Health

Caffeine Consumption Could Treat Some ADHD Symptoms

Boy Drinking Coffee

A team of experts at the UOC has studied the possibility of including caffeine in the therapeutic arsenal used to alleviate some of the symptoms of ADHD.

A systematic review of pre-clinical studies carried out in animal models has concluded that regular caffeine consumption can increase attention and retention capacity in adolescents and adults diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is a psychiatric pathology for which diagnosis has increased exponentially over the last 20 years. In fact, current estimates suggest that this disorder affects between 2% and 5% of children in Spain, an average of one or two children per classroom, and up to 4% of the adult population.

Despite these high incidence rates, controversy surrounds the treatment of this pathology and the therapeutic approach to it. This varies widely depending on each patient, the symptoms they present and their intensity. For this reason, experts are continuing to investigate different components and substances that may be capable of providing new treatment opportunities for patients diagnosed with ADHD.

A group of experts from the UOC is studying the possibility of using caffeine as part of the therapeutic arsenal to alleviate some of the symptoms of ADHD, given the controversy surrounding the use of some types of medication.

A team of experts at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), coordinated by Diego Redolar, a member of the UOC Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences who specializes in neuroscience and researches with the Cognitive NeuroLab group of the UOC Faculty of Health Sciences, has studied the possibility of including caffeine in the therapeutic arsenal used to alleviate some of the symptoms of ADHD, given the controversy surrounding the use of some medicines derived from methylphenidate, among others. The study, a systematic review of animal studies published in open access in the scientific journal Nutrients, concludes that a prescribed consumption of caffeine can increase attention and retention capacity in adolescents and adults suffering from this psychiatric disorder.

“The therapeutic arsenal for alleviating ADHD is limited, and there is a certain degree of controversy around the use of some types of medications and stimulants, especially during childhood and adolescence. That’s why it’s useful to study the efficacy of other substances, such as caffeine,” explained Javier Vázquez, one of the main authors of this paper who is also a researcher in the Cognitive NeuroLab group.

Improved cognitive procedures

According to the authors, this is the first systematic review that has been carried out, including at the cellular level, with results linking caffeine consumption in different animal models of ADHD with an increased attention span, improved concentration, learning benefits, and improvements in some types of memory.

ADHD is a psychiatric pathology estimated to affect between 2% and 5% of the child population.

“This substance improves these types of cognitive procedures, and increases capacity and flexibility in both spatial attention and selective attention, as well as in working memory and short-term memory,” emphasized Vazquez, who added that controlled treatment with this substance “doesn’t alter blood pressure, and doesn’t lead to an increase or reduction in body weight.”

Nevertheless, the researchers point out that caffeine can be a therapeutic tool for this type of symptom, but the results for other characteristic symptoms of ADHD, such as hyperactivity and impulsivity, are not clear. “The results are very positive, but we must be much more careful when prescribing a caffeine-based medical treatment for these symptoms. In diagnoses in which the problem is purely attentional, caffeine may be an appropriate therapy, but if there’s a symptomatological presence of hyperactivity or impulsivity, we must be more cautious,” said the expert.

These benefits therefore clearly indicate that caffeine may be a therapy indicated for the treatment of ADHD. “Our results reinforce the hypothesis that the cognitive effects of caffeine found in animal models can be translated and applied in the treatment of ADHD in people, especially at young ages such as adolescence,” the authors concluded.

Prevalence of diagnosis in ADHD

ADHD is a mental disorder with a diagnosis that has increased exponentially in the last 25 years, especially among children. However, it is hardly prevalent in adulthood. “ADHD isn’t properly diagnosed in adults, although there’s a great deal of diagnosis among children and juveniles,” said Vázquez.

The prevalence of this disorder in adults is very low due to the lack of diagnoses.

As it is a highly infantile or juvenile pathology, treatments that require an intense level of medication to alleviate the symptoms of ADHD are therefore subject to considerable controversy, both among many families and in some areas of medicine.

“We want to emphasize that we aren’t against medication for ADHD, but we’re open to investigating all possible alternatives for improving this type of disorder, and for being able to use caffeine from a therapeutic point of view with all the appropriate medical supervision, a prescribed treatment and follow-up,” said Vázquez.

The study has been published in a scientific journal with a high impact factor and considerable influence in the sector, which is a boost for the entire UOC group. “Being published in Nutrients has been a challenge for the team, due to the journal’s high-quality standards. We’re very proud and satisfied, and it encourages us to continue working in this area in order to improve the treatment of ADHD and reduce its impact on the population,” Vazquez concluded.

Reference: “Effects of Caffeine Consumption on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Treatment: A Systematic Review of Animal Studies” by Javier C. Vázquez, Ona Martin de la Torre, Júdit López Palomé and Diego Redolar-Ripoll, 10 February 2022, Nutrients.
DOI: 10.3390/nu14040739

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  • It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again! Sixty (60) years ago much of my food tasted like coffee because my mother had read that caffeine was good for calming hyperactive children. But I don't believe it had any effect on me.

  • This is the first time I'm hearing of this! When I was a child (surely I would have been diagnosed with ADHD, if then were now) a butt whipping fixed my undiagnosed ADHD because I would think of whether whatever it was I was about to do, was worth getting spanked for BEFORE I acted. Now that it's illegal to spank, hyper children just get diagnosed with ADHD, given meds and sent home because teachers & parent's can't control their kids otherwise. Kids also grow up without understanding consequences for bad actions/choices. I have a child diagnosed with ADHD as well. He is on meds, but the meds make him angry when they wear off. I'm going to try the caffeine thing since we never let him have it, so it's something we haven't tried. Caffeine is still considered a drug, but I'm sure it would be way better than the schedule II controlled substance - that is basically the legalized, pharmaceutical, controlled version of methamphetamine, in chewable pill form - that he is currently prescribed and taking at the moment. I still think a good butt spanking does better justice than any big pharma remedies which only mask the problem, not correct it nor does it teach valuable lessons in the process.

  • Retired SPED teacher here. This is old news. Research would show that a child would need to consume about a pot full to cause any changes. The poor child would spend all day in the restroom! And what teacher is going to serve coffee in class?

    • My son now almost age 40 has ADHD & was diagnosed with it in 3rd grade. When we went in for evaluation & family counseling? They soon knew who the family member was who also had it.ME-His Mother.

      But being female I more often had symptoms such as counting ceiling tiles instead of trying to climb to the ceiling!

      When just a small boy? My son LOVED cold coffee anyone left in a cup. He later told us it helped him focus & not be so distracted.

      I became a Teacher & often had conferences with parents of children with ADHD. Sharing I myself had Adhd & was treated for it with meds & counseling? +My own child had it? Made many parents aware their children could succeed despite having ADHD.

      I could relate to them as a parent + a patient also.

      But I still often had parents who didn't want to "drug" their child.

      I myself used spanking on my son who could not fathom or care about consequences that weren't immediate.

      I grounded him to no avail & soon learned I was also punishing myself w/disciplining him!

      I learned to take him to a restroom for a few Swats on the behind with just my hand at many a restaurant where he did impulsive things such as throw food at other people!

      He soon learned there werr immediate consequences for his behavior.
      I also learned where every kitchen of every restaurant was because he'd wander off in a manner of seconds it seemed.

      My daughter on the other hand responded more to "grounding" as a consequence. She was probably borderline Adhd because to this day her ability to sit still is not at all like most adults.

      ADHD also affected my son having depression as it did me. Sometimes? I or my husband would come home when he was in High School & he'd be throwing a "fit" all by himself calling himself "stupid" etc.

      But he had the ability to learn quickly & has his whole life. He's always aced tests despite Teachers thinking he wasn't paying attention.

      In high school he got to the point he thought we were "drugging" him. So often after school he would purposely try to "dispose" of a dose of his pills.

      But his older sister saw the drastic effect for good they had on his behavior. So much she started counting his meds & wrestled him down to point he'd end up taking his afternoon dose!

      I heard all the myths about taking summer "vacations" from the drug etc. To allow for no loss of growth. But I soon learned that made as much sense as taking such a vacation from Insulin nedded for a Diametic.

      I myself knew how not being on my meds made ME feel. All Negative!
      But my son still grew to be over 6ft tall so no problem there.

      Others also wanted him to take his meds for "social" situations too.
      1Summer he "forgot" to pack his meds for Church Camp. When they discovered that? They had a worker drive MANY miles back to our home to get them!

      We found out he'd skipped them the Summer before and no one wanted a repeat of that!

      He learned to not take it until his meal was served so he didn't lose his appetite.

      After an attempt at college funded by his disability that fell under Voc Rehab funding? He came home disgusted. He'd tested out of more than 1semesters of credits! But didn't keep up with assignments.

      He charmed his way into another chance after 1sem.of probation that didn't work. But 3rd time he also didn't keep up. Which he ended up being respondible for financially
      That later the USCG made him pay for.

      The ond thing I thought the Funding should include was a 1on1 life coach or counselor to check in with him weekly or be checked on weekly. At least the 1st Year.

      Just as any student needing a wheelchair would get such aids.
      I felt like the 1st yr esp. He needed regular 1on1 check-ins with a "life" coach or counselor familiar with ADHD.

      After his 1st attempt at college didnt work? He tried VARIOUS jobs he couldnt keep.

      I had to practice tough love when he by himself took a bus out of state on his own age19.

      After 2yrs? He came home again after going to a hospital ER for bad infections on his face.

      Which our old family Dr. Told him was from the many piercings he got. He told him just as some women are allergic to common metal used in earrings? His severe reactions were from all the piercings.

      He took them all out & after treatments of an antibiotic shot immediately (he winced at and our Dr. Told him he should be used to them after all the piercings he had!)

      Plus rounds of antibiotics? He recovered from the bad infections the piercings caused.

      After a few more attempts at steady work? He told us he wanted to join the USCG & learn some responsibility!

      We took him for tests etc. 100+miles away he easily passed + physical ones too.

      The 2yrs he was on his own before that? He had not taken ADHD meds. So he was able to join because he couldn't take them in USCG.Or had recently been on them.(another subject all together!)

      As some airplane pilots are now allowed to take RX antidepressants? That's helped immensely with fewer pilots trying to self -medicate with alchohol?

      I for 1 certainly don't want anyone in a position such as that or a USCG rescue to be able to concentrate!

      It's still a No No for most Military Branches! He stayed in USCG 8yrs & did very well. Our family counselor told us in days before meds for ADHD? The military was often suggested for people with Adhd. Who did well with regimented routine as ourson did.

      After his 8yrs? He decided to go to college funded by VA. He did & this time? He did well.

      He told me he was trying meds for Adhd again. Then he told me he found one that worked! I BIT my tongue as he told me the name of it.

      Yes! It was same med he told us we were "drugging" him with in High School.

      He did well and got his degree this time with RX meds & many sticky notes he told us.

      But was beyond embarassed they asked his 1st college for a transcript & then he realized what he'd really did at that time.

      Plus? They wouldnt accept any classes he tested out of! I told him with a D.avg.? It didn't surprise me.

      But this last time? He graduated with Honors. So sharing some of my experiences having Adhd myself & depression too so common with it.

      Plus being a parent of an Adhd Child. So dont give up until you find what works for you or someone you love!

By
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)

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