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How CBG has been a game changer for my ADHD

Stephan shares how CBG has helped him manage his symptoms of ADHD

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ADHD and CBG: An illustration of a brain and brain waves
How CBG has been a game changer for my ADHD
Home » Health » Mental health » How CBG has been a game changer for my ADHD

Stephan Ryan shares how he has found cannabis, particularly CBG, helpful in managing symptoms of ADHD.

The number of people being diagnosed with ADHD has risen during the last two years of the pandemic, with three-quarters of newly diagnosed adults saying that the fallout from lockdown had encouraged them to seek an evaluation. Some of the reasons for this were listed as working from home, where there were more external factors for distraction, as well as the rise in ADHD-related social media channels.

Stephen Ryan, who is originally from Germany but now lives in Ireland, said: “Last year during Covid, I had a period where I was completely unable to focus. My partner at the time suggested I may have ADHD, and the symptoms completely fit, a lot of my behaviour started to make sense.

Anxiety: A banner advert for the medical cannabis clinics

“I start a lot of projects that I never finish and go down a million rabbit holes. Work can present barriers that feel so insurmountable that I can’t focus or I can’t work on it for days before getting in trouble for not having done the work.”

Some of the other symptoms Stephen noticed were restless leg syndrome, which is associated with the dopamine deficit experienced by those with ADHD and periods of hyper focus. But as the pandemic progressed, he noticed that he was finding it increasingly difficult to focus.

Stephen has seen his GP and is now waiting on an official diagnosis of ADHD from a specialist. Covid has meant a long delays to services which has left a lot of patients in Ireland going private. Unfortunately, this can mean several hundred Euros to see a doctor before paying for any potential prescription.

Stephen has been told to expect at least three to six months waiting time or around €700 for an assessment. The cost of private diagnosis and prescriptions can be hugely daunting for patients.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological condition. It can affect people’s behaviour in that they can seem restless, they may have trouble concentrating and seem impulsive. While a lot of people are diagnosed at a young age, increasing numbers of adults are being diagnosed with the disorder.

ADHD can often be missed in childhood, especially for women, which has led to a rise in adult diagnosis. It can also present differently which makes it even more difficult to diagnose.

ADHD is often divided into three different types:

Inattentive: An individual may struggle to organise or complete tasks, pay attention to details, follow instructions or conversations. It also causes a person to be easily distracted or to forget parts of their daily routine.

Hyperactive: A person with hyperactivity may fidget or move or talk a lot. They can struggle with sitting still for a long period of time due to feeling restless. They also struggle with impulsivity and may interrupt frequently, speak at inappropriate times or fail to wait for their turn. They may be more accident-prone.

Combination: They present symptoms of both hyperactivity and inattentiveness.

ADHD and CBG

Stephen began consuming cannabis before he realised it may help his ADHD symptoms. While he saw some success with THC or CBD, he believes that cannabigerol (CBG) was more helpful for him.

CBG is another cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant alongside THC and CBD. It is sometimes referred to as ‘the mother of all cannabinoids’ because it is the precursor to CBD and other cannabinoids.

There is very little CBG in plants, often as low as one per cent, making it more expensive than CBD products, as CBD is much more available. CBG tends to be made from younger plants, which contain a higher percentage. THC and CBD both begin life as CBGA before maturing.

It is thought to work the same as CBD in that it interacts with our endocannabinoid system via receptors that are found all over the body. In particular, it may bind to the CB1 receptors in our nervous system or CB2 receptors in our immune system. In recent studies, CBG has been shown to have the potential for preventing Covid-19 infections from entering the body and shows promise as an ingredient for skincare aimed at helping dry skin conditions.

There are no direct studies on CBG for ADHD, although there are some which focus on CBD and CBN.

“I was emotionally drained and completely without energy, cannabis helped me to get the rest I needed,” Stephen said.

“I found a store that sold CBD so I tried that before trying THC but it wasn’t beneficial for me. I didn’t feel an effect until I started using CBG.”

He continued: “It was an instant change in the way my body and mind reacted to the cannabis. I started to mix CBD in there too. I no longer felt exhausted or tired, instead I found I was motivated, always excited and got lots of work done.”

Stephen began to join Irish cannabis activism, which is calling for reform to the medical cannabis access programme (MCAP) and for the legalisation of recreational use.

Currently, ADHD is not a condition which can be legally prescribed for under the MCAP programme. While in Northern Ireland and the UK, this is not the case and patients can apply for a prescription, Southern Irish patients who live in these regions, cannot take their prescription into Ireland without risking arrest or seizure at customs.

This situation has resulted in a lot of Irish patients emigrating to countries such as the UK or Spain.

The MCAP was introduced in 2019, but can only be accessed for three conditions: cancer nausea, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. 

CBG and ADHD: A collection of CBD products and cannabis leaves

CBG and stress

Unfortunately, during the first lockdown, Stephen experienced a break-up with his partner who he lived with at the time. 

“It was incredibly stressful but for the first time with the cannabis and CBG, I was able to get some self-reflection during this chaotic time of my life. CBG has been an absolute game-changer for me. I felt this incredible motivation, positivity and creativity,” he said.

“One thing I noticed with my cannabis use before I knew about my ADHD , is that after a tolerance break, it had an amazing ability to put me in the zone.”

Stephen is conscious of the cannabinoids that he uses and how they make him feel, preferring to use a CBD flower, after  finding that THC and CBD did not suit him.  He is open to the idea of a prescription for medical cannabis but feels that it may be a while before ADHD is recognised by the MCAP.

“I would be happy to go on the system if it was available for me, I would be proud to have a prescription because it is a medicine and this is the first step of not being criminalised for it,” he said.

Stephen hopes that general awareness of ADHD Ireland will improve to help those who may need more support, especially in schools. He would also like to see less of a gap between the recreational and medicinal communities.

“I would love to see more awareness,” he said.

“When I was in school, the classes were too big for teachers to pay any attention to individual students, so there wasn’t much understanding of it.”

Stephen added: “Cannabis is medicine. The term recreational has been mixed up in that sense, as it means to recreate yourself mentally, physically and spiritually, but it’s become a negative storyline. People are getting the health benefits by consuming it. We need to change the narrative around this, that’s why we are becoming activists.”

 

Mental health

New data supports use of medical cannabis for anxiety and depression 

The study is thought to be the largest to date examining medical cannabis for anxiety and depression

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New data supports use of medical cannabis for anxiety and depression 
The symptom improvements seen were sustained for at least one year.

A Canadian survey has found evidence to suggest that medical cannabis is associated with sustained improvements in anxiety and depression.

In what is thought to be the largest dataset of its kind, Canadian researchers surveyed over 7,000 patients authorised to access medical cannabis products.

According to their findings, published in the journal Psychiatry Research, patients with symptoms of anxiety and/or depression report sustained improvements following the use of cannabis.

anxiety: A banner advert for the medical cannabis clinics

Authors reported “statistically significant improvements” between subjects’ baseline and follow up scores on validated measurements of anxiety and depression. 

Greater improvements were seen in patients who were actively seeking medical cannabis to treat these particular conditions. 

Furthermore, according to the study, the symptom improvements seen were sustained for at least one year.

Building the evidence

The survey is thought to be the largest to date, exploring the effects of medicinal cannabis on anxiety and depression.

Findings from the UK also indicate that patients are finding it helpful for symptoms of these conditions.

The UK Patient Registry, which now includes data from around 2,000 patients, showed statistically significant improvements in anxiety, pain and sleep quality scores following treatment with medical cannabis.

Meanwhile data from the observational study, Project Twenty21, shows cannabis may be more effective at improving mood during the first three months of treatment, than some commonly prescribed antidepressants.

The authors concluded: “To our knowledge, this study is the largest completed to date examining the impact of medical cannabis use on anxiety and depression outcomes utilising longitudinal data and validated questionnaires.

“It provides evidence on the effectiveness of medical cannabis as a treatment for anxiety and depression that otherwise is not currently available, demonstrating that patients who seek treatment with medical cannabis for anxiety and depression can experience clinically significant improvements.”

They added: “This study offers reasonable justification for the completion of large clinical trials to further the understanding of medical cannabis as a treatment for anxiety and depression.”

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The most common reasons Australians are being prescribed medical cannabis

Medical cannabis has been prescribed over 140 conditions since 2016

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The most common reasons cannabis is being prescribed in Australia
248,000 prescriptions have been approved for Australians since 2016

New data from Australia, shows cannabis has been prescribed over 140 conditions since 2016, with anxiety among the most common.

The first in-depth study of Australia’s medicinal cannabis programme, shows the treatment has been prescribed for over 140 different conditions since it began in 2016. 

In total, 248,000 prescriptions have been approved for Australians since the inception of the scheme. 

Researchers at the University of Sydney’s Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics, analysed data from the Therapeutic Goods Association’s (TGA) medical cannabis dataset  – Australia’s Special Access Scheme B – which is the only one of its kind in the world. 

No other country has monitored prescriptions in this way since launching their own medical cannabis programmes.

anxiety: A banner advert for the medical cannabis clinics

The study found anxiety was among the top three reasons for patients being prescribed cannabis, the other two being pain and sleep disorders.

This reflects similar patterns in the UK, where chronic pain and anxiety are the most frequently prescribed for conditions, according to data from Project Twenty21. 

The team also found that the number of medicinal cannabis prescriptions have increased significantly since 2020 – over 85 percent of total prescriptions to date have been given since January 2020. They are currently unable to say whether the rise was pandemic related.

Lack of clinical evidence 

However, the researchers have warned that there is a limited number of high-quality clinical trials investigating the drug’s efficacy for these conditions.

Senior author Dr Elizabeth Cairns said the current evidence base for medicinal cannabis for anxiety is limited to only a few studies investigating CBD-dominant products, rather than THC-containing products

“Historically, the effects of THC have been described as anxiety-inducing, although this may depend on dose size and other factors.”

The evidence of effectiveness for medicinal cannabis in the treatment of pain is controversial, at least in Australia, where the Australian Faculty of Pain Medicine suggests not to prescribe medicinal cannabis for this purpose. Very few studies have also been done examining cannabis for the treatment of sleep disorders.

Study co-author and medicinal cannabis prescriber in her capacity as a GP, Associate Professor Vicki Kotsirilos AM from Western Sydney University, says the top reasons for prescriptions didn’t surprise her.

“Pain, anxiety and sleep issues are often interconnected – chronic pain can also cause mental health and sleep issues,” she says. 

Associate Professor Kotsirilos, who prescribes medical cannabis for pain, says this should only be done as a last resort, after more evidence based behavioural and drug therapies, such as counselling, exercise and deep breathing for pain, anxiety and/or sleep disorders, have failed or are of limited clinical benefit. 

Other interesting findings

The size of the dataset allowed the researchers to find prescribing patterns in small, but significant, populations that otherwise might have been overlooked.

“Apart from the link between anxiety and flower products, we found other interesting associations, for example, prescriptions of topical CBD for convulsions,” Dr Cairns said.

“This usage has not been extensively explored.”

The authors note, however, that the data doesn’t include patient outcomes.

Dr Cairns said: “Unfortunately, we just don’t know if these treatments were effective for these patients, but this data highlights where we can focus our attention next – to do focused studies and/or clinical trials.”

“There is a clear, unmet need for effective drug treatments across a variety of conditions that may be being helped with medicinal cannabis. For example, it could be worth conducting high-quality clinical trials on the use of flower products for anxiety, and that is certainly something that the Lambert Initiative and its collaborators may look to do in future.”

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Medical cannabis and neurodivergence – “It helps me tune in to sensory experiences”

Justin Clarke shares how cannabis has helped him find the freedom to enjoy life.

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Medical cannabis and neurodivergence - "It helps tune in to sensory experiences"
Justin says cannabis helps him enjoy sensory experiences such as eating or listening to music.

My quality of life has improved significantly since starting to use medical cannabis, writes Justin Clarke, who is neurodivergent, in that he is autistic and has ADHD.

I consider both my being autistic and ADHD to be linked – this is because both significantly impact my sensory processing. I consider them to be ways to describe differences in the way my mind works to the perceived norm. 

I suffer in terms of mental health from anxiety and depression and I am working through complex trauma in therapy. I attribute many of my mental health struggles to the challenges of living as a neurodivergent person in a world that is frequently invalidating and rarely tries to understand or accommodate without a fight.

I’m now 33, and was officially diagnosed as autistic during my last semester at university at the age of 22, and as being ADHD (Combined Type) just two years ago.

Anxiety: Banner for the Medical Cannabis Clinics

Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental difference, which affects how people communicate and interact, as well as emotional and sensory processing – amongst many other things. 

Autism tends to be described as being like a spectrum and it can affect people in many different ways. I view it as a spectrum of varying colours and shades, with a lot of complexity to it, rather than as a straight line that goes from ‘mild’ to ‘severe’. Things aren’t that simple at all.

Functioning labels such as ‘high functioning’ and ‘low functioning’ are losing favour in recent times, as we begin to recognise and accept that one’s level of “functioning” is not static and can vary significantly from day to day depending on how it is defined and by whom.

I describe the sensory overwhelm I often experience as being like having all of my senses with the sliders turned up on a figurative stereo equaliser, with no ability to turn them down. 

Cannabis makes them easier to control and process.

Meanwhile, ADHD is a neurodivergence that can involve impulsive behaviours and unusual levels of hyperactivity as well as difficulties with motivation and attention span. 

As with autism it is usually diagnosed in childhood and the way it affects people can vary significantly. There are commonly described to be three types; ‘Inattentive’, and ‘Impulsive’, and ‘Combined’.

Justin Clarke, 33.

Discovering cannabis

I was first prescribed medical cannabis for anxiety following the establishment of Project Twenty21 by Drug Science in 2020. 

Anxiety has been a frequent visitor and presenter of challenges to me as a neurodivergent person living in a world designed for the fabled ‘default human’ or neurotypical. 

Sensory and social anxiety are the main forms of anxiety that I find cannabis to be helpful for – the way it helps with these mainly is by allowing me to better filter and modulate my senses.

I am more socially relaxed and can better participate in conversation when I am not experiencing sensory overwhelm. I don’t get overloaded so quickly by lots of sensory info of different kinds coming in at once.

I can better ‘tune in’ to sensory experiences such as eating food and listening to music. I can enjoy these things without cannabis but it helps me to better immerse myself in them and the experience.

With my sensory processing figuratively eased by cannabis, I also find that executive functioning-related challenges such as staying focused and motivated on tasks to become more achievable.

Social situations

My quality of life has improved significantly since starting to use medical cannabis.

Another thing I find cannabis helpful for is social situations and being around people like in crowded places such as music gigs. This again is mainly because of how it enables me to better tolerate sensory discomfort and anxiety. With it’s help I am able to feel more relaxed in crowds and in unfamiliar social situations.

I am also working through some emotional trauma in therapy and have found cannabis to be helpful in enabling me to talk more openly, as well alleviating some of the trauma-related anxiety that has sometimes resulted from my sessions.

A gentler medication 

From 2014 to 2018, I was prescribed sertraline, an antidepressant that belongs to a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. I would describe it as having been very emotionally numbing most of the time, although it was helpful in some ways.

Using cannabis for my anxiety and depression has enabled far better quality of life compared with sertraline in hindsight. It has especially been helpful in topically alleviating anhedonia – the loss of the ability to enjoy things.

I’ve also taken prescribed amphetamines to cope with ADHD which have been useful at times depending on the situation, but they kill my appetite and disturb my sleep, so I tend to use cannabis alongside them to calm down and stimulate my appetite.

Both help my concentration and motivation in different ways, however cannabis is far gentler.

Amphetamines are like an on switch, whereas cannabis gives me the freedom to choose to tune in to what I’m doing and often tends to induce a state of calm inquisitiveness in me.

More often than not, I’ve been able to entirely replace my use of amphetamines with medical cannabis. Unfortunately with it only available privately it is significantly more expensive which means replacing the NHS-prescribed stimulants with them entirely isn’t yet really an option.

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