Does Coffee Improve Focus?


"My friend lets her 10-year-old drink coffee every day before school. She says the caffeine helps him focus. Is this true?"

Dr. Larry Silver specializes in treating children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD).

Caffeine is a stimulant, and people have long wondered whether it could be used to treat ADHD.

But two major studies have shown that caffeine is not an effective treatment. While some of the children in these studies did report less “sluggishness,” caffeine can cause agitation and an increase in heart rate in young children — even more of a concern for kids already taking a stimulant medication. Thus, any benefits your friend’s son receives are probably outweighed by health risks.

If you’re wondering how to share your concern with your friend, you might say, “I was so excited by your discovery that I wrote to ADDitude. But Dr. Silver replied, saying that no studies support ‘treating’ ADHD with caffeine. I thought you should know...”

Larry Silver, M.D., is clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and director of training in child and adolescent psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. He is a former acting director and deputy director of the National Institute of Mental Health, as well as the author of Dr. Larry Silver's Advice to Parents on AD/HD and The Misunderstood Child: Understanding and Coping with Your Child's Learning Disabilities.
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