Does caffeine help with ADHD?

Caffeine and ADHD have been the subjects of recent studies set out to determine how caffeine affects ADHD.

Caffeine is a stimulant that can occur naturally in substances like coffee, tea, and chocolate. It has been suggested[i] that caffeine may help improve some symptoms of ADHD, but scientific evidence remains inconclusive. For instance, there is no evidence that caffeine has any significant effect on attention; however, in some cases, it can help enhance processing speed.[ii]

At the Drake Institute, however, we’ve had patients report to us before we treated them that they did focus better on caffeine, but at times there were unwanted side effects.

For decades, the Drake Institute has used advanced treatment technologies to create customized treatment protocols for patients with ADHD and other brain-based disorders. Brain map-guided neurofeedback and neurostimulation help our ADHD patients reduce their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

To learn more about how the Drake Institute treats ADHD and several other brain-based disorders, please fill out the consultation form or call us at 800-700-4233.

What are the effects of caffeine?

Caffeine, a natural stimulant found in coffee, tea, and certain sodas, affects the brain and body. In moderate amounts, it can increase alertness and focus[iii] and in some cases, can weaken headaches.[iv] Further research indicates that caffeine may even help boost long-term memory.[v]  

However, because caffeine is a stimulant that affects the nervous system, too much caffeine can result in unpleasant side effects. Anxiety, rapid heartbeat, restlessness, sleeplessness, upset stomach, and muscle tremors are common results of too much caffeine.[vi]

Caffeine affects everyone differently, so responses to the stimulant will vary. It’s important to be mindful of personal tolerance levels when considering the effects of caffeine on ADHD.

How does caffeine affect ADHD?

Caffeine affects individuals differently, including individuals with ADHD. But does caffeine help with ADHD?

So far, what caffeine does to people with ADHD remains largely anecdotal and varies greatly. However, some individuals do report that caffeine improves their focus and concentration.[vii] At the Drake Institute, we have seen an increase in beta fast brain waves (which may help focus) in patients who ingested caffeine within hours of their qEEG brain map. However, with stress EMG (electromyographic) biofeedback to reduce abnormal muscle tension, caffeine seems to block the muscles from fully relaxing, even if one feels they are mentally relaxing.

One study found that caffeine is likely to improve impulsive behavior and general cognitive performance. As impulsive behavior can be a symptom of ADHD, this study suggests again that caffeine may be useful in treating ADHD symptoms. [viii] However, keep in mind that any benefits of caffeine are likely to only be a temporary drug effect, and caffeine consumption can cause unwanted side effects such as anxiety, insomnia, indigestion, increased heart rate, and blood pressure.

To successfully treat ADHD, we recommend clinical treatment with brain map-guided neurofeedback. This treatment can help reduce ADHD symptoms by optimizing healthier, more efficient brain functioning.

Unlike caffeine consumption or drug-based treatments, neurofeedback is much more likely to produce long-lasting results without the unwanted side effects that you can see with drugs.

At the Drake Institute, we have had ADHD patients who by the completion of their treatment program no longer meet diagnostic criteria for an ADHD diagnosis.

Overall, it’s questionable to say that caffeine is good for ADHD. In reality, how caffeine affects ADHD may differ from individual to individual, and patients already on stimulant drugs need to be more cautious about using it.

How much caffeine is safe to consume?

Individual tolerance to caffeine varies with different factors, like age, weight, and natural sensitivity to stimulants, so the exact amount of how much caffeine is safe to consume will be different for everyone.[ix]

Furthermore, there can be a genetic predisposition to blood pressure elevation from caffeine, so it’s important to speak with your doctor before attempting to self-medicate.

We do not recommend taking caffeine for ADHD, because we feel there is a more effective method for helping ADHD patients long term without the unpleasant side effects that some patients experience from caffeine.

Risks of caffeine consumption

While moderate caffeine consumption is generally considered safe for most individuals, exceeding recommended limits can pose certain risks. Excessive intake can lead to a range of adverse effects on both physical and mental well-being.[x]

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, leading to a state of alertness and focus.[xi] However, this can evolve into more serious side effects with over-consumption, such as:

  • Feeling “jittery”
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tremors
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Indigestion
  • Insomnia & fatigue
  • Temporary changes in blood pressure & heart rate

Is caffeine safe for children and teenagers?

While caffeine may help improve focus and concentration, it carries a significant number of risks for children and teenagers.

Children and teenagers are more prone to developing a quick dependence on caffeine, often preferring sweetened coffee, tea, energy drinks, or soda, leading to excessive sugar and calorie intake.[xii] This heavy consumption of sugar can easily lead to weight gain and other negative health impacts.

Caffeine consumption in children and teens can disrupt their sleep and can even lead to cumulative sleep deprivation, which can exacerbate ADHD. There are also potential suggested risks to cardiovascular health and bone development. [xiii]

Is caffeine a viable treatment for ADHD?

While some individuals with ADHD report subjective improvements in focus and attention with caffeine consumption,[xiv] it is not considered a viable treatment for ADHD. The scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of caffeine in treating ADHD symptoms is limited. While there may be a short-term, “mild beneficial effect of caffeine on ADHD symptoms,”[xv] we do not recommend it as a long-term solution.

How the Drake Institute treats ADHD

Over the last 40 years, the Drake Institute has clinically pioneered the use of advanced treatment technologies to treat a variety of brain-based medical disorders such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, insomnia, and more. Using a combination of brain map-guided neurofeedback and sometimes neurostimulation, our Medical Director creates customized treatment protocols to address each patient's needs.

Brain Mapping

To develop our individualized treatment plans, we first complete a qEEG brain map analysis for each patient. Brain mapping helps us identify which specific regions or networks of the brain are dysregulated and linked to symptoms.

To collect this data, 19 sensors are placed around the scalp in areas of the brain responsible for language, focus, memory, executive functioning, social/emotional understanding and behavioral/emotional regulation. The 19 sensors measure and record brainwave activity that is processed through a normative database of neurotypical individuals.

When we compare the patient's results with those of neurotypical individuals, we can identify regions or networks of the brain that are dysregulated and causing symptoms. This information also allows us to determine how these areas are dysregulated so that we can develop specific treatment protocols that help improve brain functioning and reduce symptoms.


During neurofeedback training/treatment, sensors are once again placed on the scalp. The sensors record and display instantaneous brainwave activity visually in real-time on a computer screen with simultaneous auditory feedback as well.

During neurofeedback sessions, the patient is seeing the results of how their brain is working and with this information, they learn to improve their brainwave activity by guiding it toward healthier, more appropriately functional brainwave patterns.

We do not administer any drugs or perform invasive procedures during this process. Instead, the patient is improving their own brain functioning, guided by visual and auditory feedback.


As an adjunct to neurofeedback, we may also use neurostimulation guided by qEEG brain map findings to gently stimulate the brain into healthier functional patterns. In our experience, some patients may benefit even more from neurofeedback if we also use neurostimulation. We have found this particularly helpful for lower-functioning children on the Autism Spectrum.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

In the last forty years, Drake has helped thousands of patients with various disorders such as autism, ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, insomnia, migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and hypertension reduce or resolve their symptoms and thereby achieve a better quality of life. Call us at 1-800-700-4233 or fill out the free consultation form to get started.

















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“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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