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ADHD and Caffeine: The Effects of Caffeine on ADHD

See what ADHD and caffeine research has to say about the benefits and drawbacks of caffeine when you have ADHD. More on HealthyPlace.

ADHD and caffeine might not seem like a good match.  Yet, as studies continue to emerge, the benefits of using caffeine in the treatment of ADHD are becoming apparent. Commonly, those with ADHD are treated with stimulant medication.  These drugs can help improve focus and attention span while aiding in the management of impulsive behaviors. Caffeine (also a stimulant) rouses the central nervous system and increases the production of dopamine in the brain, supporting the ability to concentrate and focus. With this, an increasing number of medical professionals and researchers are exploring the potential benefits when it comes to ADHD and caffeine.

ADHD and Caffeine

Caffeine is one of the most widely used stimulants in the world. Caffeine is also considered a vasoconstrictor. Vasoconstrictors decrease the size of blood vessels and reduce blood flow. While the specific reason is unknown, reduced blood flow decreases the activity of overactive brain regions. This process essentially allows for those overactive brain regions to work better with the rest of the brain.

Yet caffeine alone may not be enough to manage ADHD symptoms, especially in more severe cases. Additionally, caffeine is more difficult to monitor in terms of dosage, as many foods and drinks already contain caffeine. Also, caution should be taken when using caffeine in addition to ADHD stimulant medication, as stimulant overload can occur.

Downsides of Caffeine When You Have ADHD

Although there are clear benefits to using caffeine for managing ADHD symptoms, there are drawbacks as well.  For those with ADHD, caffeine dosage is important, and doctors warn consuming more than 400mg of caffeine per day may result in:

  • Insomnia – difficulty sleeping will affect anyone’s mental health and overall well-being. Yet for those with ADHD, lack of sleep can contribute to an increase in symptoms
  • Irritability – stimulants, including caffeine, have been linked to increased anxiety, jitteriness, and overall irritability.
  • Headaches – caffeine can trigger headaches, in that it constricts blood vessels, and can sometimes result in pain.
  • Upset stomach – nausea, vomiting, heartburn, and general discomfort occur for some people who have caffeine.

ADHD and Caffeine in Adults vs Children

Regarding children with ADHD and caffeine, it is not a recommended treatment approach (Best Diet for Your ADHD Child). Children are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of caffeine. Additionally, caffeine has been shown to impact brain growth, and a child’s brain is not yet fully developed.

Studies on ADHD and Caffeine

Although the studies on ADHD and caffeine have been minimal, and some results inconclusive, there are some positive indications. For instance, a study conducted in 2005 on hyperactive rats found that caffeine intake improved certain spatial learning deficits. Another study compared children with ADHD who were given caffeine to children with ADHD who were given no treatment at all. The children given caffeine were found to have decreased hyperactivity when compared to the children who had no caffeine.

Research around the possible benefits of treatment in terms of ADHD and caffeine is fairly sparse, and additional understanding is needed. Either way, if you are thinking about using caffeine to manage your ADHD, it is recommended to seek advice from a medical professional.

Each person is different, and as with any other ADHD treatment, a medical professional should be consulted before adding a caffeine regimen to your ADHD diet plan.

article references

APA Reference
Jarrold, J. (2018, May 17). ADHD and Caffeine: The Effects of Caffeine on ADHD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, May 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/adhd/food-and-adhd/adhd-and-caffeine-the-effects-of-caffeine-on-adhd

Last Updated: 2019, May 7

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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