Caffeine and ADHD: What You Should Know

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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common condition that affects children and adults. It is estimated that 2.5% of adults and 8.4% of children have ADHD.

The typical symptoms of ADHD include hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. This can affect both the classroom, for children, and the workplace, for adults. In addition, ADHD is known to have an impact on social skills and daily tasks, but this depends on the age and severity of the condition.

Read on to learn more about the relationship between caffeine and ADHD, including the associated risks and benefits.

Cup of coffee on top of coffee beans

mikroman6 / Getty Images

Caffeine Stimulates the Body

Caffeine is found in many of the beverages that you consume throughout the day, like coffee, tea, soda, and some energy drinks. Caffeine is known to stimulate the nervous system and brain.

When caffeine enters the body, it increases the production of dopamine. This is a neurochemical in the brain that controls your ability to concentrate and focus.

Consuming caffeine could help increase focus in the short term, but it may also cause adverse effects, such as difficulties resting or sleeping at night. This depends on how much caffeine is consumed and the age of the individual.

There is some concern regarding caffeinated drinks' effects on children. Research has shown that caffeine in soft drinks can produce mood and behavioral effects in children. Too much caffeine can also affect a child’s response and their ability to focus and cooperate, which can affect them in school, with family, and at play.

Caffeine Affects ADHD

Caffeine constricts the blood vessels and reduce blood flow. The effect of caffeine is similar to how the common ADHD medicine, Adderall, a type of amphetamine, works. ADHD medicines are known to target the central nervous system to improve concentration. When caffeine is consumed, it can have a similar effect by increasing dopamine production and blocking adenosine, which relaxes blood vessels.

Caffeine and ADHD Medication

Common stimulant medications for ADHD include the following: 

  • Adderall (amphetamine)
  • Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)
  • Ritalin (methylphenidate)

If an individual consumes caffeine along with this medication, it will produce a synergistic effect. A synergistic effect is the combined effect of taking two drugs with similar outcomes together (in this case an ADHD drug and caffeine).

Both the caffeine and prescription medication have addictive components, which can result in an increase in focus and risk for side effects. The amount of caffeine will determine whether it will help or hurt. Side effects include the following:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Frequent urination
  • Digestive issues
  • Anxiety     
  • Insomnia (sleep difficulties)
  • High blood pressure

Risks

It is important to contact a healthcare professional if you have questions or concerns about your or your child's medication and caffeine consumption. Most adults drink caffeinated beverages in moderation. But you should be mindful of the dose of medication, as well as how much caffeine you are consuming to avoid any negative side effects.

A healthcare provider can also help you determine the proper intake of caffeine. For children, their diet, medication, and caffeine consumption should be discussed with a medical professional. A healthcare provider can help determine the best course of action to ensure the child's ADHD is being treated as effectively as possible.

 Summary

Caffeine is a natural substance that may impact ADHD symptoms and medication. For this reason, it's important to monitor your caffeine intake to see how it affects you. Caffeine is known for its stimulating effects, which can appeal to those who are diagnosed with ADHD, but these effects tend to be short lived. To find the right treatment for your ADHD, it's best to talk to a mental health professional to determine the best way to manage the condition.

A Word From Verywell

If a child is diagnosed with ADHD, they might start with a school counselor and seek help from a medical health professional or learning specialist. For adults, it is important to discuss the symptoms with your healthcare provider so they can help you get a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Caffeine, depending on the amount, is likely safe to consume for a person diagnosed with ADHD. Discussing your symptoms and effects of caffeine with a healthcare professional can also help you know your limitations when it comes to caffeine intake and ADHD.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Psychiatric Association. What is ADHD? July 2017.

  2. American Phycological Association. A sip into dangerous territory.

By Yvelette Stines
Yvelette Stines, MS, MEd, is an author, writer, and communications specialist specializing in health and wellness.