Can Caffeine Help Hyperactive Children?
Hyperactivity is a component of ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Approximately 9 percent of children struggle with it, according to Kids Health. Caffeine appears to affect hyperactive children for the better. It might not be as effective as traditional medications for hyperactivity, but those medications sometimes have unpleasant side effects that parents would like to avoid.
Caffeine draws its stimulating properties from methylxanthine. Methylxanthine acts by blocking chemicals in the brain that cause drowsiness. Caffeine also stimulates production of adrenaline, which can sharpen attention. Adrenaline also causes the brain to release dopamine, which plays a significant role in neutralizing uncontrolled motor functions.
Effect on Hyperactivity
Physicians commonly treat ADHD in children with psychostimulant medications such as methylphenidate and dextroamphetamine-amphetamine, marketed as Ritalin and Adderall respectively. Caffeine’s effect on brain chemicals is similar to that of these drugs. It appears to improve attention span in hyperactive children. According to the American Psychological Association, caffeine also has a minimizing effect on aggressiveness, both in hyperactive children and in those who do not suffer from ADHD.
According to Teens Health, healthy teenagers should consume no more than 100 mg of caffeine a day 4. The level of consumption necessary to affect hyperactivity may be well over and above that. The American Psychological Association indicates that one to two cups of caffeine in the form of coffee is acceptable to help treat symptoms of hyperactivity, but that can be as much as 200 mg per two cups of coffee a day. According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, up to 600 mg a day, or the equivalent of approximately six cups of coffee, may be necessary to replace and mimic the effects of traditional medication. This may result in unwanted side effects in children, such as insomnia, because caffeine’s overall impact is dependent on body weight.
The American Psychological Association suggests that using caffeine to treat hyperactivity in children is better than no treatment at all. In children not already taking medication, their symptoms appear to improve. It should not be a replacement for conventional therapy, however, especially not without first consulting with your child’s pediatrician. With your doctor’s approval, you might add caffeine therapy to your child’s existing medications, or exchange some caffeine for small doses of medication. Adding sugar to coffee can also have an opposite effect on hyperactive behavior, however, so keep refrain from adding anything but an artificial sweetener if you give your child coffee, and stick to diet colas.
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