The Truth About Caffeine and ADHD

Caffeine is consumed in a variety of forms throughout the day, including coffee, tea, sodas, energy drinks, and chocolate. Caffeine activates the neurological system and increases dopamine production, which aids movement, attention, and focus in the body.

How does caffeine affect the brain and body?

Caffeine affects each individual differently. While most experts believe that moderate caffeine consumption is safe, too much caffeine can cause a variety of negative effects, including uneasiness, anxiety, rapid heartbeat, and upset stomach, as well as restlessness, headaches, insomnia, and muscle tremors.

In addition to alertness and increased focus, Caffeine may help with headaches, memory, and even the prevention of diseases such as cancers, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

How does caffeine affect ADHD?

The evidence for caffeine’s effects on ADHD is primarily anecdotal. Some people are calmed by the stimulant, while others get more anxious. However, many parents and individuals with ADHD (as well as certain studies) indicate that light to moderate coffee consumption helps them focus and concentrate better.

Patients on stimulant medication for ADHD, on the other hand, have less of a desire for coffee, according to Ari Tuckman, Psy.D., M.B.A.

“The amount of caffeine you’d need to consume to affect ADHD would probably cause agitation,” said Larry Silver, M.D.

How much caffeine is safe?

According to the Mayo Clinic, an adult can consume 400 mg of caffeine per day, which is equivalent to four cups of coffee. The maximum caffeine intake for children varies by age, with 45 milligrams (approximately one 8-ounce cup) for 4- to 6-year-olds and 85 milligrams (about one 8-ounce cup) for 10- to 12-year-olds. Caffeine should be limited to 300 milligrams per day for pregnant women and those attempting to conceive.

If you consume more than four cups of coffee daily

If you’re drinking more than 4 cups of caffeinated coffee per day (or the equivalent) and you’re experiencing side effects like:

  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Frequent urination or inability to control urination
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Muscle tremors

Caffeine and Medications

Caffeine use can reduce the effectiveness of drugs and change the way they work. Caffeine has an effect on the following medications:

  • Antidepressants
  • Sedatives
  • Antipsychotics
  • Blood pressure drugs
  • Anticoagulants
  • Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s drugs
  • Cancer medications
  • Thyroid medications
  • Antibiotics
  • NSAIDs
  • Migraine medications
  • Estrogen
  • Oxandrolone

Ask your doctor how caffeine may interact with your medications so you can avoid absorption problems.

What does the research say about using caffeine to treat ADHD?

Researchers looking into the effects of coffee on ADHD aren’t exactly new, but the amount of evidence is still modest and ambiguous.

Tea consumption may help treat ADHD in adults, according to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Medical Hypotheses and Ideas. Another study in the same year found that rats who consumed caffeine had a significant improvement in attention deficit disorder.

Caffeine’s therapeutic potential as a treatment or an adjuvant medication in ADHD was suggested for more exploration in a 2014 review published in the journal Psychopharmacol. Caffeine appears to stabilize dopamine levels and increase attention in persons with ADHD, according to a study published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology in 2013.

What’s the conclusion on caffeine and ADHD?

When asked about eating habits, one respondent said, “We try to reduce sugars, caffeine (chocolate), and increase protein,” while another noted that “caffeine is good, but not excessive amounts.” And yet another responded that she uses fish oil, caffeine, vitamin D, and exercise to manage symptoms.

To put it another way, it appears that medical experts and patients do not agree on a single best practice.

The bottom line on caffeine use: While one individual may find that a cup of coffee in the morning helps them control their symptoms, another may not. What works best isn’t usually the treatment that their doctors recommend or that the majority of people utilize.


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