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Vincent Iannelli, M.D.

Coffee for ADHD

By September 7, 2011

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A story about a mom who is giving her child with ADHD coffee is getting some attention.

The treatment, along with the diagnosis, was the mom's idea.

Not surprisingly, giving a child coffee instead of a prescription drug is getting some support from other parents.

It is important to realize that caffeine is a drug too though. It is well known to be addictive and to cause withdrawal symptoms in many people. It is even prescribed for premature babies who have apnea and bradycardia. A drug related to caffeine, theophylline, was until recently commonly used to treat asthma.

Interestingly, theophylline and caffeine are both members of the methylxanthine class of drugs.

Giving children with ADHD caffeine isn't even a new idea though.

A 1975 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry looked at caffeine, methlyphenidate (Ritalin), and d-amphetamine (Dexderine), and found that while caffeine was not better than placebo in treating children with ADHD, both prescription drugs did provide significant improvement over both placebo and caffeine.

All together, it looks six controlled studies were done on the effects of caffeine in children with ADHD in the 1970s, and they did not show convincing evidence of benefit.

An article in Experimental & Clinical Psychopharmacology even suggested that "Caffeine appears to slightly improve vigilance performance and decrease reaction time in healthy children who habitually consume caffeine but does not consistently improve performance in children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder."

Should you try the coffee treatment for your child's ADHD? Besides the fact that studies have shown it isn't effective, the whole idea of addiction to coffee and caffeine should make you think twice. As someone who drinks (needs) three oversized cups of coffee day, I can attest to the draw of coffee.

My oldest son stopped taking his ADHD medicine when he was in seventh grade, as he didn't seem to need it anymore. If he had been drinking two cups of coffee a day since kindergarten, I doubt it would have been as easy to stop his ADHD treatment as simply not giving him a pill one morning.

Related:
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Mom Gives 7-Year-Old Son Coffee Daily to Treat ADHD
Caffeine Chemistry
Caffeine
History of ADHD
ADHD

Comments
September 14, 2011 at 8:57 pm
(1) kaylynn taylor says:

I had ADHD when i was little and i wason ritilan it gave me tummy aches so my dad made me expressos everyday before school and i wasnt hyper also anything with ginsing in it calmed me down. its soo strange something that is sapposed to make me hyper calmed me down.

December 14, 2011 at 9:12 pm
(2) hooper85 says:

Well, it didn’t seem to help your mastery of spelling and punctuation. Why is it that kids these days seem unable to construct cogent sentences? You can’t write like you do in a text message and expect anyone to take you seriously, much less interpret your point of view correctly. Without proper punctuation, sentences are often semantically ambiguous; at best people simply have to guess at what you mean.

January 10, 2012 at 5:39 pm
(3) WellSaid says:

Well said hooper85. I feel the same way. Yikes!

January 24, 2012 at 3:21 pm
(4) SM says:

You’re right Kaylynn, stimulants have the opposite effect on people with ADHD. The disorder is also usually paired with any number of learning disabilities, making learning just a bit more challenging. You will likely run into BULLIES like hooper85 & Wellsaid, all your life. Just because they may be more articulate, doesn’t change the fact they’re jerks! Karma’s a B__CH!

February 7, 2012 at 9:55 am
(5) Nayeli says:

Ok so my 3 older children have ADHD and has drank coffee since little and it would put them to sleep…Now my youngest drinks coffee and it doesnt make him sleepy….So should i assume that he possiable doesn’t or wont have ADHD little older siblings?

February 17, 2012 at 10:04 am
(6) Metoo says:

Agrees with SM !!!

April 5, 2012 at 12:33 pm
(7) Eve says:

@Hooper: We have a name for people like you: Grammar Nazi. Unclench and pull out the stick. Not everyone is PERFECT like you. This doesn’t make them any less important (or intelligent for that matter). If you honestly can’t figure out what she wrote, YOU’RE the one with the problem.

December 1, 2012 at 12:18 pm
(8) Punctually says:

Actually hooper85, the semicolon in your final sentence is superfluous.
So in your venerable opinion, would that be irony, hypocrisy, or both?

January 20, 2013 at 10:02 am
(9) Kris says:

Hooper85: How about you back off. People with ADHD are known to have learning difficulties. Do you think maybe, just maybe, that could have been the case here. Instead of a lazy kid who is more concerned with the language of texting. For someone who claims to be so above and highly educated, all you have done is proven your ignorance.

February 24, 2013 at 8:32 pm
(10) Sarah says:

This is supposed to be a place where people can talk about issues, not be judged for their grammar. Hooper, are you an English proffessor, or just a really mean nerd?

February 26, 2013 at 11:54 am
(11) Guest says:

My teenage son has struggled with ADHD all his life and has had constant struggles in school because of it. As parents we have tried everything to find a solution. My son has been on several stimulant medications, even trying different doses to no avail. The side effects were awful!! My son had headaches, chest pain, loss of sleep, picked his fingers raw, constant rubbing of eyes and clearing of throat. We finally took our son off the stimulant medications that did not work and looked for a natural remedy. We use behavioral modification, lots of exercise, diet, and COFFEE IN THE MORNING BEFORE SCHOOL. COFFEE IS HELPING HIM STAY FOCUSED IN SCHOOL. Of course Doctors dont have much faith in natural remedies because they want you medicated, in their office, so they can make $$$$ Stimulant medications have TONS of side effects! And who knows what LONG TERM SIDE EFFECTS WILL BE! Parents want a quick fix to ADHD, a pill that will fix everything! NOT SO! Sometimes you have to try many different things to find what will work. In my opinion there are many natural remedies that do work and have worked for my son.

February 27, 2013 at 9:11 am
(12) KadensGran1963 says:

Has anyone tried “Synaptol”?? Suppose to be all natural & works wonders BUT I havent heard of anybody off their site using it.

April 3, 2013 at 10:41 am
(13) Shelly says:

For one, you are not helping the young generation by allowing them to have correct grammar. It’s a serious issue, maybe the people were a little harsh about going about it, but no one can seem to write anymore. Back to the topic, has anyone thought about the long-term use of it with the amount of caffeine intake, especially for those who are still growing? My son is 13 and I don’t want him to get on the cycle that he drinks a gallon of it because the effects wear off.

April 15, 2013 at 4:48 am
(14) Tress83 says:

Shelly,
I have ADHD and have been “medicating” with coffee since the age of 8. My consumption over the years has not changed. I still have ONE cup of black coffee every morning. Until you (I mean everybody here who is condemning this practice) know a child or adult with ADHD and the struggles that they face, don’t judge. The meds make some of us feel like zombies or have horrible side effects. “Guaranteed to make you focus, despite the head ache, stomach ache, nausea, etc….”

April 22, 2013 at 6:49 pm
(15) wondering says:

I have wondered about the synaptol all natural medication myself. As the last person stayed, I also cannot find anyone posting about its use outmoded the manufacturers website.

May 10, 2013 at 10:06 pm
(16) Melisa arnold says:

I have been drinking coffee almost every night BEFORE bed for over 10 years. It flat knocks me out & I sleep very soundly. I made a comment about this to a friend & was told that I might have ADHD. Maybe that explains my scatter-brained activities. I have never been diagnosed & I am 44

July 22, 2013 at 5:31 pm
(17) Christine says:

Kaylynn, the reason why the coffee helped you is because it’s a stimulant, so isn’t the medication for ADD and ADHD. You would feel calm after coffee or any other stimulant, that happens with people who have ADD or ADHD. You however, mentioned that you once had ADHD, once you have that disorder you always have it…this disorder does not come or go.

hoopers85-Kaylynn does have a learning disorder that will prevent her from being able to look at something and be able to distinguish it’s meaning and an even poorer use of vocabulary…this is NOT her fault, I suggest you read up on ADD and ADHD and until then keep such nasty comments to yourself until you fully understand

August 1, 2013 at 9:57 am
(18) Concerened aunt says:

Prescription drugs are addicted as well.

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