Caffeine and ADHD: Does Caffeine Help ADHD?
The topic of Caffeine and ADHD is responsible for some controversial discussions, but in this article, we’re not going to jump to conclusions. Caffeine is the most widely consumed drug globally. It is a stimulant that can be found in coffee, tea, chocolate, some carbonated drinks, and several other sources. There is evidence to show that the stimulating effect of caffeine can improve ADHD symptoms and interact with the performance of ADHD medication.
Regardless of the evidence, there are several questions to ask before adults and children with ADHD start using this stimulant. In this article, I will not be telling you to use caffeine for ADHD. Instead, I will outline how caffeine interacts with ADHD, its benefits, its side effects, its effects on children, and the responsible way to use caffeine as a stimulant. Your final decision on using caffeine for ADHD should be just that; yours.
How Caffeine interacts with ADHD and ADHD Medication
When caffeine is introduced to the body, it stimulates the central nervous system . The most noticeable effect is mental alertness. Caffeine also improves the production of a chemical known as dopamine, which activates the pleasure-seeking part of the brain. This combination of effects makes someone who consumes coffee more focused on the task at hand. It may even make the process of completing tasks more enjoyable.
For people who are using ADHD medication, the effect of caffeine may be significantly more intense. When caffeine is mixed with dextroamphetamine (or Adderall), both drugs form a synergy and could become more effective.
Benefits of Using Caffeine for ADHD
In adults, caffeine presents the following benefits:
Caffeine improves concentration by repressing the adenosine receptors. These are the receptors that are responsible for causing your body to feel drowsy. This helps to improve aspects of cognition and attention . Adults with ADHD who consume caffeine may find it easier to calm their fidgeting and complete tasks.
Better performance from ADHD medication
ADHD medication and caffeine are chemically able to form synergy. This means that their total effect together is greater than what you would get by consuming these drugs individually. Synergy could mean better drug performance and an improvement in the symptoms of ADHD.
In children with ADHD, caffeine presents the following benefits:
Improved focus and better emotional management
There has been no recent controlled study on using coffee for ADHD in children. But several case studies, usually reported by parents, show that ADHD symptoms in children can be calmed using doses of caffeine. Reports such as this one and this one show some success. Parents claim that their children focus better and throw fewer tantrums. Generally, children may be able to react better to situations that demand cognitive and emotional work.
Side Effects of Caffeine Consumption
Adults who consume caffeine regularly may develop some level of dependence. This means that on the days when they cannot use caffeine, they may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, anxiety, tremors, and anxiety.
Poor sleeping patterns
Since caffeine represses adenosine receptors, someone who consumes coffee may struggle to sleep at night. They may stop producing the required amount of organic chemicals needed to support a full night’s rest.
Medication side effects
The mixture of ADHD medication and caffeine could lead to some side effects including nausea, abdominal pains, anxiety, and dizziness .
Effects of Caffeine Use in Children
The case of jitters
Caffeine can be overstimulating to a child and cause nervousness or anxiety. There is no current proven guideline for how much coffee is ingestible for children. This means that an at-home dosage could easily be more than they need, leading to side effects such as jitters.
Poor reception when mixed with ADHD medication
If a child is already on ADHD medication, it may be poor practice to introduce caffeine to their diet. The mixture of two stimulants in their central nervous system may do more harm than good.
Unpredictable health problems
There’s a chance that a child could develop health complications as a result of long-term consumption of caffeine. Caffeine and its chemicals are absorbed by all the body’s tissues . There are no available data from field studies on this concern, so we really don’t know what to expect.
Recommended Sources of Caffeine
If you choose to explore the benefits of caffeine for managing ADHD symptoms, here are the best sources to consider.
Green tea provides a gentle, steady source of stimulation. It contains less caffeine than coffee (or even black tea) but still gets the job done. It also supplies the body with antioxidants which is great for overall health. Green tea for ADHD is the best option to ease your body into caffeine use .
Coffee is the most popular source of caffeine and can be found easily. Adults should avoid drinking more than four cups a day to prevent nasty side effects . Coffee for kids with ADHD will depend on personal judgment as there is no proven safe amount for consumption.
The occasional soda
There are several soda options, including cola drinks and Mountain Dew, to get your dose of caffeine. One forum page shows several parents claiming that Mountain Dew for ADHD works effectively in their children. However, remember that soda contains sugars and acids that can be bad for health. Use sparingly if at all.
Other sources of caffeine include caffeine pills, chocolate, and protein bars. It’s important to do your research and find the option that best fits your needs or your child’s needs.
 Healthline, 2017: The Effects of Caffeine on Your Body.
 Ioannidis K, Chamberlain S, Müller U. (2014). Ostracising caffeine from the pharmacological arsenal for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder–was this a correct decision? A literature review. Retrieved here.
 WebMD: Caffeine: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning
 Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks for Children and Adolescents: Are They Appropriate? Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. Pediatrics June 2011, 127 (6) 1182-1189; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2011-0965button