has been bringing patients with various ailments to the island to benefit from the properties of the country’s endemic cannabis varieties.

Her company works with local farmers who have preserved traditional farming methods versus high-tech indoor or greenhouse set-ups.

“Jamaica has a unique opportunity as the landrace strains here are very high in CBD. Jamaica has the most medicinal marijuana,” she emphasised.

Jenkins also noted that choosing the right strain to treat ADHD is important, and that’s where balanced CBD and THC ratios become significant, which Jamaican cannabis tends to express.

She says the most effective way to medicate with cannabis for ADHD symptoms is using tinctures or full-spectrum cannabis oil and microdosing with 10-15mg three times per day.

She also suggests working with a natural healer who understands the active compounds in plants and how to best combine them.

“Most people suffer from a cannabinoid deficiency. Just as how we supplement with vitamins and minerals, we also need to supplement our endocannabinoid system,” she said.