Buzzing! The Effects of Caffeine Consumption on ADHD

Last Updated on

May 20th, 2024 11:42 am

Caffeine has been shown to have a positive result on many people with ADHD, but not everyone. Whether you enjoy your coffee in the morning, a cup of tea after dinner, or a can of soda while watching TV — almost everyone has some caffeine in their day. But for some people, too much caffeine can lead to symptoms such as anxiety, restlessness, irritability, and rapid heartbeat.

In addition, for about 10% of the population (or more), drinking caffeinated beverages like cups of coffee or energy drinks may actually trigger symptoms of an underlying medical condition such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

This fact is important to know when trying to figure out if caffeine consumption is affecting your life by triggering impulsive behaviors or a constant upset stomach, and, if it’s time for you to cut back or drop caffeine from your diet altogether.

After all, if you’re sensitive to caffeine or have ADHD, keeping track of how many milligrams of caffeine you’ve consumed over the past few days can help you identify any patterns that may help figure why these things happen when you consume too much caffeine.

So let’s take a closer look at the relationship between caffeine and ADHD, and why it’s so important to understand in more detail.

What is the Role of Caffeine on Body and Mind?

Caffeine is a stimulant, so has a number of body and mind-altering effects in anyone with ADHD. For example, small amounts of caffeine can increase alertness, improve short-term memory, increase mental and physical functioning (e.g. memory, attention) and reduce fatigue.

But even with these benefits, it is still possible to consume too many caffeinated drinks — which can affect different parts of your body in ways you may not be expecting. In particular, consuming too much caffeine can lead to negative effects such as nausea, headaches, and disrupted sleep patterns.

This can be due to the fact that caffeine, even in the form of caffeine pills, has a diuretic effect on your body — meaning it will cause your kidneys to remove excess fluids from your system at a faster rate than normal.

When this happens, there is an increased risk for dehydration, or getting dehydrated. Caffeine itself won’t make you dehydrated, but caffeine as a diuretic means you should consider drinking water alongside your caffeine consumption. Dehydration can have consequences such as lightheadedness or fainting spells, and you could end up with dizziness or heart palpitations as well.

It’s important that people who are sensitive to caffeine, are on prescription medication, or have ADHD-like symptoms know how their bodies react when they consume too much caffeine, so they don’t inadvertently do something that could cause even more harm than good if they continue drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee or tea.

Businessman drinking coffee at a desk at work with shirt unbuttoned

Caffeine has many positive benefits for those with ADHD, but only in moderation

How Do Caffeinated Beverages Affect Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

The consumption of coffee can be an effective treatment of Adult-Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. That said, it can also have the opposite effect depending on the individual and their personal circumstances. Here are some factors that are affected by caffeine consumption:

Difficulty Focusing on a Task

Many with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder struggle focusing on tasks. Caffeine can help with that, as it increases focus and concentration. However, if you already have trouble concentrating, then consuming caffeine might make it worse.

Increased Energy Levels

If you have ADHD, chances are you feel tired most of the day. Caffeine can increase your energy level, but it can also make you feel wired and hyperactive. If you tend to get easily distracted, then caffeine can make it harder to concentrate overall, especially if the caffeine wears off over time.


If you have ADHD, you may find yourself being less attentive during class, work, or other activities. Caffeine helps improve your ability to pay attention, but it can also impair your ability to focus.

Impaired Motor Skills

Some people with ADHD experience difficulty controlling their movements. Caffeine pills and drinks can worsen this problem because it causes drowsiness, which in people with ADHD, makes it easier to fall asleep. It can also give you shaky limbs which can cause a problem as well.


Some people with ADHD, especially children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, become irritable when they drink caffeinated drinks. They may start feeling angry or frustrated, and it can take them longer to calm down after they stop drinking caffeine.

As caffeine is a stimulant, it can also exacerbate the rejection sensitive dysphoria in people with ADHD, making a hypersensitivity to criticism and rejection worse.


People with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder often have clear symptoms of hyperactivity and issues with sustained attention. Excessive doses of caffeine can make things worse, as it can make you feel more restless and agitated as a result.

Reduced Sleep

Caffeine is a stimulant. This means that it provides poor sleep quality and increase insomnia. It does this by stimulating the central nervous system, which can change how your body reacts to both caffeine and melatonin, a natural hormone that helps you sleep.

If you suffer from ADHD or hyperactivity disorder, too much caffeine could be causing issues with dopamine production. Your dopamine levels could to go too far the other way, contributing to your insomnia or other symptoms. It’s similar to substance use disorder and addiction in this way, only many don’t see it that way due to the legalities of taking caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.

If this is the case, cutting back on your caffeine drinks will likely reduce your ADHD-like symptoms and improve sleep quality and executive function.

Decreased Blood Flow

Another reason why caffeine can cause issues with cognitive functioning, psychomotor, and affective performance, is the fact that caffeine reduces blood pressure and flow to the brain. Caffeine affects how blood flows and how oxygen reaches your brain by blocking the action of adenosine, a chemical your body releases when you sleep.

Your body releases adenosine when it needs to sleep, because sleep is needed to repair the tissue in your body and is important for cognitive functioning. A lack of oxygen from insufficient circulation from blood vessels can lead to physical, emotional, and cognitive fatigue.

If you are sensitive to caffeine or have ADHD, excess consumption of caffeine also may lead to reduced blood flow as well as increased heart rate and respiration which increases your risk for cardiovascular issues, such as a stroke or heart attack.

Interaction Between Caffeine and Medications

Another important thing to consider as it relates to caffeine and ADHD is the interaction between of caffeine and medications for ADHD. If you’re taking medications for a psychiatric disorder or neurodevelopmental disorder such as ADHD, Dissociative Identity Disorder, or Bipolar Disorder, chances are that these meds have a list of side effects that can be debilitating.

Some common side effects of stimulant medications include insomnia, irritability, tremor, weight loss, headache, and nervousness. Because people with ADHD may be sensitive to caffeine, they may also experience some of these side effects related to stimulants when they drink caffeinated beverages like coffee or tea.

This can make it difficult for them to stick with their meds for long periods of time because they want to avoid the “downside” associated with caffeine consumption.

Effects of Caffeine and Medication

Of course, caffeine is not recommended for everyone, and you should always seek advice from a medical professional. But for those that do enjoy the benefit of caffeine, there are many options available when it comes to what type of medication to take.

Some with Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder find that a combination of medication and caffeinated beverages helps them with symptoms of ADHD such as poor time management and working memory.

Or they may just want to avoid taking medication all together. For example, some people may want to avoid drugs or other medications because they have had side effects in the past or a family history with certain health conditions. Others may only want to avoid medications if they are vegan or have other dietary restrictions, opting to stick to decaffeinated coffee instead.

The bottom line is that there are lots of options for people who consume caffeine regularly and need help managing their symptoms of ADHD. So make sure you take your time figuring out which option is best for you and your lifestyle!

How Much Caffeine is Safe?

According to the FDA, levels of caffeine consumption of 400mg of caffeine per day at most are advised. An average cup of coffee contains between 49-280mg of caffeine. This makes it a safe caffeine treatment for Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, equating to approximately four drinks per day. But it warns that levels of caffeine consumption higher than this can lead to insomnia, headaches, heart palpitations and anxiety.

Further, some experts warn against overdoing it because of the negative side effects of caffeine withdrawal symptoms — such as fatigue, irritability and difficulty sleeping — can cause sleep problems. And when it comes to caffeine in children and adolescent caffeine intake, you should aim to keep levels of caffeine as low as possible, if at all.

Does Caffeine Create Tiredness in ADHD?

One of the most common side effects of caffeine is sleep disturbances. In general, caffeine can make you more likely to have problems sleeping. It can also make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. However, for people with ADHD, these symptoms may be less common but still occur. As a result, sleep deprivation causes a decline in cognitive performance of children and adults alike.

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce these symptoms by limiting caffeine intake and staying hydrated throughout the day. In addition to being sleep deprivation, caffeine also affects memory and cognition in individuals with ADHD as well as in non-ADHD individuals who are sensitive to caffeine.

This means that someone with ADHD could have improved attention and cognitive performance if they limit their caffeine intake or avoid caffeinated drinks all together.

student asleep at desk with books and coffee cups

In some individuals, caffeine can cause drowsiness and fatigue

Benefits of Caffeine on Your Health

Most people can and do enjoy the effects of caffeine, but for many with ADHD, too much caffeine may cause a variety of unwelcome side effects. One thing to consider is if you have any symptoms after consuming caffeine.

Some people find that their symptoms are negatively affected by drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee or tea. Others can consume these beverages without problems. So if you’re sensitive to caffeine or have ADHD, use this information to help figure out how much caffeine you should drink in a day and when you should avoid these drinks completely.

Positive effects of caffeine in those who do find successes include :

• Increased alertness

• Improved mood

• Enhanced concentration

• Reduced stress

• Increased energy levels

• Better athletic performance

• Improved reaction times

• Faster learning ability

• More effective memory recall

• Improved hand eye coordination

• Improved motor skills

• Improved cognitive function

Like any stimulant it’s important to note that these effects only work when controlled and in moderation. If you want to experiment with cutting back on your consumption of caffeinated beverages, try doing so gradually over a few weeks or months to gauge how it affects your overall health and wellness and find your sweet spot.

Negative Reactions to Caffeine

Some negative reactions to caffeine are actually quite common. These include headaches, irritability, restlessness, and rapid heartbeat. If you’re sensitive to caffeine or have ADHD symptoms, cutting back on your caffeine consumption may be necessary.

The other choice is to drop it altogether. People who are sensitive to caffeine do not need it in their diet at all because they can experience adverse reactions from it as well as a high risk of developing ADHD symptoms. Also, people with ADHD should also be careful about how much coffee they drink as a small amount can lead to problems.

For example, drinking too much coffee during the day can lead to sleep disturbances and awakenings that interfere with normal daytime functioning. Caffeine is a drug that has some benefits but also some risks for many people. If you’re not sure how much caffeine you need in your day or if you need to cut back or stop taking it entirely, then knowing about these potential side effects will help guide your decision-making process.

Excessive Caffeine Consumption is Dangerous Territory

Coffee drinkers with ADHD should know that caffeine can affect them differently than others. Some people can handle more caffeine than others while others cannot tolerate even moderate amounts of caffeine.

The good news is that there are ways to reduce the effects of caffeine on your body and mind. For instance, you can limit your caffeine intake by avoiding energy drinks or by reducing the number of cups you drink each day. You can also choose to take caffeine-free supplements instead of using caffeinated products.

If you’re concerned about the effects of caffeine on you, then you should talk to a medical professional about what options are available to you. Your doctor can give guidance on whether you should continue to consume caffeine or if you should cut back or drop it entirely.

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Rob Butler
30-Something Millennial with ADHD and suspected Autistic and Dyspraxic. Thought leader behind this website. Big visions of a better future for everyone, but forgets where he is half the time.Loves Rugby, his kids, and anything silly. Hates U2 and Marmite.

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