30% of Teenage Cannabis Users in Outpatient Study had ADHD

Here’s yet another example of what happens when you don’t diagnose and treat ADHD, many of them will find other ways of treating it and one popular way is self medication via drugs and alcohol.

In the journal Addiction, there was a study of 600 adolescent cannabis abusers in outpatient treatment.

96% of them had DSM-IV diagnoses of substance abuse or dependence, the remaining 4% having at least one symptom of dependence plus significant problems indicating need for treatment.

30% of the teenage pot smokers had ADHD. Only 8% of kids and 5% of adults have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Only 20% of the participants perceived any need for help with problems associated with their drug or alcohol use. Clients participating in the study typically presented multiple problems at treatment entry, most often including conduct disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), internal (mental) distress, and physical health distress

Patterns of co-occurring problems are at rates comparable to those found in other clinical studies. Those with more severe substance use disorders tend to manifest more problems of social functioning, more mental health problems, and physical health problems. Implications of these findings are discussed in terms of treatment needs, challenges, and prognostic implications.


Pot isn’t the worst drug many ADDers self medicate with. How come people in the online and offline media and politicians who are talking about drug problems don’t talk about the links between ADHD and addiction?

9 thoughts on “30% of Teenage Cannabis Users in Outpatient Study had ADHD”

  1. Thank You for starting this conversation. It is very interesting topic.
    Breaking down the topic might help to overstand.

    1) the term drug
    2) the reason for wanting to use drugs
    3) what is the drug choice,why?
    4) what are the negative effects?
    5) what are the positive effects? or proper medical dosage
    6) dependance VS need
    7) a clinic VS a alley
    8) individuality, some medicine are bad for some but good for others
    9) can some of the street drugs have medical purpose?

    There is no order to my break down, only some of my questions and thoughts.
    It is very clear to me that my abuse of substances in the past is directly related to my having ADD. I use ritalin with great success, although I still need to deal with side effects. When ritalin is used under medical supervision it can be very good thing for a person with ADD. The use comes down to the proper need of the patient. But medically unsupervised use of drugs leaves life open to pitfalls. Depending on the drug.
    Does ritalin have pitfalls, in my view, it does. But for me the good effects outweigh the bad. I also believe that cannabis works well for me, if i ingest a small amount orally. But when I smoke it can have some negative side effects. It is also important to have the right kind of strain that suits the individual. For me if I use an indica dominant strain(which is the most comon in the northern climats due to short growing period)
    I have some serious negative side effects. But if I use a Sativa strain just like the ritalin I experience more positive effect than negative when take orally. It has taken me years to figure out these combinations. I have discussed this with some of my doctors but because of prohibition, the topic remains unproven.
    Let me make it clear that all drugs including cannabis can have terrible negative effects. I have never tried coccain due to my addictive personality(or dopaine receptor issue), but i have been told that by people who use it that, there is a high level of focus when a person uses it. So when a person who has ADD tries coccain, and feels that focus, no wonder they become addicted, because it works in there eyes. Even though there are terrible side effects. To me ADD and the causes of ADD. Are directly related to drug abuse or wanting to get high. People should be told that if they want to try these drugs to bring it up with the proper educated doctors for evaluation.
    I don’t believe anyone should use any drugs without proper medical supervision. But I do believe that there is more research needed in the positive use of some illegal drugs.

    I would love to disscuss these topics and opinions. I have lots of questions, one more
    Why is alcohol always spoken of seperately, like it is not a drug it self? When it can be as destructive as any hard drug.
    Many questions. Mark

  2. Hi Mark, good questions.

    I’m not a medical doctor/addiction specialist, so some of these question would best be answered by someone who is.

    but I agree more people should start asking the question why are people using drugs? Some just to get drunk/high but that’s not the only reason.

    I know there are a lot of people with ADHD self medicate with pot. One thing i’ve been told by one ADHD psychiatrist is that if you’re using pot and taking stimulants at the same time, the stimulant’s won’t work. She also mentioned that pot can reduce some of the anxiety ADDers have BUT at the same time make the executive functions worse. ie organizing, prioritizing, planning etc, problems ADDers already have. Also it negative impacts short term memory and motivation, both problems people with ADHD have.

    Just like different people have different reactions to prescription drugs, it’s highly probable the same thing happens with illegal drugs. Alcohol is a drug, a legal and socially acceptable one that causes more problems then illegal drugs. Cops are more worried about arresting a drunk than someone high on pot. Meth might be a different matter.

    To me the tragedy of not de-stigmatizing ADHD is that society/govt/health system is basically saying we won’t take ADHD seriously and because of that, some of you with ADHD that don’t get diagnosed with it may end up self medicating with alcohol and drugs and winding up with further problems because of that ie crime, jail etc. And of course society ends up paying 10-100 times more money by avoiding proper diagnosis and treatment. Even if you don’t care about them as human beings, the financial costs of addiction are huge.

  3. Coach Quily,
    Enough Respect! Every time I read. I discover something new. I appreciate you returning comments. Its a real joy to have the focus now to read and write on the computer. Something I never did, before I started taking ritalin.
    I would not be offended if you do not post my post sent yesterday(dated march 23 2009). Although I would like you to post it. As you have already said that you are not a doctor. I can understand why you would not want to take on the issue. For me the issue is very personal. If you know anybody who would be interested in my use of medicinal cannabis please forward yesterdays post with my e-mail.
    I have been thinking about many of the issues, that are on your blog. That don’t relate directly to cannabis as a medicine.

    I think that the relation between ADHD and drug abuse is very real. The fact that they both, involve brain function directly.
    Maybe it is not a priority to the majority. The percent of the population that may be ADD, I’ve read 3 to 6 percent of the population. Relativity, is almost everything. If 94 percent of the population, really have no insite to ADHD. The majority rules equation, does not fair so good when you belong to a minority. Indirectly the people do not know, how much ADD is affecting them directly.
    Hail Up Coach Quily. For your work and awareness.
    Another reason could be that people who work so hard to become qualified medical doctors. Would not sacifice, there practice to be involved in illegal issues for the minority.
    I see you need help sometimes, I am not sure what I am prepared to get involved with or have the right skills. Involvement in Community Support is new to me. I could give a little bit of time to help you and see what grows. I work 8 til 4 30
    monday to friday.
    Invisible ADHD is much harder to prove than some other disabilities, it is not like diabetes that can be tested with a blood test. Although I saw on some U.S, T.V station that they could scan the brain and make a decision as to what basic type of mental illness the patient might have. I am not sure of any test in Canada (they might exists , I’m not sure?)

  4. Thanks Mark,

    I’m sure you’re not the only one interested in the medicinal use of cannabis. I know some people are doing research on it for a variety of things. if you google “medical cannabis” there are 239,000 hits so I’d start there, I’d assume the marijuana party would know more about people who are doing research on it or would know who to ask.

    for more post on addictions and adhd on my blog check out this category

    “Indirectly the people do not know, how much ADD is affecting them directly.”

    True, but the more people with adhd that are willing to tell others about the condition, the less that problem, and the less that stigma will be.

    Actually there’s no blood test for any mental health condition. Medical professionals use histories, rating scales, interview questions etc.

    If you want to learn how they diagnose ADHD, go to the CADDRA website

    and check out the Canadian ADHD practice guidelines. start with chapter 6.

    Good luck


  5. Marijuana isn’t a ‘drug’, it is a medicine, and one that obviously helps ADHD shown in the statistics.

  6. Pot is a drug from a plant. Cocaine is a drug from a leaf. Heroin is a drug. from a poppy. Pot can be use for medicine and as a drug. with adhd it will make working memory, motivation and executive functions worse. All 3 not great to begin with. Pot will make adhd meds useless. With some adders pot can help reduce their anxiety and get to sleep and help them focus. people pot will trigger psychosis in some people, ask your local emergency room mental health ward for example stories. Not everyone of course but some. Pot does many different things to different people, but it’s not candy or a magic cure all pill.

  7. I have ADHD and can verify that cannabis keeps me in control of my life. It makes my thought process more stable, and less of a hateful person. I was put on Ritalin as well, and then put on Adderol after. I believe the daily use of those drugs made me the hateful person that I mentioned. So I stopped taking the Adderol in college & switched to medicating myself with marijuana and since then my life has only got better.

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