Caffeine and ADHD

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In this installment from my ‘Ask Me Anything’ series, which you can find on my social media channels, I delve into the topic of caffeine and ADHD

“I quit coffee a month ago purely with the intention to improve mental health. Since caffeine affects ADHD brains differently, am I doing myself a disservice? My anxiety went up. Any take on the mushy based coffees/matchas?”

Let’s start with the big misunderstanding that most people have: Caffeine does not impact the brains of people with ADHD differently. Rather, the brains of people with ADHD have deficits in dopamine signaling that caffeine can help alleviate. So, the effect in the brain is the same (increase dopamine), but how it presents is entirely different.

In many ways, normal people can mimic some of the signs of ADHD by experiencing caffeine withdrawal—trouble focusing, impulsivity, irritation, lack of motivation, etc. The difference is that, in these people, the effects fade as their body adjusts to the new non-caffeinated standard, while those with ADHD never recover.

So, yeah, I think that abandoning caffeine is doing yourself a disservice. This doesn’t mean that you need to consume copious amounts of it, but I think having some in your diet is very much medicinal.

Briefly, one of the most common causes of ADHD is polymorphisms in the adenosine 2A receptor that increase its activity. When this receptor is activated, it binds to the dopamine 2 receptor and inhibits its activity. So, ADHD folks have greater adenosine activity that suppresses dopamine signaling. Caffeine blocks the adenosine receptor, effectively mitigating this genetic problem.

As for alternatives like mushroom-based coffees or matchas, they offer different benefits and experiences. Mushroom coffees, often containing adaptogens, can support stress relief and cognitive function, while matcha provides a gentler, more sustained release of caffeine compared to coffee. I typically do coffee in the morning and matcha throughout the day, but I have been known to mainline coffee all day too. I definitely feel best with small doses (50-100mg) spaced throughout the day.

Hope that helps!

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