Thursday, May 24, 2012

Caffeine Effects on ADHD in Children

As you all know, caffeine is in pretty much everything like coffee, tea, iced tea, energy drinks, soda, even gum and so many things in between. It is even in some over the counter pain relievers such as Excedrin. Many children with ADHD are treated with stimulant medications, but many parents are also looking for an alternative to medication or something to use with it. Caffeine may actually be a viable solution for a medication alternative or to work along with your child's  medication, if used correctly

How could Caffeine treat ADHD?

For one, it is over the counter, inexpensive and easily found in everyday drinks/foods and also has little possible side effects when in small doses. Studies show that caffeine s actually a stimulant, like the medications traditionally used to treat ADHD. Like ADHD medications such as Ritalin and Concerta, caffeine effects the dopamine levels and also enlarges blood vessels, to allow more blood flow to the brain. Lack of blood flow to the brain has been a primary psychological issue said for causing ADHD symptoms, so stimulants help with this and as well as caffeine. The active ingredient in caffeine is methylxanthine which is like methylphenidate only milder and instead of being synthetically made it is a natural stimulant. Anyways, the methylxanthine is a mild stimulant that activates noradrenaline neurons and affects the release of dopamine.

For many people caffeine will often stimulate them and make them more active or jittery, however those with ADHD will often find it has the opposite affect and will calm them. Also, as with anyone who drinks caffeine, it increases alertness and focus, the main ADHD symptoms

Research on Caffeine for ADHD

The Myomancy website states that several studies have been done on the use of caffeine for ADHD already. In a study with non-ADHD children, the use of caffeine had little to no effect, but, in ADHD children who consumed 270 mg of caffeine (2 cups of coffee) showed improvement in their ADHD symptoms

In addition, a study done in 1981 showed that caffeine in small doses was equal to 10mg of  methylphenidate, which is in common ADHD medications like Ritalin and Concerta.

There was even a study on rats! The International Journal of Neuropharmacology published a study in 2005 that involved rats with the ADHD symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity, poor attention and deficit learning and memory processing. When the rats with these symptoms were given caffeine before the tests, they found there was a significant improvement in the symptoms of ADHD.

Risks and Side Effects of Caffeine

Caffeine is a drug just like other medications and and though it is cheap and easy to get it can be addictive if used in high doses or if used consistently over a long period of time which can cause withdraw symptoms if stopped quickly. I use it for your child on school days, would recommend if you are going to use it, to only use caffeine on school days, test days, or days that require your child to be calmer, more focused and have better attention. Now I realize this may seem like everyday, but, days like weekends, holidays and summertime are more relaxing and require less of these. 

A safe consumption level of caffeine daily for children has been said to be 2.5mg per kilogram of weight. Remember though that caffeine can affect each person differently, so you will want to monitor your child for any side effects and if there are you can lower their intake or stop. 

High doses of caffeine can cause nervousness (giving the jitters), insomnia, and can make you "crash" after a few hours. However, some of these are close to the side effects of medications for ADHD

Also, be careful and monitor your child's sugar since caffeine is often found in sugary drinks like soda and some energy drinks and is NOT a replacement for water. You should always make sure to drink plenty of water daily.

Overall Conclusion

Studies have proven that caffeine can be used as an alternative treatment or in conjunction with ADHD medication to treat ADHD in both children and adults, IF used correctly and moderately.  Caffeine is quickly absorbed and gets to work quickly, however only lasts about 4-6 hours. It stimulates neurotransmitter release and has effects on alertness, focus, attention and calming for those suffering from ADHD. There are both positive and negative results and opinions of doctors as to this treatment, so I would say it is you as the parent's choice as to what you feel will benefit your child and his/her ADHD. So talk to your child's doctor about the advantages and effects of using this as a treatment or as a medication "helper" for ADHD, to find out if this would be beneficial for your ADHD son/daughter

I will admit that my son at times will drink a Monster Rehab (pictured right), which isn't exactly an energy drink it's healthier than soda and other energy drinks. 

References:  Psych Central: Caffeine Effects on ADHD,
                   Science Based Medicine: Caffeine for ADHD

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