Adult ADHD: Cannabis Caution

In Canada on October 17, 2018 cannabis will be legal for all adults to use. Before October 17, a person was only allowed to be in possession of cannabis with a medical prescription. As a result of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to legalize marijuana for recreational use, there will be people accessing and using cannabis for the first time in their lives without fear of stigma, criminal charges, or going to jail. Some of these individuals will do so believing that smoking marijuana is medicinal. There are those who believe that it will cure cancer, ease asthmatic symptoms, reduce depression, and create world peace. There are high hopes and expectations of this now legalized natural drug.

On a personal level I am not against the legalization of cannabis, I think it is long overdue.  I don’t want people being fined, charged, or sent to jail for using marijuana, I think it is a waste of government money, and has too much of a negative effect on people’s lives to warrant it a criminal act. No one should spend years of their life in jail because of marijuana use. We don’t send liquor store owners, cashiers, and bartenders to jail despite the fact that alcohol has had more of an emotionally and socially destructive effect on families and society than any single drug ever has.

However, I am against the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. My concern is mainly due to the known potential effects of this product on the developing brain of teenage boys. I am also concerned that our government has not invested enough resources into mental health care. How do they plan to address and assist teenagers whose chronic improper use of cannabis leads to increased depression, psychosis, anxiety disorders, and other mental health issues? Not everyone who uses cannabis develops problems with their mental well being, but our government certainly hasn’t prepared to offer timely and proper help for those who do develop strong dependencies or addictions to this drug. 

I don’t believe the choice to smoke marijuana should be made lightly for those who have DSM diagnoses, including those with ADHD. I won’t criticize Adults with ADHD who use cannabis, because if it truly works for them, and has not had negative effects on their health, relationships, and ability to function well, then great, keep at it. But for many I fear it can make their ADHD symptoms and health worse.

It is easy to forget that just like prescription drugs, recreational drugs have negative side affects as well.  Before you decide to use recreational marijuana as a way to treat ADHD or manage it’s symptoms consider the following:

Don’t stop taking your medication abruptly. If you have made the decision to stop taking prescribed medication, speak with your doctor before doing so. Your doctor will be able to taper you off of medications in a way that will cause you less harm physically and mentally than doing so abruptly and/or on your own.

Check with your doctor. Find out if using cannabis in any form might interact negatively with your prescription medication.

Make note of any changes in your behaviour and habits and the results of these changes. Has there been an increase/decrease in procrastination? Has your short-term memory become affected? Is there an increase/decrease in your anxiety levels? Do you fidget more/less? What is your focus like, increase/decrease? Has your ability to problem solve become better or worse?

Are you using cannabis products as a way to avoid dealing with the undesirable? Is cannabis a way for you to self-medicate?

This may seem obvious, but I still need to point this out. If your cannabis use turns into, or involves any of the following, you’re not using it for medicinal purposes. If the answer to these questions are “yes”, you are placing your health and your life in jeopardy and ADHD is not your biggest issue right now:

Are you injecting a cannabis product? Stop. Ask yourself why you would inject this product thereby increasing your chances of developing infections and other possible illnesses.

Is your marijuana mixed with anything else, especially fentanyl?

Did you purchase your product off the street? Do you know the person who sold it to you and do they know who sold it to them, and on and on? There is no need to purchase anything on the streets or from a friend, now that cannabis is legal your safest option is to purchase items from a credible and trust worthy retail store.

However you choose to treat and manage your Adult ADHD, remember that there is no cure. We have this neurobiological disorder for the rest of our life, it can only be managed and not disrupt our life if we do the hard work. There is no fast, easy, or cheap fix for our symptoms and the struggles that come along with it. 

Be compassionate with yourself, be patient with yourself, love yourself, and forgive yourself.



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