How Caffeine Affects ADHD

At first glance, the notion that caffeine could help those with ADHD might seem a bit laughable. However, some evidence suggests that this could very well be the case.

Revving Up

It’s not hard to find caffeine; this stimulant is a well-known ingredient in coffee, tea and chocolate, among other products. As a stimulant, caffeine energizes the body’s central nervous system, and prompts the brain to up its production of dopamine, a hormone tasked with transmitting messages between nerve cells. Because of this, caffeine often causes people to feel more active and less tired.

So what does any of this have to do with ADHD? Well, dopamine levels in those with ADHD are significantly lower than normal. Stimulants, including caffeine, have the effect of boosting dopamine levels. Furthermore, once in the body caffeine works to counteract the effects of adenosine, a chemical compound that causes people to feel tired.

Putting Theory to the Test

A 2020 study, published in the journal Molecular Neurobiology, examined the effects of caffeine in young, hyperactive mice. When combined with a regular exercise routine, the study authors noted improvements in their subjects’ serotonin and dopamine levels, as well as their overall behavior and short-term memory. An earlier study, published in 2011 in the journal Medical Hypotheses, concluded that the caffeinated tea could prove useful for adults living with ADHD.

Drink Up?

So does this mean that ADHD sufferers should rush out to their favorite coffee shop? Well, not so fast. Not everyone with ADHD benefits from increasing their caffeine intake; some individuals see no benefit, while others even find that their symptoms get somewhat worse. Because of these mixed results, it is best to consult with your doctor before taking any stimulants, supplements or herbal remedies for ADHD.

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