ADHD and Marijuana Abuse

ADHD and Marijuana Abuse

A current controversy in the field of medicine is the use of medical marijuana to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Credible mainstream experts in medicine, psychiatry and addiction treatment are weighing in on both sides of the debate. Some favor the use of marijuana to treat ADHD while others are vehemently opposed.

The Argument in Favor of Medical Marijuana to Treat ADHD

Proponents of using medical marijuana to treat ADHD claim that the drug is far safer and has fewer side effects than the traditional ADHD drug methylphenidate (Ritalin).

The argument in favor of using marijuana to treat ADHD is well summarized by Dr. Claudia Jensen, a clinical instructor at the University of Southern California (USC) and a practicing pediatrician. Dr. Jensen has testified before congress and was interviewed in a MSNBC news feature on the subject. She reports that she began to consider the benefits of marijuana for ADHD patients after hearing repeated testimonials from patients who told her that it helped with their symptoms. She maintains that “kids have been lied to” and told repeatedly that “this is a very dangerous drug with no benefits.” She recommends that marijuana be “taken out of the streets and into a doctor’s office” so that people can “learn the truth and get some of the data” and “look at this drug not with a ‘reefer madness’ perspective but more with a scientific and factual perspective.”

A very important aspect of Dr. Jensen’s argument is that marijuana used to treat ADHD should be ingested in food rather than smoked and should be taken in quantities insufficient to produce a “high.” She claims that children can “get all the way through the day with a single cannabis cookie. They don’t have to get stoned, but they do get the benefit of being able to focus, not be impulsive, not be angry, be peaceful and relaxed, and pay attention in school, which helps them get better grades, which is the important issue.”

The Argument against Medical Marijuana to Treat ADHD

A credible and articulate spokesperson for those opposed to using marijuana to treat ADHD is Dr. Christian Thurstone, a board-certified psychiatrist who specializes in addiction among children and adolescents and who conducts federally-funded research into marijuana addiction in teenagers. Dr. Thurstone is also the medical director of an adolescent substance abuse treatment program in Denver, Colorado, a state that has legalized medical marijuana. He is highly critical of the state’s haphazard approach to medical marijuana that has led to indiscriminate prescribing of something he considers to be a highly addictive and destructive drug.

Educators in Colorado are trying to cope with students who have prescriptions for marijuana to treat ADHD. According to Dr. Thurstone, the public debate has been “bombarded by junk science” and “good research shows that using marijuana makes anxiety, depression and ADHD worse.”

Of course, Dr. Thurstone is speaking about smoked marijuana, and even he concedes that tetrahydrocannibinol (THC, the active ingredient in marijuana) pills and patches “have been deemed effective, produce less intoxication and are far less addictive than smoked marijuana.”

Treatment for Marijuana Addiction

Medical use of virtually any drug, including marijuana, can lead to abuse and addiction. Contrary to popular belief, marijuana can be addictive. If you or someone you know is addicted to marijuana and needs treatment, call our toll-free helpline. Counselors are available 24 hours a day to answer all of your questions and to help you find treatment.