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Using Caffeine for ADHD: Could Starbucks Be Therapeutic?

answered 05:02 AM EST, Fri June 21, 2013
anonymous anonymous
Since all ADHD treatments are basically psychostimulants will all psychostimulants basically work as ADHD medications? Specifically, would caffeine in moderately high doses help to control ADHD symptoms, assuming the side effects were tolerable?...red bulls…ephedrine?

Rob Danzman Says...

Many adults with ADHD believe that caffeine boosts their attention, but research results are less clear. Some studies find better performance on memory tasks; others find that caffeine aids concentration but impairs short-term memory. There is also anecdotal research that caffeine makes people more anxious and hinders sleep. Caffeine withdrawal may trigger headache, fatigue, irritability and nervousness.

Since it is a stimulant, caffeine has definitely been investigated as a potential treatment for attention deficit disorder. Its use as a therapy is not widespread because it was found in research studies to be less efficient than other stimulants. What this means is that caffeine could be effect for treatment except for the significant amount necessary to reduce ADHD symptoms as much as traditional stimulants. Also - researchers suggest the doses were too low to have a consistent effect. They say that if caffeine proves useful, it “would represent a qualitative increment over the traditional repeated use of psychostimulants, which can have severe side effects if repeatedly used in children.” Basically, it would be awesome to use coffee (or Red Bull, etc.) instead of Adderall but you would need to consume such a concentrated amount that the side effects would make this unsustainable.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that many individuals are already using caffeine to self-medicate ADHD in themselves or their children. Not surprisingly, many with ADHD find it has the opposite effect (just like prescription stimulants) than it does in other people: instead of making them more active and stimulated, it actually has more of a calming effect and encourages sleep. Seems as helpful as a self-assessment tool for ADHD.

Ultimately, talk with your psychiatrist (not regular physician) about how to mitigate symptoms related to ADHD. Research also supports the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, exercise, and Meditation. These have been found over and over again to be as effective as prescription stimulants without the weird side-effects.

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Page last updated Jun 21, 2013

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