Cannabinoids in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A randomized-controlled trial


Medical cannabis may be beneficial in treating patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


A British team of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London conducted a randomized placebo controlled experimental trial of Sativex, a cannabinoid medication, to investigate the efficacy of medical cannbis in 30 adults with ADHD. Sativex is an Oromucosal spray containing delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol (ratio 1:1). Participants were assigned in a 1:1 ratio to the active Sativex or placebo groups (placebo controlled experimental trial). Both investigators and participants were blind to treatment allocation (double blind). The placebo and active treatments were identical in appearance and method of administration and were flavored with peppermint. Patients were randomly assigned to the active Sativex or placebo groups (randomized trial). The effect of medical cannabis on cognitive performance, activity levels, behavioral symptoms of ADHD and emotional dysregulation was investigated after 6 weeks.

The team led by Ruth Cooper showed that treatment with Sativex was associated with a significant improvement in hyperactivity/impulsivity. There was a trend towards improvement for inattention and emotional liability with medical cannabis, though the difference between groups was not statistically significant. There was no significant difference in cognitive performance between groups.

This study provides preliminary evidence that adults with ADHD may represent a subgroup of individuals who experience a reduction of symptoms and no cognitive impairments following cannabinoid use.

All participants of the study underwent a two-week titration period. The maximum dose for the study was 14 sprays per day (on average 5 sprays per day). Mild adverse events were experienced by 3 participants in the active group, including feeling light-headed after taking 2 sprays at once.

In conclusion, this experimental study provides an initial evaluation of the potential effects of Sativex on cognitive impairment and behavioral symptoms in adults with ADHD.



Cooper, R. E., Williams, E., Seegobin, S., Tye, C., Kuntsi, J., Asherson, P. Cannabinoids in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A randomised-controlled trial. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 2017, 27(8), 795-808. Cannabinoids in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A randomised-controlled trial