Scientists studying the impact of caffeine on ADHD have discovered that the effects of caffeine mimic the effects of other stimulants commonly used to treat attention deficit disorders. Research suggests that caffeine appears to work particularly well in children with ADHD and may even mask adult symptoms in some individuals. The side effects of caffeine treatments are also fewer and less severe than other medications used to treat this condition.
As a natural stimulant, caffeine increases alertness and attention in most people. These increases serve to balance out the effects of ADHD in those affected by it and work to restore attention levels commonly lost as a result of the disorder. The effects of caffeine on ADHD are not without drawbacks, however, as caffeine is a highly addictive substance. Negative side effects associated with caffeine withdrawal include headache, irritability, body tremors, ulcers, heart palpitations and extreme fatigue. Prolonged use of caffeine may also overburden adrenal glands, the circulatory system and various nerves.
Coffee, as well as other caffeinated foods and beverages are known to cause restlessness and hyperactivity in most people. In studying the effects of caffeine on ADHD, researchers have noted that caffeine does not reduce hyperactivity. Instead, caffeine only appears to help increase attention levels while other treatments may still be needed to address hyperactivity and issues relating to poor impulse control.
Some people who self-medicate attention disorders use coffee to access the effects of caffeine on ADHD. Several have even reported that coffee has a calming effect and actually helps promote better sleep. Experts, however, warn individuals using caffeine for ADHD to be careful of overconsumption and to limit the amount of sugar often used to sweeten coffee, as sugar may increase ADHD symptoms.
Naturopathic experts commonly believe that attention disorders are largely related to a person’s diet. Many specifically recommend avoiding foods such as refined carbohydrates, foods made with artificial coloring and preservatives, and foods containing trans fats. In particular, these experts further recommend that children avoid foods containing processed sugar and caffeine, such as chocolate desserts and sodas containing both ingredients. Some naturopathic doctors believe that the effects of caffeine on ADHD are more damaging than they are helpful.
Despite positive evidence for the effects of caffeine on ADHD, many are reluctant to use it on children because of the possible dangers of addiction. Concerns, however, also exist about the side effects of medications commonly prescribed to treat attention disorders. Side effects of these medications may include personality changes, the development of muscle tics and sleep disorders.