The chief executive of charity ADHD UK said people sometimes have to wait up to five years for an appointment, yet some symptoms are eased by cannabis use.
Lack of access to ADHD treatment and support from the NHS is driving people to self-medicate using illegal cannabis, a charity has claimed.
People are opting for “private” options or self-medicating “because when you’re deprived by the NHS of good choices, you make bad choices,” Henry Shelford, chief executive of ADHD UK said.
Mr Shelford – who has the neurological condition himself – said: “The options of formal medication are years away … and you need to survive in that time.
“It’s supposed to be a target of 18 weeks! It is laughable – people are waiting years.”
The lengthy appointment waits – sometimes up to five years – are in part due to the sharp rise in referrals.
The ADHD Foundation report a 400% increase in the number of adults seeking a diagnosis since 2020.
Main symptoms include persistent difficulties with maintaining attention, hyperactivity and managing impulses.
According to ADHD UK, 2.6 million people in the UK have diagnosed ADHD.
An additional two million people are thought to be living with the condition – without a diagnosis – due to mistreatment and misdiagnosis by medical professionals.
Kris Witham was diagnosed with ADHD as a 29-year-old.
Upon diagnosis, he tried four traditional treatment methods – Ritalin, Elvanse, Melatonin and talking therapy.
None proved to be as effective as he hoped.
‘Life-changing’ impact of smoking cannabis
Unwittingly, Kris had been self-medicating for just under 15 years, prior to his diagnosis.
He was smoking cannabis illegally since age 15 – and said the subsequent impact on his condition was “life-changing”.
Now aged 30 and with an official diagnosis, Kris says he regularly consumes medical cannabis to help manage his symptoms, which at times can be “debilitating”.
He always carries his cannabis with him – and keeps a doctor’s note alongside it.
In 2018, specialist doctors were given the option to legally issue prescriptions for cannabis-based medicines – if they thought their patients could benefit from it.
Kris’ prescription includes tailored strands of cannabis flower imported from Canada, which he grinds and heats up in a vaporiser three times a day.
“Cannabis has always been stigmatised. I always thought I was doing something wrong … which I was in terms of the law, but morally and medically, not so much,” he said.
“I’d use cannabis and clean my house … do my schoolwork. It stopped me shouting out in class; it helped me sit still; it helped me sleep, focus and relax.
“I’d never had the ability to do that before.”