Marijuana and ADHD

This is always a hot topic, but especially for the ADHD community. The facts speak for themselves. Dr. Kenny shared some great information on this subject. I hope you find it as interesting as I did. Let me know what you think.

“Here are some facts regarding ADHD and substance use disorders (SUD):
20-30% of adults with SUD have ADHD, and 20-40% of adults with ADHD have histories of SUD (
Stimulant medication treatment has been shown in some studies to help to reduce the risk of substance use disorders, or not impact – but there is not evidence that they worsen or cause substance use disorders.

Many people with ADHD ‘self medicate’ with substances of abuse – in my experience, they find that drugs help them with: Anxiety, restlessness, impulsivity, mood issues, and even the sense that it helps focus.

New research paper called: Associations between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptom domains and DSM-IV lifetime substance dependence. (the link to the study is here:
looked at ADHD symptoms – HI (hyperactivity/implusivity) vs, IN (inattention) to see the risk of substance use disorders
Found that the number of symptoms was linearly related to the risk of SUD, namely with each additional symptom the risk went up
The risk for alcohol, nicotine were equally tied to IN and HI, but HI was uniquely tied to dependence on illicit substances.

In my experience, many teens and young adults with ADD/ADHD become what I call ‘street pharmacologists’. They read a lot of information online, and become experts on the pharmacology of street drugs (and maybe even pharmaceuticals). They often learn about the ‘legalize it’ movements, and advocate for broader use of marijuana.
Now that there is a move for decriminalization of marijuana, with recent votes in Colorado and Washington allowing marijuana use, we will need to watch this issue even more.

Here are some facts on Marijuana use in teens from the NIDA website:
This is meant to provide some background/information to help you to know more about marijuana use and terminology.

How many teens use it?
According to NIDA’s 2012 Monitoring the Future study, about 6.5 percent of 8th graders, 17.0 percent of 10th graders, and 22.9 percent of 12th graders had used marijuana in the month before the survey. In fact, marijuana use declined from the late 1990s through about 2007. Unfortunately, this trend appears to be reversing. Since 2007, annual, monthly, and daily marijuana use increased among 10th and 12th graders while daily use increased among 8th graders. In 2012, 6.5 percent of 12th graders reported using marijuana daily, compared to 5.1 percent in 2007.

Risks of THC/Marijuana Use:
Marijuana affects memory, judgment, and perception, as well as coordination
THC interferes with learning and memory
A recent study followed people from age 13 to 38 and found that those who used marijuana a lot in their teens and continued into adulthood had a significant drop in IQ, even if they quit.

Long Term Health Effects of Marijuana Use:
impairs brain functioning addiction – continuing despite it causing significant consequences in your life risks of lung problems – increased chance of chest colds, coughs and bronchitis

Is it a gateway drug?
while most people who smoke marijuana don’t go on to use other drugs, very few people try other drugs until after trying marijuana resources to help teens stop using it.

Resources to help you with ADHD and Marijuana (copied from the NIDA website):

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Marijuana:

Facts Parents Need to Know ( NIH Pub. No. 07-4036. Bethesda, MD. NIDA, NIH, DHHS. Revised March 2011. Retrieved December 2012.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Monitoring the Future. National Results on Adolescent Drug Use. Overview of Key Findings 2012 ( Bethesda, MD. NIDA, NIH, DHHS. February 2012. Retrieved December 2012.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. NIDA Research Report: Marijuana Abuse (
default.html). NIH Pub. No. 10-3859. Bethesda, MD. NIDA, NIH, DHHS. Revised September 2010. Retrieved December 2012.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Marijuana: Facts for Teens ( Pub. No. 04-4037. Bethesda, MD. NIDA, NIH, DHHS. Revised March 2011. Retrieved December 2012.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Monitoring the Future. Data Tables and Figures ( Bethesda, MD. NIDA, NIH, DHHS. December 2012. Retrieved December 2012

Reasons Teens with ADHD tell me they smoke Marijuana:
To sleep
To calm anxiety
To feel less restless
To focus better
Lastly – to have fun
I believe it also helps with social issues.

5 Steps to take if you’re concerned about your loved one with ADHD misusing Marijuana or other drugs:

Start a productive discussion
Involve the treating health care provider
Work on a harm reduction model for the substance use
Get treatment for ADHD – therapy/strategies and even medication
continue to monitor and work on lowering substance abuse”