Coffee is a drink full of virtues. In addition to boosting your energy, concentration, and morale, several studies show that regular consumption reduces the risk of heart diseases, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and several types of cancer. But ADHD and coffee are a bad mix. Why?

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Children and adults with ADHD have trouble concentrating, completing tasks that are complex, and paying attention. They often have trouble staying still, taking their turn, and frequently act impulsively. Although these behaviors can be found in all human beings, they are present in an unusually pronounced and prolonged manner in those with ADHD.

Why Doesn’t Caffeine Affect ADHD?

Because most ADHD prescriptions are based on stimulants, it may seem okay to try ADHD self-medication with caffeine. Not so fast, gentle reader. Things are not that straightforward. On caffeine and ADHD, it is said that caffeine can have risky effects on children with ADHD and “should not be considered.

One study suggests that caffeine may be beneficial as an ADHD treatment because it normalizes dopamine levels and improves attention in people with ADHD.

Another study suggests that tea containing caffeine may help adults with ADHD. Although caffeine is similar to ADHD medications, there are some cautions to consider before using it.

In normal times, adenosine, a molecule whose role is to protect the brain by slowing down nerve activity, regularly attaches itself to small receptors present on neurons to induce a state of drowsiness. However, since caffeine molecules have the same molecular structure, they can bind to these receptors and prevent adenosine from acting.

caffeine and adhd

Why Caffeine Is Not Recommended for ADHD?

The action of neurons is accelerated, while this increased activity also leads the pituitary gland to ask the body for increased production of adrenaline, a stress hormone.

But like enzymes, no two people have the same number of receptors. So, for a given quantity of caffeine in the brain, the biological effects will depend on the number of receptors available. 

In people who have many receptors, the effects of caffeine will not be very marked, and vice versa because it will act on all the receptors present if there are few.

Due to the lack of data and the lack of systematic reviews, no reliable statements can currently be made about the effects of caffeine on ADHD. Various studies have only shown that psychostimulants such as methylphenidate are superior to caffeine.

A study among children investigating caffeine’s impact vs. dextroamphetamine, and methylphenidate, could not say that caffeine was superior to these psychostimulants. According to what we know medically today, caffeine is not a treatment alternative to Adderall.

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Can Caffeine Make ADHD Worse?

In numerous caffeine pills ADHD Reddit threads, one reads, again and again, new ideas mostly from young people who exchange information on the subject of ADHD. A statement on the Internet reads as follows: “When I have energy drinks, then I am somehow calmer and more relaxed.” A further description is the following: “By chance, I got noticed that when I drink 1-2 sugar-free energy drinks, my concentration improved significantly.

Both statements describe the symptom treatment of energy drinks to increase concentration. Interestingly, the comments on coffee often read contrary to the experiences with energy drinks. For example: “But when I drink coffee, I get even more restless and nervous than I already am.” Or: “Coffee hardly has any effect on me.

If you have ADHD, the caffeine in coffee could improve your focus [1*] and concentration in the same that stimulant-based ADHD medication works. However, results vary from person to person. Plus, sometimes coffee makes ADD worse, for instance, by increasing insomnia and edginess.

Should You Give a Child With ADHD Coffee?

Caffeine, like many other substances, can provoke a paradoxical response in children with ADHD. Instead of the expected effects of increased alertness and better cognition, opposing effects, such as calming effects, are then achieved.

Paradoxical effects, however, are not reliably predictable in all cases and do not occur in all people with ADHD. In children with ADHD, [2*] who get no opposite caffeine effect, caffeine can aggravate the symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity in particular.

Caffeine and ADHD

When Should You Avoid Caffeine?

Further, you may not know the correct caffeine dosage for ADHD for your child to calm their symptoms. Even brewed coffee or tea can vary greatly in caffeine content from cup to cup. This can make it difficult to gauge how much is needed or how much is too much.

Remember that caffeine alone may not be enough to treat ADHD. ADHD medications contain higher, controlled doses of stimulants purposely formulated to treat the disorder. Giving your child caffeinated foods and drinks may not be enough, especially if he /she has a severe case of ADHD.

Does Caffeine Affect Adderall?

Adderall carries amphetamine— a central nervous stimulant as its active ingredient and is usually prescribed for ADHD treatment. Caffeine-containing coffee is also a potent stimulant. Both these stimulants impact the chemistry of your brain.

Adding caffeine to ADHD medications can cause stimulant overload. Using caffeine alongside a stimulant medication may result in too much total stimulant. This increases the risk of side effects.

A little combined use of coffee and ADHD are less likely to pose risks to you or the child. Even so, doctors recommend not mixing them at all.

If you or the child has an Adderall prescription, limit caffeine intake to be safe from side effects such as nervousness and insomnia. The effects can be even more adverse if you or the child has anxiety or high blood pressure. Use decaffeinated drinks for ADHD children.

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Stimulants can be safe and effective for ADHD, but not for everyone. Would you like to learn better ways to manage and live better with ADHD? At EZCare Clinic, we create personalized treatment and care plans for our patients. Schedule an appointment.


+2 sources
  1. Caffeine and a healthy diet may boost memory, thinking skills; alcohol’s effect uncertain. (2014)
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  2. What is ADHD?
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This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team of experts strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.