Caffeine for ADHD?


New Member
I've read on a number of websites that a little caffeine helps children with ADHD. They usually include a recipe for a morning smoothie with a bit of coffee in it.
Has anyone tried this? Because it seems like utter madness to me to give my 7 year old, who cannot sit in his desk, caffeine right before school.
His psychologist aptmt is not until Sept. 11, and school starts on Aug. 20th. I thought if I could do something to help him get through the first few weeks of school before we get a diagnosis it would be a good thing for him.


Well-Known Member
I have only witnessed more hyperactivity with-caffeine, although it's always been coupled with-sugar, in, say, a softdrink, so I did not conduct a scientific study.
Still, I do not think that caffeine is close enough chemically to stimulant drugs, that it would work on kids. Tangentially, my husband has used caffeine for his asthma attacks, when necessary, instead of prednisone, and that works fine.

You can try it if you want, but I'd make sure it's on a day when you're going hiking in the foothills of Siberia! :smile:

Sara PA

New Member
Sure it will work for some kids. Caffeine is a stimulant, stimulants are used to treat ADHD. Caffeine lasts about 4 hours and may have some letdown side effects when it wears off but they won't be as bad as stimulant rebound because the caffeine is a weaker stimulant.

When I was in grad school, it was a known fact that drinking coffee before tests would improve test scores. Now I read that kids in school take methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate) for the same reason.


Well-Known Member
Speaking from personal experience, I have used caffeine to control my ADD/ADHD symptoms nearly all my life, and it has worked very well.

My grandmother started giving me weak tea when I was about 5 years old, and gradually increased the strength until I was drinking very strong tea at about 10.

When my younger boy (who shows signs of ADHD) was about 2, I started giving him "tea", made up of half milk, half warm water, with a teabag dunked quickly in the cup. It seemed to help calm him down (but perhaps that was just the effect of having a quiet tea party with mum).

Your mileage may vary with with any other stimulant, different things work better for different children, but I have seen this work well for a number of people.

As you suggest, I would try this before the school year starts, so that you have an idea of how well this works before you really need it. If Coke doesn't work, try tea, or a half-spoon of instant coffee in a large glass of milk. At 7 years old, your little one probably won't need much.


Going Green
difficult child's psychiatrist once told me that in a pinch, some kids will react positively to a little bit of Mt. Dew in the mornings. She didn't mention any research behind it and did say that it doesn't work for all kids but it does work. With that example, she also said that it wouldn't work long term but once in awhile it could be used with some sucess. (I guess if you're out of medications maybe or having a particularly hyper day???)


Active Member
That's a useful list, Sara. I hope it applies to us as well - amounts and recipes do vary from country to country.

Caffeine used to be a disaster for our younger three. Especially the boys - we had tried diet on difficult child 1 very early on, found that caffeine and oranges were a trigger. On ritalin, the problem went away with oranges, and with small amounts of caffeine, but more than one cup of cola would have difficult child 1 acting as if his medication had not been taken - it was nasty. It was discovered at a school birthday party one day; the birthday child had brought in soft drink (including cola) and difficult child 1, thinking (as we did) that cola was OK if he'd taken his medications, had several cups. Next day (Saturday) it was still affecting him; we went to a restaurant for lunch and had a shocking time with difficult child 1 all over the place, unable to sit still, getting loud and aggressive - we asked him if he'd eaten a lot of oranges or drunk cola, eh said, "It doesn't affect me when I'm on my medications."
"Did you take them?"
difficult child 1 was too far affected to remember if he'd taken his medications, but husband remembered giving them to him. So we tried to talk it through - "When did you have cola?"
He couldn't remember, but easy child then said, "Wasn't it Amelia's birthday party in your class yesterday?"
difficult child 1 said, "Yeah, that's right. I sat with Mr Zzzz and we ate crisps, and biscuits and I drank lots of soft drink, and - uh-oh..."
"How much cola?"
Now he was remembering, he said, "About four cups. But cola shouldn't affect me..."
From that point on, we kept an eye on his intake. So did he. And increasingly, he became more sensitive to cola. He could have half a cup of cola, or half a cup of Mountain Dew and NO energy bars.
When the "contains guarana!" energy bars came on the market in Australia, difficult child 1 bought some because he liked the idea of an energy bar which had something other than caffeine. He was horrible after eating just one. He couldn't work out why everyone was being so hard on him, until I asked him if he'd had an energy bar. "Yes I did! But NOT one with caffeine, I know better than that! It was one of those new ones..."
We went looking for it at the supermarket. difficult child 1, still aggressive, pointed and said, "See? It's got guarana, not caffeine."
I checked the small print. This bar did not say it had caffeine but I didn't trust it. I went home and checked - guarana DOES contain caffeine. difficult child 1 was furious at being swindled by the manufacturer, as he saw it. And even as I was ringing the manufacturer and consumer affairs to complain, the labels were being reprinted. The next week the energy bars bore a label in fine print saying, "contains caffeine".
Clearly this was not enough - the last time I glanced at those bars I saw the letters writ much larger, "WARNING - CONTAINS CAFFEINE".

Now that difficult child 1 is older and also on a sustained release formulation, he can have more caffeine. I can see the effects especially as medications are wearing off for the day, but he can now control his aggression sufficiently, so I say nothing. No point - he's an adult, he hasn't had any violent episodes for years. But I won't let difficult child 3 touch caffeine.

We have a number of activists in our village (the place attracts people like me). At the last school Speech Day I was one of the guests at the lunch afterwards, because of my volunteer work with them. These lunches are informal buffets, we sit on tiny chars or eat, standing, in one of the classrooms. I was sitting with difficult child 3's therapist and a couple of her friends - activists all. Also there was difficult child 3's best friend's mother (best friend also has ADHD/autism). One woman spoke up and asked me, "What do you think about people who drug their kids into submission, just because someone says they have ADHD?"
Talk about a loaded question! I replied, "I think you'll find I'm one of those mums. And they're not in any way 'in submission', the medication helps them focus better."
I explained about what we'd been told - that these kids have a brain where the negative feedback switch to the inhibition centre is simply not working properly, the medication helps that switch to function. I thought she'd get enough of a vibe from me to drop the subject, but she persisted.
"Surely giving them stimulants is not a good idea? There are so many natural products which work even better."
I explained my view - natural products have their place but ANYTHING which has a therapeutic benefit also has to be used with knowledge and caution, because what is one person's therapy is another person's side effect. And if the product is so gentle it has no side effects - then chances are, it has no therapeutic benefit either. You can't have it both ways. I then told her about the problem we have with caffeine with the boys. She then totally shocked me by saying, "I have ADD, I treat mine with caffeine and it makes such a huge difference to me."
I offered to let her babysit my boys after a caffeine bender. I said, "It's different for different people. I'm glad it can help you, but my kids were prescribed a specific medication for a specific medical condition. We tried it and saw immediate benefits - in fact, with difficult child 3, it made it easier for him to learn to talk - within a week of beginning the medication he went from single words to five word sentences. Medication specifically for ADHD is not perfect, but it's more carefully refined and researched for this application, than is caffeine. Nothing is perfect but I'd rather use a more specific tool than a blunt instrument."
At this point I was getting up to leave. She had been passionate about what she was saying but we weren't likely to come to blows; I wanted to leave while I could still be polite. She IS a nice person, just a misguided zealot in my opinion.

And as I was walking away, I remembered/realised a few things:

1) She and her husband market various 'natural remedies' via direct marketing (borderline illegal in this country). Their daughter has a lot of problems due to brain injury as a toddler, they are desperate parents convinced they have found a viable treatment (which, to afford, they must also sell to others).

2) She is a BIG influence in difficult child 3's best friend's mother, who vacillates from medicating her son with ritalin (prescribed by the pediatrician) to not medicating him because "so-and-so said it's wrong to drug your kids - take this supplement instead, it's only $100 a bottle this week." Friend's mum has now run out of ritalin and is too scared of what the pediatrician will say, so her son is going unmedicated (and not coping as well) all because one very pushy friend has such a hold over a 'customer'.

3) her husband also worked for our local pharmacist and one day a few years ago when I was collecting the stimulant prescriptions, he took me aside, gave me a pamphlet for THEIR products and told me to get my boys off the medications and only his supplement. Unethical AND illegal.

If caffeine works for someone, that's great. But it's not for everybody. It IS a stimulant, but so are a lot of things. My kids' treatments are overseen by a specialist (I know you guys in the US don't use pediatricians in this way, but it IS how it works down here - stupid, I know). This guy is an expert. Alternatively, I could titrate my kids for caffeine myself, but how can you assess the caffeine content of what you give them? Changing brands of coffee bean can make a big difference.

I'll stick to the prescription, thanks.


hearts and roses

Mind Reader
Purely by accident, we found that coffee in the AM helped difficult child stay alert and attentive in her mid morning classes. She's always been a rough sleeper and one morning she fixed herself a cup of joe - without asking - at around age 13/14. H told her she was not allowed to drink coffee but she drank it anyway. It agreed with her and she's been having a cup daily since. Her teacher once mentioned to me that he's heard a cup of coffee in the AM wasn't such a bad thing for most kids with ADHD, so I left it alone.

Unfortunately, difficult child has become a coffee addict. She drank so much coffee that then she became addicted to the rush. As her body changed and her ADHD symptoms were diminished, the caffiene had a different effect on her. We only drink 1/2 caffeine and 1/2 decaf at home, so as long as she drinks that she's okay. It's when she hits Starbucks of daughter on her own that we're in trouble. If she drinks after 5 PM, she will be restless all night.

So just be careful. Try is and see. It did help difficult child, but like I said, it eventually became a problem. We're in the process of helping her limit her caffiene intake.


Well-Known Member
I used coffee with GFGmom back in the 60's and it helped her. My
easy child kids couldn't understand why she got to have coffee and they
didn't...until they realized that she chilled out and stopped bugging them for a few hours. Then...they wanted me to give her
coffee all day! Like everything else with ADHD what works like a
charm for one has no benefit to another. It's trail and error just like the various medications. Good luck. DDD
I completely agree that different substances work differently for different folks. My love affair with coffee began at the tender age of 4. I begged my Mom for a cup so she gave me some sweetened milk with lots of sugar and a spoonful of coffee. It took a very short while for me to talk her into giving me the real deal sans milk and sugar. Our family members still go on and on about such a young child craving coffee. I have been unabashedly addicted to and using coffee for the rest of my life - except during my pregnancies and during breast feeding. I have many shadow traits of ADD and AS, and there is no doubt in my mind that the coffee helps me out tremendously. I was just miserable for the extended times that I went without coffee and I just couldn't ... focus... at all.
My boys have shown absolutely no interest in coffee whatsoever.difficult child has much too delicate a palate for its bitter taste. But, everytime we pass a Starbucks he begs for a couple of expresso brownies.... hmm...


New Member
difficult child's birthmother told me that when she was carrying him, he was VERY active in the womb. She said she would drink soda to calm him down.


New Member
My 8 year old drinks every caffinated drink on the market and WOW!! The change in him. One halloween he ate a bag full of chocolate and slept for 18 hours. I like the caffeine idea that was the best piece of info that I got in 8 years. He has also had coffee with milk and no sugar before school and that worked better than medications ever did. I got two adhd children that take medications and sometimes over the weekend for her I give her coffee with her medications cause her adderall don't work and doctor won't try something else.


Active Member
difficult child 3 has been obsessed with coffee since he was a baby. I was attending a mothers group and he would crawl around the floor and steal coffee cups. He'd pick up an empty cup and hold it over his face like an oxygen mask, breathing in the smell of coffee. I drink full decaf, so I would let him have a taste of mine. He soon was drinking decaf coffee like mine - no sugar and a bit of milk. Now he drinks it with a lot of sugar - he doesn't seem to have problems with sugar the way some kids do.

He will eat whole coffee beans. One day on the way home from the shops, I was wondering aloud if I had bought the vanilla-flavoured coffee beans or the plain ones. Without hesitation, difficult child 3 opened the bag, took out a coffee bean from the bags and said, "No, that's the plain ones... OK, here are the vanilla ones."
They are decaf beans. We know from experience he can tolerate about half a cup of full-leaded coffee, which means a handful of beans with full caffeine, but he's very careful and generally won't taste caffeinated beans.

But this obsession with coffee itself - the flavour, the smell - I've never seen it before, at such a young age. As a baby when he was still only on breast milk, he was trying to grab my coffee mug. Freaky!



New Member
This topic has me fascinated. I have read every post you all have made.

For years, we have been avoiding caffeine with difficult child. So much so that even at birthday parties, he will ask for water if they only have 'leaded' soda. Perhaps I should re-think my strategy!!


Sara PA

New Member
My 8 year old drinks every caffinated drink on the market and WOW!! The change in him. One halloween he ate a bag full of chocolate and slept for 18 hours. I like the caffeine idea that was the best piece of info that I got in 8 years.
I've noticed that high doses of sugar make many people sluggish, not hyper. I saw the same reaction on Halloween in a neighbor girl who ate her bag of candy at my house because her mother convinced her sugar made her hyper. Instead of getting hyper, she went home because she wanted to go to bed.


New Member
Hi all:

I found this read really interesting. We have never tried caffeein for our difficult child. We probably won't try it until we can at least get his medications under better control. Our psychiatric is away till Mid September. Pooey!!~ Need his advice now and he is not around at all. In my area, you have to have a referral to get in to see a psychiatric that deals with children with ADHD behaviourals and they are few and far between. Our psychiatric is 62 years old. He is one of 3 in our area. The other two work part time are about 10 years younger and have a full practice and aren't taking any new clients.

It is horrible!! Today we tried our difficult child on 2 18mg of Concerta as we did have him on 1 - 27mg and 1 18 mg. It was a bad result. Then we tried him on 2 - 27 mg tablets, even worse results. He was orignally on 1 - 27mg tablet with littl results in the concentration and focus area only his hyperness nearly disappeared. I think maybe I will try him on caffein over this weekend. I am up for almost anything. School right around the corner and we don't know where we are headed with his medications right now.

I used to be one of the natural methods mom. We tried everything under the sun and finally moved to the medications to help. I am so glad we did but....we are still in the experimental stage. I hope we can find something that will work. He needs to have a better year and actually have some friends in his life.

Today on 2- 18mg talbets of Concerta he was in trouble at camp 6 times and had to spend 15 minutes out of the pool because of it. Ahhhhhhh!! Mostly due to not listening and hands on. Maybe another medication is the answer however here in Canaada I think we are limited as to what has been allowed. Strattera was removed from the market for a bit and may still be and Adderal was removed and came back about 6 months ago I have been told.

So at this point the caffein idea is sounding pretty darn triable. We will give it a shot.

Sara PA

New Member
Adderall XR (and only the XR) was removed from the Canadian market February 9, 2005, and was allowed back on the market August 24, 2005. Link.

Strattera was approved for sale in Canada on December 24, 2004, and has never been removed from the market. Health Canada requested/required Strattera to carry a warning like the ones that are on other antidepressants and it also has an alert about Strattera causing or worsening tics.


New Member
As interesting as I have found this to be, I still haven't had the nerve to actually try the caffeine with difficult child. Hee hee. I guess I don't want to tip the scales - knowing him, he would be the 1 in a million who would have the reverse reaction to it.