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So much of the buzz about CBD has revolved around the actual lack of “buzz,” experienced when taking it. You don’t get high, and oftentimes people claim to feel calmer, less anxious and more focused. But why? What is it about CBD that creates that feeling and increases our ability to drown out the other noise?
Helping transmit neurotransmitters
Our body’s endocannabinoid system is known as the system of “feel good” molecules that bodies produce when we relax, exercise or get good sleep. The cannabinoid molecules help keep the body in balance in a variety of ways by influencing receptors—not solely cannabinoid receptors, but also others connected to our nervous systems, like brain receptors and their uptake of certain neurotransmitters. Phytocannabinoids, a.k.a. the ones coming from plants as in CBD, also do this when we ingest them. Essentially, they make it so these receptors are more sensitive to the cannabinoid molecules naturally occurring in our body, as well as to other chemical neurotransmitters. The use of CBD products have specifically been found to heavily influence the receptors for serotonin and dopamine—both of which are linked to sensations that affect how we focus.
The focus chemicals
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter involved in sleeping, eating, and digestion, but it also helps regulate our emotions. Too-low levels of serotonin can result in anxiety and depression, symptoms of which can be poor concentration and the inability to slow down your thoughts or focus on one thing. So when you increase the amount of serotonin being absorbed by the body, as CBD helps to do, you decrease those symptoms—often leading a more settled emotional state and better focus.
Dopamine, on the other hand, is a neurotransmitter linked to pleasure and motivation, what attracts us and holds our attention, and how we can plan and accomplish things. As with serotonin, dopamine shortages can lead to anxiety and depression, but also to a couple of disorders heavily centered on focus: ADHD and ADD—which is where certain research comes in.
While to date there have still been no clinical trials of CBD’s effect on ADHD or ADD on a broad scale, there is significant anecdotal evidence that CBD helps decrease hyperactive behavior and increase focus by way of affecting dopamine reuptake.
One physician, Dr. David Bearman, a classified cannabinoidologist, has been studying cannabinoid use in connection to ADHD and ADD for years and has found quite discernable therapeutic effects. In an article for the cannabis outlet Leafly, he said, “Cannabis appears to treat ADD and ADHD by increasing the availability of dopamine. This then has the same effect, but is a different mechanism of action than, stimulants like Ritalin and Dexedrine amphetamine, which act by binding to the dopamine and interfering with the metabolic breakdown of dopamine.”
Additionally, a less traditional study published in 2016 looked at responses of ADHD patients in online discussion forums addressing their personal conclusions about cannabis’s effects on their symptoms. Out of 401 posts on 55 forum threads, 25 percent of users felt cannabis had a positive impact on their ADHD symptoms, which include the ability to focus.
So although there is still great need for clinical trials for conclusive evidence of CBD’s effect on focus and disorders that affect focus, the current body of evidence seems to show that because CBD can increase dopamine and serotonin levels, it inherently helps increase the ability to focus, clear out mind chatter, and stay in the (positive) zone.