“Will Cannabis Ease My ADHD Symptoms?” ADDitude Readers Weigh In
The verdict on cannabis use with ADHD is mixed, according to a recent survey of ADDitude readers. Learn why some adults distance themselves from pot while others espouse its benefits.
Can cannabis benefit people with ADHD? The verdict is far from unanimous. People with ADHD have disproportionately high rates of cannabis use,1 but the decision to self-medicate is hardly obvious or ubiquitous.
Cannabis use is known to impair attention, inhibition, memory, and motivation. Studies have found that it worsens ADHD symptoms or has no effect at all.2 What’s more, individuals with ADHD are at greater risk of developing a substance use disorder, including cannabis misuse.3 4 Finally, a lack of robust research leads many doctors to dismiss cannabis as a valid ADHD treatment option.
At the same time, public perception of medical cannabis has improved 5 as more states have chosen to legalize it. When consumed in moderation, cannabis can deliver positive effects including improvements in sleep, anxiety, and emotional dysregulation, according to some ADDitude readers.
In a recent ADDitude survey, we probed more deeply, asking the following questions:
- If you self-medicate with marijuana (or have a history of doing this), what made you first try it?
- What form do you take it in (e.g., smoking, vaping, edibles)?
- Do you use marijuana alongside ADHD medication?
- How does it affect your ADHD symptoms? Your mood and functioning?
See what readers with ADHD had to say about their experiences with cannabis:
“I self-medicated with weed for many years for mood swings, PMDD, endometriosis, and ADHD before I was diagnosed. I have a medical card now for my PMDD and other chronic pain issues. It can be a very helpful tool, but I am mindful of my use. If I’m not, it is easy to watch my day — and my energy — slip from my grasp.” — An ADDitude reader
“I find marijuana exacerbates my inattentive symptoms. The first time I tried it, I took too much; it felt like my ADHD ‘sped up,’ as in I forgot what I was doing more than usual. It helps ease my comorbid anxiety, however, precisely for this reason. It’s impossible to ruminate on anything. I try to keep my intake to a minimum because I read that chronic use may impede executive functioning, which is the opposite of what I want. It’s great to keep in my back pocket for when I’m especially stressed, overwhelmed, and need to unwind.” — An ADDitude reader
“Before my official ADHD diagnosis during perimenopause, I had used marijuana for decades to slow down or to make boring tasks more interesting (so I’d actually do them). In my younger days, I couldn’t stick with routine and mundane household chores or sit through movies and lectures at university. I liked the novelty of being stoned, as my thoughts would stop racing and I could focus on one topic like designing a floor plan or garden. Since being diagnosed and medicated four years ago, I’ve stopped smoking marijuana, which is better for my health. Being medicated properly stopped my inner critic — and the chaotic inner tornado that had lived in my head for decades.” — An ADDitude reader
“I smoke weed and am prescribed Vyvanse. Overall, my ADHD symptoms have not improved overall [from weed], but I can concentrate better because it is so good at combatting emotional dysregulation, rejection sensitivity, and, in my case, GAD and PTSD.” — Matt, New York
“I have recently begun trying marijuana edibles about an hour before bedtime since recreational marijuana was legalized in my state this year. I have found that a nano-dose of 2 to 3 milligrams of THC clears my head of the usual noise and lets me drop into a deep and restful sleep. I am 45 and (insufficiently) manage my ADHD with non-stimulant medication only.” — An ADDitude reader
“Originally, trying it had nothing to do with my ADHD, but taking edibles occasionally at night helps calm my mind and helps me stay asleep during the night. I use ADHD medication during the day.” — An ADDitude reader
“I smoke cannabis to help manage my anxiety — mostly once in the afternoon and again in the evening. I also take Vyvanse and a B-complex. I will often use a bong or pipe before leaving home to help me keep calm while out. (I work from home.) As for how it affects my ADHD symptoms, it depends on what strain of cannabis I use. Overall, it helps calm my overactive brain enough to get into a flow more easily and maintain productivity when the Vyvanse wears off, which is the desired effect. It also increases my appetite when Vyvanse does the opposite.” — Crystal, Canada
“I have self-medicated with marijuana to reduce physical pain caused by severe scoliosis and disintegrating cervical discs for 13 to 14 years now… I quit for almost two years, but the pain just increased… I’m also managing my ADHD with stimulant medication… If I was still working or attending university, I could see the concerns about marijuana canceling out the positive effects of stimulant medication. For me, I need the pain relief that comes with marijuana, in addition to having a quiet mind. I function well enough to read and retain information. I’m not disorganized or as forgetful as I used to be. And I’m grateful for it.” — Suzanne, California
“I have a medical marijuana card in my state, and I first tried it with family encouragement and influence. I take THC gummies at night to help me sleep. While it doesn’t always work right, it usually helps me fall asleep more easily and without nightmares. It doesn’t do much for my ADHD, but it makes my sensory joys better, my sensory issues smaller, and decreases my anxiety. I’ve gone without it in the past and get by fine but sleeping becomes more difficult and nightmares are more frequent. For me, weed makes bedtime easier — and that makes my life better — so I’ll keep using it as long as I’m able to.” — Atlas, Michigan
“Before getting diagnosed, I used weed at night to help quiet my brain. I attributed my chatty brain to anxiety but now understand it to be ADHD. I first tried smoking it in college when I was friends with many potheads. Now I prefer edibles or vaping occasionally after my child has gone to bed. It helps lessen distractions, quiet my brain, and allow for better sleep. I am often in a better mood the next day. It has helped me focus on tasks like painting or reading a book. I take Adderall XR and haven’t noticed any interference, but I usually use marijuana products later at night.” — Sarah, Michigan
“I first tried cannabis during the early months of the pandemic… I use it alongside Strattera. I do not consume cannabis while working, but I do occasionally use CBG and/or CBD. THC helps with my symptoms a great deal. Sativa strains are energizing; they help me get up and get things done around the house that I would otherwise procrastinate, such as chores and yard work. Indica strains are relaxing; they help quiet my inner chatter and make it easier for me to meditate and do gentle forms of yoga… Some strains amplify my hyperactive/impulsive tendencies… [but] with the right strains, cannabis can help a great deal with ADHD symptoms.” — An ADDitude reader
The Effects of Cannabis on ADHD Symptoms: Next Steps
- Learn: The Damaging Effects of Cannabis on the ADHD Brain
- Download: How to Sleep Better — A Guide for Adults
- Read: CBD Oil for ADHD? Despite Scarce Research, Patients Are Trying It
- Read: Cannabis Use Benefits ADHD Symptoms in Adults, According to Self-Reports
View Article Sources
2 Francisco, A.P., Lethbridge, G., Patterson, B., Goldman Bergmann, C., & Van Ameringen M. (2023). Cannabis use in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): A scoping review. J Psychiatr Res, 157, 239-256. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2022.11.029. Epub 2022 Nov 25. PMID: 36508935.
3 1 Wilens T. E. (2004). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and the substance use disorders: the nature of the relationship, subtypes at risk, and treatment issues. The Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 27(2), 283–301. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0193-953X(03)00113-8
4 2 Charach, A., Yeung, E., Climans, T., & Lillie, E. (2011). Childhood attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and future substance use disorders: comparative meta-analyses. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 50(1), 9–21. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2010.09.019
5 Mansell, H., Quinn, D., Kelly, L.E., & Alcorn, J. (2022). Cannabis for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: A report of 3 cases. Med Cannabis Cannabinoids, 5(1), 1-6. doi: 10.1159/000521370. Erratum in: Med Cannabis Cannabinoids, 5(1), 128. (2023). PMID: 35224434; PMCID: PMC8832253.