There’s no question that in today’s fast-paced world laden with distractions, we all could use some help with focus.
For centuries, humans have been looking to stimulants such as coffee and cocaine, and in more recent years, psychotropic medications such as Adderall and Ritalin, to give them that extra boost of energy, focus, and alertness.
Stimulants, while stimulating, can have lasting adverse effects on heart performance, sleep cycle, appetite, and other vital areas of functioning.
When consuming information on CBD and attention, it is important to denote the significant differences in terms that may appear to be the same, but are not.
For example: cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD), marijuana, and THC. For our purposes, we are looking primarily at CBD and how it affects focus and concentration.
Currently, the majority of studies in this sphere look at cannabis (the term encompassing both marijuana and hemp) and the impact that psychoactive compounds (like THC) may have on one’s attention and concentration, while research on CBD alone is sparse.
However, we will be reviewing the studies that involve primarily CBD.
We have reviewed and dissected the limited research below.
This 2018 study from the University of Wollongong in Australia is one of the first pioneers to look at CBD-specific impact on attention.
The researchers highlight the potential for improved cognitive functioning through CBD treatment. The study took a group of 20 participants who had been cannabis users for a median of 5.5 years and added 200 mg of an oral CBD treatment to their typical daily usage.
They were monitored for 10 weeks.
Participants did not endure any side effects from the treatment though they did report decreased euphoria when smoking cannabis (again, these were existing users).
Importantly, “participants reported significantly fewer depressive and psychotic-like symptoms at post-treatment relative to baseline, and exhibited improvements in attentional switching, verbal learning, and memory.”
In simpler terms, CBD enhanced participants’ attention and ability to learn while experiencing fewer negative effects from cannabis.
This study did not include a placebo group, and the researchers recommended a replication of their study on a larger, placebo-controlled scale.
A 2012 study from Monash University simulated attention-deficit by treating rats with MK- 801, a glutamate receptor that caused rats to display “reduced social investigative behaviour, hyperactivity as well as reduced attention span.”
One group was treated with Clozapine (an antipsychotic medication) and the other group with CBD. Both substances were found to inhibit hyperactivity caused by the introduction of MK- 801 and, more specifically, the CBD group “not only normalised social investigative behaviour but increased it beyond control levels (emphasis added).”
Because this study was done on rats, the implications, while significant, necessitate further investigation.
In this final study from 2017, researchers from King’s College London looks at drug, Sativex (which has a 1:1 THC: CBD ratio) and its implications for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
To reiterate, this is not a solely CBD analysis, but it does create traction for future studies by looking into this drug that contains CBD.
This study sets the stage by exploring that there is a subset of individuals with ADHD who report “self medicating” with cannabis and have a preference for cannabis over ADHD stimulant medications.
Cooper and her co-researchers looked at Sativex in comparison to a controlled placebo group. The study took 30 adults with ADHD diagnosis and split the group down the middle. Fifteen individuals were given Sativex, and fifteen individuals were given the placebo. They were given a test to examine cognitive performance and emotional lability (frequent mood changes).
The study concluded “nominally significant” improvement in hyperactivity/impulsivity and emotional lability. Additionally, it was noted that there was an absence of any adverse effects on cognitive performance.
The research highlights the significance of this finding due to the “impaired cognitive function” often associated with cannabis. One theory to explain the improvements was the anxiolytic (calming) effects of CBD and THC on healthy subjects. Such effects could cause a reduction in heightened energy or impulsivity. The results were not deemed significant, however, and therefore are inconclusive.
However, as a preliminary examination, it sets the foundation for future studies.
In short, the evidence showing a connection between CBD and improved attention/focus remains undetermined, primarily due to the scarcity in research.
The above articles are the few available, and only two focus purely on CBD, while the research for other stimulants such as Adderall and caffeine are countless.
However, because of the possible side effects of prolonged stimulant use, the need for further research on CBD is evident.