The Relationship Between Caffeine And ADHD

Updated March 9, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Many of us know that having attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can make it very difficult to concentrate. People who live with ADHD may have a more difficult time performing certain tasks. They might get distracted easily because they are able to pick up on so much of the stimulus around them (noises, sights, smells, and so on) and have a hard time tuning them out, then can become frustrated when performing tasks that take a long time. Living with ADHD can be challenging if medical professionals aren’t properly treating you and/or you don’t understand the condition fully.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder impacts the lives of both children and adults. In fact, it’s so common that studies conducted, now known as the spontaneously hypertensive rat model (SPH), have concluded that SPH rats display virtually the same symptoms and behaviors as people with ADHD.

Many people think of ADHD as something that only children live with, but it’s actually very prevalent among adults. As many as 4.4% of American adults have ADHD, but many choose not to seek treatment and many are never diagnosed, meaning this percentage is likely actually higher. Knowing this, it may come as no surprise that some people choose to self-medicate instead.

To be clear, the best thing that you can do when you have adult ADHD is to seek medical treatment, because ADHD is considered a psychiatric disorder that can greatly impact day-to-day life and functioning. Prescription medications and therapy are often the best ways to cope with ADHD. Other remedies and treatments are not going to be nearly as useful. That being said, a surprising number of people turn to caffeine to try to help with their ADHD symptoms.

Most adult ADHD medications are prescription drugs that act as stimulants. Caffeine is also a type of stimulant, so it should work okay to help people with their ADHD problems, right? Not necessarily. Caffeine is a very popular way to increase your focus, but it isn’t going to be a great substitute for ADHD treatment, as it doesn’t actually treat ADHD and can exacerbate certain ADHD symptoms. Take a look at the relationship between caffeine and ADHD below to learn more.

What Does Caffeine Do?

Caffeine Can Exacerbate ADHD Symptoms In Adults And Children

Using caffeine for ADHD may not be the best choice overall. Caffeine has the potential to raise dopamine levels in your brain. Many ADHD medications do this in order to increase the focus of the patient, so caffeine and ADHD are not always the best mix if you’re already taking a stimulant drug as part of your treatment. In theory, caffeine can work as an ADHD medication, but it does come without its downsides.

There are many side effects associated with drinking too much caffeine. When you drink a significant number of caffeinated beverages, you’ll run the risk of getting migraine headaches and might go through caffeine addiction. To add to this, you may also experience insomnia, general irritability, and stomach problems. You’d likely have to drink a lot of caffeine in order to truly replace traditional ADHD medications, making using caffeine as an ADHD drug impractical.

Researchers do think that caffeine may have some potential as an ADHD drug in the future.  on lab rats that show promise. Some of these tests have shown an increased ability to focus on rats that have received caffeine. Having something that works well on lab rats is different from having it work for humans who live with ADHD, though.

Using coffee for ADHD is probably not going to be the best solution. This doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a caffeinated drink, though. Both caffeine and medication can of course impact your ADHD symptoms, so you should speak to your doctor about how caffeine will interact with your ADHD medication. You should be able to enjoy a certain amount of caffeine every day without it being a detriment.

Caffeine And Children

It is best to avoid letting your kids have too much caffeine. There are some parents who have used caffeine as a substitute for traditional ADHD medicine when treating their children. This doesn’t work out well as the side effects of drinking too much caffeine are often more pronounced in children. Some evidence shows that caffeine can negatively impact brain development in children too and potentially result in spatial learning deficits, particularly if the child has ADHD.

Do your best to help your child avoid caffeine if they have ADHD. There might be some signs that high amounts of caffeine will calm hyperactivity, but this is going to come with many side effects. For example, it can exacerbate insomnia. Too much caffeine could ruin your child’s sleep patterns and they may wind up struggling to stay awake during the day.

Traditional ADHD medication is much better at managing things. The side effects are not as problematic, and you’ll be able to keep your child on track. Does caffeine help ADHD? It might in some ways, but it isn’t worth the problems that it will cause for your child.

Work together with doctors to come up with the best treatment plan for your kids. This will likely involve traditional central nervous system stimulant medication. Some kids don’t react well to stimulant medications for ADHD, though. There are children who need to treat ADHD with non-stimulant ADHD medications, making it even more obvious that caffeine is not likely going to be the best answer due to the way caffeine affects ADHD in sometimes negative ways.

Why Does Caffeine Make Me Tired?

Some people withADHD get tired when they drink too much caffeine. This is not usually going to be due to drinking the caffeine itself, though the effects of caffeine do play a role. The tiredness is going to occur due to losing sleep because of the caffeine that you’ve taken into your system. If you drink a lot of caffeine throughout your day, particularly if you consume energy drinks, then you might have more problems with getting enough sleep. Lower caffeine tea consumption, such as green tea, can provide a bit of a boost without the adverse effects for some with ADHD.

Not being able to sleep at night can lead to restlessness. You might wind up only getting a few hours of sleep and this can throw off your entire sleeping schedule. Sleep deprivation due to caffeine consumption is more common than you may realize. Caffeinated drinks are very popular, and many people consume them at inappropriate times.

To add to this, caffeine has the potential to make people with ADHD more wired than they need to be. You might wind up feeling like you’re crashing after being very amped up for a small period. It’s best to use caffeine sparingly when you have ADHD issues. Try to only drink coffee or soda in the morning and stick to only drinking a reasonable amount.

If you drink caffeine properly, then it might give you a small boost in the morning. You just need to avoid having too much, such as through energy drinks, to avoid the negative side effects. As mentioned earlier, consult your family physician on caffeine use and how it might interact with any medications you’re taking. It’s always best to err on the side of caution.

What About Other Stimulants?

Now that you know more about caffeine use and how it may affect ADHD, you might be curious about whether other stimulants, such as stimulant ADHD medications, will be safe to take. You should always consult your family physician before trying anything new. There is some concern with certain stimulants, as ADHD can increase the risk of substance use disorders and addiction. There are some natural remedies that have proven to be capable of improving focus. Many people buy herbs such as gingko biloba in order to help themselves stay on task.

The problem with this is that the natural remedies are likely not going to be as effective as the prescription medication and may only help with minimal brain dysfunction and ADHD symptoms. In most cases, you’re going to be well-served by following your doctor’s plans and an effective active treatment plan. If your doctor thinks that a certain medication is worth trying, then you should generally trust them. However, be sure to ask plenty of questions and learn any supplementary information about the medication before trying it to make sure that it’s something you’re comfortable with trying. Doctors have experience and they know how to help people manage their ADHD symptoms, but you also need to feel safe and comfortable in your treatment plan, particularly if it involves taking stimulant medication.

Even if you have taken ADHD medication in the past, you might not have found the right mix of medication. It can take time to determine the right treatment for ADHD. Some medications will work well for others while not working at all for you. Also, it can take time to figure out what the proper doses are.

Give your doctor a chance to work with you on your ADHD problems. This is going to be true whether you’re living with ADHD or if your child is having ADHD-related challenges. Doctors need to be able to figure out the best solution to alleviate ADHD concerns. It may take a bit of time, but they can help you with their years of experience.

Sometimes Therapy Is Necessary

Sometimes therapy is going to be helpful when treating ADHD. Therapy is an essential element of ADHD treatments. This can help people to learn how to focus better when they’re managing ADHD symptoms. Therapists know how to teach people to function with certain ADHD symptoms better in order to promote increased productivity.

They can also work with patients to change certain behaviors that exacerbate ADHD symptoms. Going through talk therapy sessions or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) sessions can make a real difference. There are many therapists that specialize in treating those with ADHD. If you take the time to reach out, then managing your symptoms might become that much easier over time.

Online Therapy Is A Good Option

Caffeine Can Exacerbate ADHD Symptoms In Adults And Children

One good option to consider is online therapy. Online therapy is just like traditional therapy except that it can be even more convenient. You can speak to a licensed therapist today from the comfort of your own home. They’re experienced when it comes to helping people better function with ADHD issues and they’ll be happy to help you or your child out.

You can contact your therapist by text message at any time you’re in need.  Additionally, you can schedule appointments at times when you anticipate that you or your teenager will have more energy to focus in a therapy session, which can be particularly helpful for people living with ADHD.

Several studies have shown that online therapy is effective in reducing the negative symptoms of ADHD. In a meta-analysis of six randomized controlled trials involving 261 patients with ADHD, online thereapeutic interventions were shown to be more effective than a waiting list control in improving attention deficit and social function of adults and youth living with ADHD.


While ADHD is not curable, medication and therapy can provide both relief and improvement with regard to symptoms.It may well be worth the effort to get the right help today from BetterHelp. You can easily sign up for online therapy and start talking to someone in a matter of days. There are many different options, and you’ll be matched with a therapist who will work with you to help you meet your goals. While BetterHelp is suited for adults, its sister site – TeenCounseling – is an excellent option for adolescents who might benefit from online therapy for ADHD. These therapists are great at helping with many other issues as well, so you can count on them to provide you with helpful resources and ideas.

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