Medical Marijuana for ADHD Patients
Initially, the use of marijuana to treat pain and suffering related to the side effects of chemotherapy and to increase appetite in HIV patients were used as the rationale for the medical marijuana initiatives. Now, however, a patient can get a prescription for almost any type of complaint. Anxiety, depression and other behavioral disorders are at the top of the complaint list, so it is not surprising that more disorders are being added to the list.
The Pharmacology of Marijuana
Briefly, marijuana is of the plant genus Cannabis. There are at least 66 active compounds found in marijuana but the most psychoactive compound is delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The human brain contains several groups of cannabinoid receptors where they are concentrated and distributed in different areas. These receptors are activated by the neurotransmitter anandamide, which THC mimics.
The main neuropsychological effects of THC and, perhaps the other 65 identified compounds, are on short-term memory, coordination, learning and problem solving. Physical endurance and performance functions also are affected by cannabinoids. THC is recognized as a very powerful psychoactive compound.
Drugs and Paradoxical Reaction
The foundational premise related to the medication treatment of attention deficit symptoms is rooted in the concept of paradoxical reaction. That is, these patients seem to react contrary to the mechanism of action for the class of drugs. Psychostimulants, for example, activate, produce heightened alertness, increased energy, appetite suppression and sometimes euphoria.
The main symptoms of ADD/ADHD include inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Psychostimulants, as a class of drug, should enhance many of the negative behaviors that are seen in ADD/ADHD, but behaviorally they do not. This is an example of paradoxical reaction.
Marijuana, generally, decreases alertness, memory, hyperactivity and impulsivity. It increases appetite and is a euphoric. The paradoxical reactions to marijuana may include heightened awareness and performance, paranoia, depression, anxiety, increased activity and impulsivity. Advocates of marijuana, such as psychiatrist Dr. Leonard Grinspoon, say that they would have no hesitation in giving youngsters with ADHD a trial of oral marijuana.
Moreover, they assert, “for some kids, it appears to be more effective than traditional treatments.” They also contend that marijuana has fewer potential dangers and side effects than the psychostimulants.
* as always please be sure to consult with a health professional to assess the risks and rewards of adding medicinal cannabis to your treatment program.