CBD Oil for ADHD? Despite Scarce Research, Patients Are Trying It
Early research suggests that cannabidiol (CBD) may help patients with epilepsy. It is also believed to relieve pain, anxiety, mood disorders, and even acne. But what about ADHD or ADD? So far, research linking CBD oil to ADHD symptom relief does not exist. That isn’t stopping patients from trying it.
Verified Medically reviewed by Roberto Olivardia, Ph.D. Updated on January 5, 2022
UPDATE: On November 25, 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a revised consumer update regarding safety concerns about cannabidiol (CBD) products. Due to limited research data, the FDA is unable to declare CBD products safe, according to the updated statement. The FDA warns that CBD can cause liver damage, increased drowsiness, and a number of other side effects. The impact of daily CBD use over a sustained period of time is unknown. Likewise, the FDA says there is insufficient research on the effect of CBD on the developing brain, on fetuses, and on the male reproductive system. The FDA has approved only one CBD product, which treats two rare forms of epilepsy. In late November, it issued warning letters to 15 companies for illegally selling products containing CBD.
These days, it’s tough to find an online community or social media group not singing the praises of cannabidiol (CBD) oil. This helps to explain why so many people are exploring its benefits for diseases and disorders ranging from Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons to PTSD and, yes, attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD). Though research suggests that CBD oil may benefit patients with epilepsy and other disorders, any such claims around ADHD are only that: claims.
What Is CBD? Does It Help ADHD?
CBD is a product of the marijuana (cannabis) plant with the high-inducing THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) compound removed, which means it is not psychoactive. CBD — often in the form of an oil, a tincture, or an edible — has been rumored to reduce anxiety, a common symptom among those diagnosed with ADHD symptoms. No one, though — not even the drug’s most hardcore advocates — claims CBD is a treatment for ADHD.
According to Mitch Earleywine, professor of psychology at SUNY-Albany and an advisory-board member of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), there is “no published data, let alone randomized clinical trials, [that] support the use of CBD for ADHD.”
Even so, word of CBD’s potential benefits — proven or otherwise — are often enough to compel some patients with ADHD to experiment. Dr. John Mitchell of the Duke University ADHD Program says that one of his patients, an adult woman with ADHD, tried CBD. Twice. On her own. Without his approval or supervision.
“I bought one vial for $50 that contained 30 gel tablets, and I took all of them over a few weeks,” says Mitchell’s patient, who preferred to remain anonymous. “I’d never tried CBD or any type of cannabis before, and I felt no changes. But I didn’t have any adverse effects, either.”
Anecdotally, this outcome appears common for half of those trying CBD on their own — regardless of the quantity, quality, or type used. The other half claim some positives with regard to CBD and ADHD: “I was able to relax” or “I felt less manic” are common refrains. The problem, as Dr. Mitchell and the broader community of ADHD and CBD researchers point out, is a dearth of studies around CBD. No single research team has yet studied the possible effects — good or bad — of CBD oil for ADHD symptoms specifically.
“There are anecdotes that CBD may help with ADHD,” says Dr. Robert Carson, an assistant professor of neurology and pediatrics at Vanderbilt University who co-authored a 2018 study on the efficacy of CBD on epilepsy, “but this is true for many other symptoms or diseases. Thus, there may be patients whose ADHD symptoms improve after adding CBD, but we cannot generalize that anecdote more broadly. Secondly, the cases we’re most likely to hear about are the one where somebody had a great response — not the 10 who did not.”
“I am not aware of any scientific or clinical data that would speak to the safety or efficacy of using CBD in the treatment of ADHD,” says Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D., a member of John Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit. “There is no scientific basis from which CBD should be recommended for use as a treatment for ADHD, nor is there any data that could speak to which product or dose would be appropriate.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends treating ADHD in children and adolescents aged 6 to 18 with FDA-approved medications, plus parent training in behavior modification and behavioral classroom interventions. Likewise, research confirms that “stimulant medications are most effective, and combined medication and psychosocial treatment is the most beneficial treatment option for most adult patients with ADHD.” All ADHD treatment decisions should be made in consultation and coordination with a licensed medical provider.
Is CBD Legal? Is It Safe?
To date, 33 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form; 10 other states and Washington, D.C., have adopted laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Even so, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration considers CBD, like all cannabinoids, a schedule 1 drug — making it as illegal as heroin and ecstasy. Despite this, one cannabis industry expert predicts that CBD products alone will comprise a nearly $3 billion market by 2021.
With all that profit on the horizon, why so few studies? At least partially to blame is the legality of CBD; it’s difficult to attain a federal grant to study a federally illegal drug. Politics also come into play, as do lingering public perceptions of cannabis as a gateway drug that may lead to serious mental disorders, lethargy, or both.
Nevertheless, Dr. Mitchell feels that “The perception that [CBD] can have a negative effect has gone down because it’s becoming more available.”
This is not a perception shared by all of Dr. Mitchell’s peers, who note professional resentment and stigma regarding funding for cannabis research. “There’s a lot of political opposition coming from the business and scientific communities,” asserts Dr. Jacob Vigil, director of the University of New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Research Fund. “It’s still highly stigmatized, and we need more studies.”
The studies done on CBD and ADHD to date amount to… practically nothing. One 2011 study showed that, among a group of 24 people with social anxiety disorder, the half who’d taken CBD were able to speak in front of a large audience. In 2015, researchers in Germany examined the relationship between cannabis (CBD and THC) and ADD in 30 patients, all of whom said they experienced better sleep, better concentration, and reduced impulsivity while using the cannabis products. Finally, a 2017 study looking at CBD oil and ADHD in adults found that the oil improved some symptoms, but that more studies were needed to confirm its findings.
The Dangers of Experimenting with CBD for ADHD
The Netherlands’ self-professed “cannabis myth buster,” Arno Hazekamp stated in a recent paper, “While new CBD products keep entering the market virtually unchecked, effective regulatory control of these products has stayed far behind. As a result, unknown risks about long-term effects remain unaddressed, especially in vulnerable groups such as children.”
“During [a person’s] development, I worry about cannabinoids, both CBD and THC,” says UCLA’s Evans. “There are adenosine receptors (and CB2 receptors) on the microglia that are critical for brain development, and CBD inhibits adenosine uptake. This may be a beneficial factor for epilepsy and autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, but who knows for ADHD.”
And while CBD may potentially benefit some patients with ADHD, “One is doing an experiment on oneself by taking CBD for ADHD,” Evans adds. “CBD is anti-inflammatory and I’m not sure there is good evidence mechanistically that for ADHD it might be helpful.”
It’s also unknown how CBD may interact with other medications. “CBD in any form is a drug, and thus has a potential for side effects or interactions with other drugs, specifically those metabolized through the liver [CBD is metabolized by the same enzyme in the liver that metabolizes many other medicines and supplements],” Carson says. “And with other ADHD medications that have sedating qualities, such as guanfacine or clonidine, there may be additive effects that may not be beneficial.”
Also potentially harmful is the non-standard and wildly fluctuating amount of CBD in most CBD products, even those labeled as “pure CBD oil.” Some such products may also contain other ingredients — pesticides, additives, herbs, and even THC. “CBD alone has multiple actions on the cells in the brain and we don’t know which ones are clearly responsible for its known benefits,” Carson says. “It gets more complicated when we have less purified products that also include THC and CBDV [cannabidivarin].”
Dangers may also exist in the method of delivery. CBD is packaged and consumed in oils, tinctures, or edibles — each one absorbed differently by a person’s body. “The labeling in this industry,” says Vigil of UNM, “is horrific.”
‘Natural’ Doesn’t Necessarily Mean ‘Safe’
Once CBD enters the body, no one yet knows how it works. Its long-term effects are a mystery. Exactly how does CBD work — in the brain and over many years? As Dr. Carson bluntly puts it: “We don’t know and we don’t know.”
None of this will stop some people from self-medicating with CBD or trying it on their children. “Apparently there are products offering about 30mg of CBD per dose,” Earleywine says. “I rarely see published work with humans that shows much of an effect below 300mg, which… would get quite expensive… So it’s probably a waste of time and money.”
“The bottom line,” Evans says, “is that there is a dearth of research on all cannabinoid actions — because of its schedule 1 classification — and no clear scientific evidence I can find to endorse or not endorse CBD use for ADHD.”
Perhaps because researchers have documented no negative links between CBD and ADHD, some “patients go through trial and error with CBD,” Vigil says. “First they go on the Internet, where they start with an isolate CBD. Then they try the vanilla products — only to find they get more benefits when they add THC.
“They do that because cannabis is so variable that patients are forced to experiment. Also because clinical trials can’t really tell you anything about the decisions that patients actually make in the real world. And finally because there’s not going to be a uniform solution for everybody.”
“Families need to think very hard about potential risks versus benefits for treating other disorders, including ADHD,” Carson advises. “So please discuss what you are thinking about doing with your child’s physician. In the absence of good data, a dose of 1 milligram per kilogram of body weight per day is where most patients start when using CBD for epilepsy — and this seems to be well tolerated. But if the side effects from any medication are worse than the problem was to begin with, that patient might be on too much.
“I like to remind families,” Carson adds, “that just because something is natural does not mean it is safe.”
The 9 Best CBD Oils for ADHD in 2022
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a mental disorder that is most commonly known as ADHD. Symptoms include difficulty paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and excessive activity.
The prevalence of ADHD is staggering. According to the CDC, more than a tenth of children between the ages of four and 17 have ADHD; 4.4% of American adults have it. While that doesn’t seem like a significant portion, that is just over 13 million adults. What’s more, while over 40% of instances of adult ADHD are considered severe, less than 20% of those people will seek treatment.
For those that do seek help, their options remain less than favorable. The most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD are stimulants like Adderall or Ritalin. Because of the way that stimulant drugs interact with dopamine in the brain, these drugs are very likely to be abused. Stimulants are among the top abused drugs nationwide, coming in behind alcohol, marijuana, and prescription pain medication. These drugs are also being prescribed to an already vulnerable population because those with ADHD struggle with impulsivity and are prone to substance misuse and abuse.
Even with proper use, these heavy duty pharmaceuticals come with a lot of side effects. There are roughly 16 million adults using prescription stimulants on a regular basis along with over four million children. Side effects of these drugs can include:
It seems like many of the negatives we see with ADHD are side effects of these drugs. Anxiety especially is a large component of ADHD; the two disorders are often comorbid or occurring at the same time. And CBD has a great track record when it comes to anxiety.
Table of Contents
- CBD for ADHD
- The 9 Best CBD Oils for ADHD
- 1. Endoca
- 2. Cannabidiol Life
- 3. Charlotte’s Web
- 4. CBD Drip
- 5. Bluebird Botanicals
- 6. Pure Hemp Botanicals
- 7. 4 Corners Cannabis
- 8. Green Gorilla
- 9. cbdMD
CBD for ADHD
The jury is still out on whether or not CBD is a good alternative method of treating ADHD, but we agree with thousands of Americans that believe that it is. While CBD is not the same as marijuana, a 2013 study of nearly 3,000 cannabis users concluded that the majority of participants reported more impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattentiveness when they were not under the influence.
Because of the psychotropic constituent THC, cannabis can cause anxiety, trouble focusing and has different effects and side effects dependent upon the user. CBD is entirely different from marijuana. Sourced from industrial hemp, this completely legal cannabinoid is not psychotropic in nature at all. It reacts with the endocannabinoid system in the body to help bring you back into balance. The cannabis user study shows that the plant has promise when it comes to ADHD, and CBD is a product that will give you all of the benefits of the cannabis plant without getting you high or having any side effects.
CBD is great for helping to calm the mind and body, reducing stress and anxiety that can often cloud your ability to focus. Stimulants like Adderall increase the activity of several neurotransmitters like such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and especially dopamine but you can build up a tolerance to these drugs over time as well as dealing with the adverse side effects. CBD, which has no negative impact on the body, is something that you will not build a tolerance to or become dependent on. It works in a similar fashion, activating the serotonin receptors in the body and causing the release of dopamine.
CBD may help you to get your ADHD under control or help you to decrease the amount of stimulants you need to take. Check out the products we recommend below.
The 9 Best CBD Oils for ADHD
Endoca is a family-run CBD company that is dedicated to organic and high-quality products. The UN has awarded the company for its 100% clean technology in every aspect of their manufacturing. The company has a mission to educate their customers and their community on what CBD hemp oil can do for their bodies and their wellbeing. All of the company’s profits are put back into research, improving their CBD production, and taking on the incredible task of making CBD more accessible and affordable to those who need it.
Endoca’s organic certified hemp is used to produce high-quality and versatile products with a guaranteed concentration of CBD. They sell drops, capsules, skin care, isolate crystals, and even suppositories, among other things. All of their products are tested in third-party labs and deliverable worldwide.
The product of theirs that we recommend is the RAW Hemp Oil Drops 1500mg, which contains both CBD and CBDa. CBDa, similar to CBD oil, activates the serotonin receptor in the brain which is known to help with anxiety and mood. This can help boost concentration as well as all of the benefits of CBD.
2. Cannabidiol Life
Cannabidiol Life offers wax, gummies, crystals, edibles, drops, and vape liquid as well as skincare and beauty products. They also carry unique products like water! Their products are sold online and in several locations across the eastern United States. The National Hemp Association has previously rated Cannabidiol Life as having the best CBD products on the market. The company is also known for its incredibly competitive pricing.
Cannabidiol Life offers a range of different tinctures, but we recommend their Wellness PLUS+ CBD Oil, 750mg. You should always start with a low dose and work your way up, but we selected this one because this is a full-spectrum CBD product in a moderate dose. Some people may feel sleepy when they first start taking CBD, so a moderate dose could give you better control over your actual dose as you learn what works best for you.
Their products are 100% organic, and all of them have lab results published for you to ensure their purity; products have been tested by third-party labs.
3. Charlotte’s Web
Charlotte’s Web got its name from a young girl named Charlotte Figi, a young girl who was diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet’s syndrome. Her life was forever changed when the Stanley brothers created a high-CBD strain of cannabis; when her parents first administered it, they saw immediate results. The Stanley brothers named their company after her and have held the same mission since then: to better the lives of people in a natural way.
The company has expanded to carry a range of oils, capsules, creams, and isolate. They are US Hemp Authority Certified and have been featured in numerous publications from Cosmopolitan to The New York Times. Charlotte’s Web sells full-spectrum CBD products made from organic hemp grown on family-owned farms right here in America. They even offer a 30 Day Satisfaction Guarantee and discounts with automatic shipping.
We recommend the Extra Strength CBD Capsules, which support a sense of calm to help you focus when taken regularly. You can purchase a 30-count or 60-count bottle. There are minimal ingredients in the capsules, which are precisely 18mg per pill. We think that this makes taking CBD easy for those of you who don’t like the taste!
4. CBD Drip
CBD Drip started as an e-liquid or vape juice company that has expanded to carry CBD capsules, pet products, isolates, and more. All of CBD Drip’s products are made with certified hemp that was grown with no herbicides or pesticides. They are organic, non-GMO, full-spectrum CBD products that are all verified through third-party lab testing. The company boasts over a million units sold and several thousand happy customers.
CBD Drip uses a CO2 extraction process, which is the cleanest and tends to produce the highest quality CBD oil. You can find the brand in several stores across the country, or you can order online and enjoy free shipping on your purchase of $50 or more. The product we’d recommend you check out from CBD Drip is the ECODROPS™ Focus sublingual tincture. You can purchase this blend of full-spectrum CBD oil, terpenes, vitamins, and nutrients in 10ml or 30ml bottles. Research suggests that the added terpenes have been shown to help with focus, energy boost, and anxiety relief.
You may also be interested in their ECOSHOTS™ Focused Energy beverages. They come in small bottles like a Five-Hour Energy shot and they are packed full of energy-boosting vitamins as well as 25mg of active CBD. You can view lab results on all products right on the site! These shots are quick and convenient and are only five calories. The company currently only offers a mixed berry flavor.
5. Bluebird Botanicals
Bluebird Botanicals is a CBD business that is based in Colorado. It was founded by Brandon J. Beatty, who the company suggests is the longest standing CEO in the hemp CBD industry. They ship their products nationwide and even internationally unless one of the many retail locations is nearby. All of their products are third-party lab tested, and the company is very stringent when it comes to quality control. You can rest assured that you’re getting a good product with this brand.
Bluebird has several assistance programs to help veterans, disabled people, and those with a low income afford the CBD products that they rely on to take care of themselves. The company also supports a number of important non-profits like the American Cancer Society, the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation to name a few.
Bluebird Botanicals makes tinctures, capsules, isolates, pet care products, and vape juices. We recommend their Hemp Signature 6X oral tincture blend. This tincture is vegan, non-GMO, and free of gluten or sweeteners. This blend has powerful CBD blended with frankincense and black cumin, which are known for helping with stress, and more. Please be advised that frankincense and black cumin may have side effects; CBD is completely side effect free.
6. Pure Hemp Botanicals
Pure Hemp Botanicals believes that hemp can do a lot of good in the world and that is what fuels their passion for creating whole-plant hemp products. They have one of the broadest selections out of the companies that appear in this ranking. Pure Hemp Botanicals sells vape juice, tinctures, lip balms, topical creams, isolate, pet care products, crystals, mints, capsules, softgels, and even tea!
All of the source hemp is grown right in Colorado and ships nationwide. It is also organic. Our friends outside of the United States are still waiting for the company to debut international shipping. They utilize an ethanol extraction method and upload Certificates of Analysis for every single batch of their products, which have all been tested by a third-party lab.
The product we recommend from Pure Hemp Botanicals is for those of you who want to switch up the way you get your daily dose of CBD, or perhaps you’re a coffee drinker but it gives you the jitters. Hemptealicious features organically grown hemp that has been masterfully blended with other delicious herbs so you can get the most out of your CBD. There are several flavors to choose from and those include Apple Hibiscus, Chamomile Lavender, Ginger Turmeric, Peppermint Mate, Pure Hemp, and Spearmint Lemongrass.
7. 4 Corners Cannabis
4 Corners Cannabis works with a CBD-heavy strain of non-industrial hemp which is called Ma’at which they put through a broad-spectrum extraction method to make sure that their customers can benefit from all of the cannabinoids that the plant has to offer. They are growers, which leaves them in charge of every aspect of their production. The ethanol extraction process used is the most painstaking of all of the extraction methods that can be used to get CBD.
The cradling method allows 4 Corners to provide its customers with the purest CBD products on the market and that is something that they are proud of. The founders have done extensive research and are easily experts in the field. They are so confident in their products that they publish third-party lab tests on their website for public use.
The 4 Corners Cannabis product we recommend for ADHD is the Oral Tincture. You can purchase between 100 mg and 1000 mg. This tincture can be taken sublingually or added to food or drinks. It comes in a coconut citrus flavor that is very light and pleasant. If you are someone who prefers a more earthy taste, their Avocado Oil Tincture may be better suited to your pallet.
8. Green Gorilla
Green Gorilla is one of the few CBD companies, if not the only one, that has FDA registered facilities. They also are committed to sustainable and ethical manufacturing processes. All of their products are USDA Certified Organic, made in America, completely free of GMOs, and they are all third-party lab tested for quality assurance.
Green Gorilla sells pet care products, including CBD for horses. For us, they carry topicals, full spectrum CBD oils, and pure CBD oils. The brand calls itself the world’ most trusted source for CBD products. One huge component of the company’s mission is ensuring clean water worldwide. It is an international company with its US hub located in sunny Malibu, California.
The product from Green Gorilla that we recommend is the Pure CBD Oil 600 mg. For any of you with ADHD that aren’t interested in trying a full spectrum oil, this is a great introduction to the world of CBD. This contains 100% pure CBD in Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It comes in an easy to use spray bottle so there is no dropper to worry about. You can purchase this product in plain or a refreshing lemon flavor.
cbdMD demands the highest level of care from seed to shelf. Quality and innovation are the two things that they pride themselves on the most. They strive to use the most state-of-the-art extraction techniques and even the most innovative growing techniques because they grow their own CBD. They searched the world to decide where the best place to grow their industrial hemp would be; they chose Kentucky, so it is grown right here in America.
They have received recognition for having the best taste, the highest quality, and being the choice of reviewers. We happen to believe that they have some of the best testing products and currently have the best prices per milligram out of all of the CBD companies we have reviewed.
The product we recommend for ADHD from CBDmd is their CBD gummies. They have an incredibly broad range of high quality products but we like the gummies for their delicious taste and their precise dosage.