Caffeine for ADHD - Does It REALLY Work?

Does it really help to give kids caffeine for ADHD treatment?

At first thought, you might think a parent might have lost all sense of reality. Giving coffee to my kids?

They are already hyper! Won't the caffeine in coffee cause them to be even more hyperactive?!

True. Caffeine is a stimulant and that is what it will do in most adults if taking in large quantity. But it can have the opposite response in some children.

Keep in mind that prescription ADHD medications such as Ritalin, Adderall and Concerta are all stimulants as well. Yet they have the opposite effect in children with ADHD.

There is growing belief that using the appropriate dose of caffeine for reducing ADHD symptoms in kids might actually work. It was reported in news websites saying that, "Mom gives a cup of java to his kid to help with his ADHD symptoms."

Let's move away from the hype in the news reports. Let's take an objective look at this and find out if you should try caffeine for ADHD treatment in your child. We will also suggest an appropriate dose to use based on a related study in using caffeine in children.

Research Studies on Using Caffeine for ADHD Symptoms

So are there any good studies done on the use of caffeine to help with ADHD symptoms?

Unfortunately, not much.

There are one or two clinical studies on the use of caffeine in children. There's practically none that looked at the use of caffeine for treating ADHD symptoms.

However, animal studies do exist and they show that caffeine seems to work to reduce hyperactivity symptoms in rats exhibiting ADHD-like behaviors.

The full research discussion along with references to these and other studies can be found in our detailed article Drinking Coffee for ADHD Symptoms Reduction.

Let's see what would be a suitable dose of caffeine to use in children with ADHD symptoms. We will draw our conclusion from the following study related to hyperactivity in kids:

caffeine adhd management reference image 1

This very large study looked 19,984 children. The research group found that caffeine reduced post-sedation hyperactivity symptoms in 41% of the children when they were given Mountain Dew.

The dosages used in the children were 1 to 2.5 mg/kg of body weight. That translates to 0.455 to 1.14 mg per pound.

Mountain Dew contains 54 mg of caffeine in a 355 mL (12 oz.) can. (Note: Mountain Dew is high in sugar content, so be aware of this fact.)

Below is a conversion chart you can use.

Caffeine dosage used in paradoxical hyperactivity study

Body weight (lb)

Lower range (mg)

Upper range (mg)
1 0.455 1.14
10 4.6 11
20 9 23
30 14 34
40 18 46
50 23 57
60 27 68
70 32 80
80 36 91
90 41 103
100 46 114
Dosage used in clinical study (1 to 2.5 mg/kg or 0.455 to 1.14 mg/lb)

While this particular study was not focused on looking at the effects of caffeine on ADHD, the paradoxical hyperactivity symptoms are similar to the symptoms seen in kids suffering from ADHD.

These dosages used in this research study form a good basis for recommending an appropriate and safe dose to try out in children with ADHD.

What About just Using Coffee Instead of Mountain Dew?

Many parents on the internet have reported success in using coffee for ADHD in their children. No doubt, that this would work.

There is one slight drawback.

Caffeine content in coffee can vary significantly depending on the coffee beans used, the brand and the exact method for brewing the coffee.

Also, the children may not like the bitter taste (unless you add some sugar or use a natural sweetener like stevia).

Once you find a suitable amount to give the child, stick with the same brand and method of preparing the cup of coffee.

Perhaps as a better alternative, use caffeine tablets instead.

Why? Because you can accurately adjust and calibrate the dose. After all, you want to know how much caffeine you are giving to your child and at what dose it worked right?

Caffeine for ADHD Kids - Start with a Low Dose...

If you can buy low dose caffeine tablets, that would be the ideal solution. Most pharmacies sell caffeine tablets. The standard dose is 100 mg of caffeine per tablet, much higher than we would like to start a child on. You could cut it in half to get a 50 mg dose or cut it into quarters to get a 25 mg dose. That's about all the useful dosage you can expect to get from a 100 mg caffeine tablet.

Another very practical (and recommended) solution is to dissolve one 100 mg caffeine tablet into 100 mL of water. You can purchase an empty plastic bottle from any pharmacy along with a dosing syringe.

Once the tablet fully "dissolves”, you will have an accurate solution with an easy-to-use concentration of 1 mg/mL. (Note: It takes several hours for the tablet to dissolve. However, it will be much faster if you first crush the tablet.)

So, if you need 30 mg, just give your child 30 mL, or if you need 23 mg, just give 23 mL. Easy. Always shake well before measuring out the amount. This caffeine solution should be kept in the fridge and it should be used within 30 days. (The 30 days "freshness" is just a general rule-of-thumb.)

Caffeine Contents of Drinks and Foods

Many products contain caffeine as well and these may be a good alternative to giving to your child coffee in the morning. See Foods Containing Caffeine for a quick list of popular items.

As always, it is recommended that you seek help and advice from an experienced health care professional when you are attempting to treat ADHD in your child.

Bottom Line

Thinking of give your kid caffeine for ADHD symptoms?

It’s not as crazy as some people might think and there is evidence that it can make a significant difference in some children with ADHD.

Caffeine in a usual cup of coffee is acceptable, although you'll have to experiment with the amount to give.

Moreover, the amount of caffeine in each cup may vary from batch to batch, making it hard to find the correct dose to use each time.

Using the specially prepared caffeine solution described in this article will ensure accurate dosing each and every time.

It is highly advisable that you consult your doctor when taking this approach to treating your child's health condition.