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Caffeine & Adderall: How the Combination Works

Caffeine & Adderall: How the Combination Works

Clark Clark
8 minute read

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 For many, coffee is a cure for the morning blues. But could coffee be more than a pick-me-up?

Because caffeine and Adderall are both stimulants, you might wonder if they complement each other to combat symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Or does the combination aggravate negative side effects? It turns out their relationship is complex and somewhat varied. 

Are there benefits of taking Adderall and caffeine together? Caffeine can enhance the effects of Adderall. However, not everyone responds the same way to this combination. Some experience overstimulation.

Taking Adderall and caffeine together can create a synergistic relationship similar to that of adding CBD to coffee.  It’s worth noting that currently, the science is relatively young on this topic and much of the research has yet to progress to human studies.

ADHD Basics

According to the American Psychiatric Association, 8.4 % of children in the United States have ADHD. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parent training and behavioral management as the first line of treatment. Medication is recommended if there isn’t significant improvement.

According to the CDC, ⅓ of children with ADHD will still battle symptoms into adulthood. Though medication such as Adderall is great at managing symptoms, additional methods of treatment are encouraged for a more well-rounded, holistic approach.

Additional treatments include

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Psychiatry
  • Social skills training
  • Support groups

In addition, the CDC reports that ADHD can accompany or lead to additional disorders such as learning disorders, oppositional defiant disorder, and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Because of ADHD’s prevalence, connection to a number of other disorders, and its link to substance abuse, it’s understandable that those with ADHD would seek additional treatments.

How Adderall Works

Adderall is composed of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Like Ritalin, another stimulant drug, Adderall helps increase dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain. These levels are generally lower in those with ADHD.

ADHD is a mental health disorder. Common symptoms are as follows:

  • Excessive movement or talking
  • Disorganization
  • Distraction
  • Forgetfulness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity
  • Trouble focusing

Higher dopamine and norepinephrine levels result in alertness, concentration, and lowered impulsivity. They can even stabilize mood. Adderall is a stimulant medication used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. 

How Caffeine Works

Caffeine is what gives coffee beans their fame. Other common sources are tea, sodas, energy drinks, and chocolate. 

This popular stimulant primarily affects the central nervous system. It blocks the adenosine receptors that usually make us feel sleepy. This results in wakefulness, increased focus, and a mood boost.

Caffeine is also a vasoconstrictor. When blood vessels constrict or narrow, blood flow is slightly inhibited. This could slow blood flow to overstimulated regions of the brain. Also, vasoconstriction can help alleviate headaches. 

Caffeine may help alleviate ADHD symptoms by helping regulate neurotransmitters like dopamine and glutamate. They act as natural stimulants in the body.

Animal studies have shown caffeine improves learning, memory, and other ADHD symptoms.

Though caffeine in moderation is alright, too much of a good thing can cause adverse effects such as:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Jitters
  • Upset stomach

The Food and Drug Administration recommends no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day, or about 4 cups of regular coffee. Too much coffee can lead to caffeine addiction. 

What are the effects of caffeine on someone with ADHD? Caffeine responses vary. For some, caffeine alleviates ADHD symptoms while others experience worsened symptoms.

Is caffeine bad for people with ADHD? No. Caffeine use is not necessarily bad for those with ADHD. In fact, caffeine works quite similarly to Adderall, just to a lesser degree. You should talk to your doctor about the amount of caffeine that is right for you.

Experts have suggested re-opening dialogue concerning caffeine and its potential to aid those with ADHD.

What Happens When You Combine Adderall With Caffeine

Everyone reacts differently to Adderall and caffeine depending on factors like genetics, metabolism, body chemistry, and other factors. For some, Adderall and coffee could pair nicely by offering a boost in energy and focus while staving off impulsivity.

One study showed tea to be helpful in adults with ADHD. While adults with ADHD may benefit from caffeine, we can’t say the same for children. Kids can be more susceptible to the adverse effects of caffeine.

For others, mixing Adderall and caffeine could increase side effects. In some cases, caffeine can curb the effects of Adderall. Also, both caffeine and Adderall have the ability to activate the body’s “fight or flight” response. While this response is great for keeping us out of harm’s way, such a response while conducting daily activities can prove unhelpful.

Interactions & Health Risks

Both Adderall and caffeine can be addictive. In fact, the DEA classifies Adderall as a Schedule II Controlled Substance. This means its potential for drug abuse is higher. Because it aids alertness and focus, it’s not uncommon for college students to use Adderall to tackle their academic workload. 

American Addiction Centers reports university students have easy access to such stimulants via family and friends. Though Adderall is considered a “study drug,” many also use it recreationally. Users claim it gives them more energy in social situations.

That’s where things get dicey: Adderall and alcohol are a dangerous mix. Adderall is a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant. The two work against each other in the body. Adderall typically dulls the sense of inebriation, which can lead to overindulging. If you can’t tell you’ve had enough to drink, you put yourself at a higher risk of alcohol poisoning.

Habitual to excessive caffeine consumption can also lead to addiction. Caffeine withdrawal is an symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings

What are potential side effects of taking Adderall with caffeine? High doses of Adderall and caffeine can cause negative side effects like:

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Irritable
  • Panic attacks
  • Tremors

How to Safely Enjoy Coffee While Taking Adderall

There is currently no recommended amount of caffeine to consume with Adderall.

The best way to know if caffeine and Adderall will work well together is to talk to your healthcare provider. They may recommend a certain amount or have you try adding a small amount of caffeine at a time. Be mindful of how this affects you throughout the day. Perhaps keep a log about what you observe and your body feels.

Can You Use Caffeine Instead of Adderall?

Adderall is currently considered among the top treatment options for ADHD. Caffeine could be used as a substitute for Adderall. However, caffeine will likely be less impactful than a prescription drug.

The contingent who opts for a more natural approach over prescription medications might use over-the-counter caffeine pills or natural sources rather than prescription stimulants. Again, though supplements can prove beneficial, they are not necessarily the solution to a chronic condition.

If you want further information about replacing Adderall with caffeine or other treatments, consult your healthcare provider to find the best solution for you.

Key Takeaways

  • Further studies are needed to establish whether caffeine and Adderall should be combined.
  • Studies show caffeine to have very similar effects to those of Adderall when it comes to treating ADHD symptoms.
  • To see how caffeine and Adderall affect you, start with small doses of caffeine whether via coffee or supplements. Monitor your mental, emotional, physiological responses.
  • Be mindful of the addictive characteristics of both caffeine and Adderall. Dependence on anything can become debilitating and difficult to overcome.
  • Do not consume alcohol with Adderall as the effects range from dangerous to deadly.
  • Mental health is important. If you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out for medical advice concerning next steps.

If you don’t like how caffeine interacts with Adderall, or you just want to play it safe, decaf coffee might be a good option. There are also plenty of hot beverage alternatives if you want to mix it up.

Looking to enjoy the health benefits of coffee without the upset stomach and bitterness of regular coffee? Go gold by subscribing and becoming a Midas Member today!


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