Everyone reacts to caffeine differently: some people can drink two cups of coffee in the morning and feel completely normal. For others, two cups of full-strength coffee may cause an upset stomach and a case of the jitters.
For people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, consuming caffeine comes with some additional considerations. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by inattentiveness, an inability to focus on tasks, and fidgety behavior among other physical and mental indicators. These neurological issues are commonly diagnosed in childhood and can last into adulthood.
Symptoms associated with ADHD are connected to a disturbance in the levels of neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain, including dopamine. Some of the most effective treatments for ADHD are prescription stimulant medications that can help improve focus and attention span, as well as help control impulsive behavior. These stimulant medications can help the brain normalize the levels of its chemical signals, including by raising dopamine levels.
As caffeine is the most commonly used natural stimulant in the world, its effects on individuals with ADHD are a subject of interest and study by scientific experts. Caffeine can be found in many drinks and foods that we eat every day, like coffee, tea, energy drinks, chocolate and some pop. Caffeine can also increase the levels of dopamine in the brain through a chain reaction it causes.
A systematic review of animal studies suggests caffeine can improve ADHD symptoms including inattention and related learning and memory issues without affecting blood pressure or body weight. The scientific community is still learning more about how caffeine could be used in the future as a possible therapeutic approach to treat ADHD.
Some studies have shown that while caffeine may help improve concentration for adults with ADHD, it’s not as effective as medication. Additionally, the average age for an ADHD diagnosis is 7. For children, caffeine can affect their growth and development, as well as cause disrupted sleep.
Some of the stimulant medications used to treat ADHD may not respond well when combined with caffeine. If you are taking prescription for ADHD, ask your health care provider about any side effects you need to be aware of or if there are changes in your diet that you need to make, such as stopping or avoiding foods and drinks with caffeine.
If you are managing ADHD, always talk with your health care provider first before making any changes to your treatment plan.
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