Attention Deficit Disorder

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the name given to a set of symptoms usually first experienced and diagnosed in childhood. These include difficulty concentrating, impulsivity, distractibility, and in the case of ADHD – hyperactivity, or difficulty staying still, sitting in one place, etc. This disorder has been linked to a dysfunction of the neurotransmitter dopamine. It is estimated that up to 50-70% of those diagnosed with childhood ADD/ADHD can continue to have these symptoms into adulthood.


Standard medical treatments:

Psychostimulants –

Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine, Cyclert, Stratera, etc.

Antidepressants –


Tricyclic antidepressants


Cognitive behavioral counseling

Learning aids


Some of the side effects of these medications are problematic, especially when used in children or young adults whose nervous systems are still developing. The use of these medications has not been in practice long enough to adequately assess the long term impact on adults who have used them throughout their childhood. Significant unwelcome effects include difficulty in sleeping and low appetite. This is no surprise as the primary medications used are stimulants which have a history of use as “diet pills”.


Supportive and alternative treatments:  

Nutritional –

Neurotransmitter testing and balancing

Elimination of allergens, especially food dye and sugar

L-Tyrosine, phenylalanine – amino acids, pre-dopamine

Herbal –

Gotu kola – brain tonic

Chamomille – calming

Passionflower – relaxant

Skullcap – muscle relaxant


Brainwave biofeedback


Remove heavy metals



ADD/ADHD and Cannabis

The use of marijuana to treat this disorder in young people has to include a consideration of the risk/benefit ratio of the effects of cannabis on youth. The efficacy of marijuana to help ADD/ADHD has mixed reviews. There are many factors that are involved in causing an individual’s symptoms beyond whether hyperactivity is or is not part of the picture. For example, if hyperactivity is present, then a calming effect may be helpful, yet for simple ADD a stimulant effect may be more appropriate.  Further, there is often the complication of a patient currently taking pharmaceutical medication, or having to adjust to recently stopping his/her medication. In addition, there are many variable effects of marijuana depending on the strain used and preparation method. No wonder it’s hard to know whether marijuana can help in an individual case. If you can understand your own physiology and what your body needs to be balanced then you may know how to choose an appropriate cannabis product to help. Finally, there is always caution in recommending cannabis to youth. This is a personal decision, but it may be fair to say that cannabis would be recommended more to treat adult ADD/ADHD than for a childhood diagnosis. Nevertheless, when faced with the effects of a stimulant versus the effects of marijuana, a more prudent choice may be the herbal compound.