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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Some parents are turning to medical marijuana to treat ADHD instead of Adderall

Some parents of children with ADHD are turning to medical marijuana, instead of stimulants.

Some parents of children with ADHD are turning to medical marijuana, instead of stimulants.

Some parents of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have grown wary of Ritalin and Adderall, common treatments for the condition, because of the stimulants' side effects and potential for long-term abuse. Now they're turning to doctors who will prescribe medical marijuana instead.
"They've seen improved performance in school and happier and calmer kids at home," Elizabeth Spaar, a family-medicine physician in Verona, Pennsylvania, told Insider, referring to how her pediatric patients and her own children with ADHD have responded to medical marijuana.
While these drugs help some children with attention issues to concentrate — and have the approval of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — they are not without risks.
Adderall, for example, is a schedule 2 drug, which means it has a "high potential for abuse" or harm. Stimulants also come with a litany of side effects, including sleeplessness, lethargy, suppressed appetite, and stunted growth. Over time, children can develop resistance, leading to increased doses. Other kids eventually experience decreased effectiveness.
As with Adderal and Ritalin, cannabis increases dopamine levels, which can help a person with ADHD to focus. But unlike those drugs, medical marijuana is less likely to impair sleep and appetite, and addiction may be less of a risk. Yet questions remain about its effectiveness, the associated long-term health effects, and whether medical marijuana could exacerbate issues associated with ADHD.

The evidence for marijuana's effectiveness on ADHD symptoms is unclear

Diagnoses for ADHD — a condition characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity — are on the rise among young people in the US. In 2016, 6 million children, or nearly 10% of all kids, were diagnosed with ADHD. That's up from 6.1% in the late 1990s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About that same time, stimulants started to become the standard treatment for ADHD.
There's only scant research to support the usefulness of treating ADHD with medical marijuana, and the course of treatment isn't without its share of risks. Some medical experts are concerned about how it can affect cognitive development, especially in developing brains, as well as how it could impair short-term memory.
Roni Sharon, a neurologist in New York, prescribes medical marijuana for some conditions in adults, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But Sharon told Insider he's opposed to prescribing it to younger patients because of the risks. "With adolescent brains, you have to be very careful," Sharon said.
A recent study published in the Lancet concluded that there's inadequate evidence to suggest that cannabis can relieve mental-health disorders, including ADHD. At this point, the American Academy of Pediatrics has said it supports the use of medical marijuana only in children facing life-threatening situations.
Still, none of this has deterred parents who say they have seen firsthand how medical marijuana has helped their children who are struggling with ADHD.

One doctor says cannabis can help with attention issues and may calm racing thoughts

Spaar owns Spectrum Family Practice, which specializes in medical marijuana and addiction recovery. Since opening her marijuana program a year and a half ago, Spaar said she has prescribed medical marijuana to about 75 pediatric patients with a variety of conditions, including ADHD, PTSD, autism, and Tourette syndrome.
When Spaar talks to patients about the pros and cons of treating ADHD with medical marijuana, she points to personal experience.
Spaar's two teenage sons both have ADHD and high-functioning autism. For several months, Spaar's younger son tried a variety of stimulants — Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta — to treat symptoms associated with the conditions.
While the drugs helped somewhat, Spaar said she was concerned with the side effects, which included a suppressed appetite and difficulty falling and staying asleep. Both are common effects of stimulants.
Some medical professionals say that medical marijuana is useful if only to get their ADHD patients off stimulants.
David Berger, a pediatrician and the medical director of Wholistic Releaf, a medical-cannabis clinic in Tampa, Florida, told Insider that he's using it for that very purpose.
In total, Berger said 20 of his pediatric patients have been able to stop taking drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall by taking a combination of THC, the chemical responsible for marijuana's mind and body high, and CBD, a chemical compound that doesn't get patients high but can help to address some medical and mental-health issues.
Spaar decided last year to give her sons a microdose of THC and CBD as an alternative to stimulants. Twice a day, Spaar's sons, who are 13 and 15, take five milligrams of the medication orally in an oil form.
Spaar said that some families will work with pharmacists and consultants at a dispensary to figure out an appropriate dose. She confers with her children's psychiatrist about the issue, but he doesn't handle specifics of the case.
Since starting to take medical marijuana, Spaar said her younger son is now less anxious and better able to focus on his school work. She said it's also helped with his tics. The 14-year-old's sleep has improved and so has his appetite since he ceased taking stimulants.
Spaar's older son, who has more severe autism-related and ADHD symptoms than his younger brother, has seen noticeable improvement in many areas, his mother said, since being introduced to medical marijuana. The 15-year-old's grades are up, he's having an easier time focusing and completing tasks at school and at home, she said.
Spaar said the marijuana has also decreased his hyperactivity and calmed his racing thoughts and restlessness.
She said she has "no doubt" that she will be seeing more cases where medical cannabis is used to treat children with attention issues.
Read the Full story on Insider

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