Does Caffeine Help ADHD?

Reviewed on 9/23/2022
Two young girls at a diner drinking soda
Although caffeine is a stimulant, it is not routinely used to treat ADHD because it is not as effective as prescription stimulant medication.

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder of childhood characterized by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Symptoms may continue into adulthood. 

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is usually treated with a combination of behavior therapy and medication. 

Stimulant medications are typically used to treat ADHD. Stimulants have a paradoxical effect in children with ADHD and they help to improve attention, concentration, and self-control. 

Caffeine is also a stimulant, but it is not routinely used to help ADHD because it is not as effective as prescription stimulant medicines, such as:

A nonstimulant medicine used as an alternative to stimulants to treat ADHD is atomoxetine (Strattera).

Caffeine also has several side effects such as: 

Children may be more susceptible to these side effects. 

Medications do not cure ADHD, and behavioral treatments are usually needed to help a child learn to follow rules, stay motivated, and work well with others. Before medications are prescribed, behavioral treatments usually are recommended for preschool-aged children. School-aged children with ADHD usually do well with stimulant medicine plus behavioral treatments and counseling if needed. 

What Are Symptoms of ADHD?

Children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) have difficulty focusing and behaving more than usual, and do not grow out of these behaviors and symptoms, which can cause difficulty at school, at home, and with friends.

Symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) include: 

  • Hyperactivity
    • Frequent restlessness 
    • Excessive fidgeting or squirming
    • Always seems to be “on the go”
    • Difficulty remaining seated 
    • Excessive talking
    • Difficulty playing quietly
  • Impulsivity
    • Disruptive classroom behavior
    • Blurting out answers too quickly
    • Difficulty waiting turns
    • Intruding on or interrupting others' activities
    • Difficulty getting along with others/rejection by classmates
    • Difficulty resisting temptation
    • Unintentional injury
    • Taking unnecessary risks
  • Inattention
    • Easily distracted
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Disorganization
    • Forgetfulness
    • Losing or misplacing things
    • Underachievement in school
    • Poor follow-through with assignments or tasks
    • Making careless mistakes
    • Lack of attention to detail
    • Daydreaming

What Causes ADHD?

The cause of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is unknown, but genetics are thought to play a role. 

Other causes and risk factors for developing ADHD may include:

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Reviewed on 9/23/2022

Image source: iStock Images