I double-posted this in Health and Healing.
Ds (7) had ADHD. I do not want to put him on pharmaceutical medications at this point - he is extremely sensitive to medications and their side effects.
I know that caffeine is also a drug, and I know that too much is a bad thing...but I see its side effects, when used minimally or moderately for most people most of the time, to be pretty gentle. I experimented a little this week and tried a little with some positive effects for ds. Am I deluded to think that there may be some merit to giving my ds a low amount of caffeine? It's a stimulant found in nature versus a stimulant formulated in a lab, but it has a similar effect on ADHD.
I don't want to sound like a conspiracy-theorist, but I feel like the medical community has a big investment in making the pharmaceuticals work over something that may be a little gentler on the system. The pharmaceuticals may have a more pronounced effect, but the well-documented and frequent potential side effects of the various meds also seem more pronounced.
Please don't flame me - I'm asking for constructive feedback. TIA!
My DS is 5 so he's still young but in the future I personally will also try caffeine before an Rx if it comes to that. Even adults can have disrupted sleep if they consume caffeine after 12pm so definitely do it early in the day. Let us know how it goes! (I've also heard of parents using a nicotine patch to help focus!)
Your body gets used to caffeine pretty quickly, at which point you're just staving off the withdrawal effects and not getting any of the good effects. I don't think it'd be useful for more than about three consecutive days.
FWIW, no, I don't think this is a good plan for treating or relieving symptoms of ADHD/ADD on a long term basis. I did know a woman who fed her dd a cocktail of caffeinated beverages in the morning for similar reasons-not wanting to use a drug approach. The crash was pretty big for her dd, and the results were fairly inconsistent, at best. I think that the mom felt that she was avoiding drugs, but honestly, her dd was completely over-caffeinated and not helped, so it was hard to see the benefit in this case.
I understand the reluctance to try the med route, and 7 is pretty young. Have you tried other ideas-utilizing OT, addressing sensory needs, etc?
One of the reasons I started ADHD medication was to get off caffeine. I was drinking starbucks espresso and needed more and more to stave off a massive headache and/or the crash--I eventually became that person you can't talk to until they've had their coffee; it is also short acting with uneven results.
Potential side effects of a medication are...potential side effects, and there are several different medications to try if one is causing unacceptable side effects. We did stop using two medications for ds because of side effects but he has been on his current medication for over a year. There are also non-stimulant medications available. I would discuss using caffeine with his doctor; perhaps if the "help" he needs is minimal it might work for now.
ADHD Parent Medication Guide prepared by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and American Psychiatric Association
Hmmm, that caffeine chart is interesting. I think it is curious how Starbucks coffees are specifically higher in caffeine compared to other types. Even though it is an aside and geared more at adults, this was an interesting article http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6155178 I know I have become more sensitive to it as a stimulant as I get older... When I was in college, I did not care about sleeping and drank a lot of coffee and tea with no big issues. Now, I grit my teeth in my sleep if I have too much and have problems getting to sleep if I eat chocolate or tea after 7pm.
I guess, I would see it as an optional treatment for adhd, but would talk to your ds' doctor about it so that it can be more effective. I feel its side effects are much less harsh than most meds. Some of the anecdotal stuff on the web indicates that it be calming to kids with adhd, so look forward to hearing about if it works with Op's ds.
As a kid with ADD, caffeine was prescribed for it's calming effect. When I was out of control, I had to drink a cup of black coffee. Part of the reason I to this day don't care for coffee, I'd imagine. However, using it daily never would have worked for me - it diminishes in effect over time/exposure. By limiting it to "need", I was drinking a cup a few times a month, and it continued to be effective throughout my childhood.
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OP here - I'm not on the computer often these days, so I'm sorry it's been so long.
I did try caffeine with mixed results. He responded *very* well to it for a while. I crushed 1/2 a caffeine pill into juice in the mornings, and it had extended effects (all medication has intense effects for him), so he never "crashed" during the day. It lasted all day, and he started falling asleep more easily at night. Dh and I noticed a lot of little things that were just easier with ds. We found that we didn't need to work at the little stuff - like daily routines or being stuck in negative thinking - so we had more energy for the things that mattered. His teachers and OT commented on the differences they saw in his focus, strength, and willingness to try harder things. There was not a single negative side effect that I could observe, although if we decided to use it longterm, I would have a doctor monitor more closely and get a blood pressure monitor for home use. I loved loved being able to see his personality without being clouded by his lack of focus and also without being "zombied" like I've seen some children be from medications (not that all are by any means, but I have seen and heard about children whose personalities are "lost" beneath the meds).
As the end of the school year approached and his allergies revved up, the effects we saw were less pronounced. It all happened in a day, though, so I'm not sure if he developed a sudden tolerance to the dose, or if his sensory system has just outweighed the beneficial effects. He has never complained of headaches or ever seemed groggy without it, so I don't see a physical dependence on it - as I expected, since stimulants react differently with an ADHD brain than typical brain. I have stopped giving it to him most days at this point, but try it every once in a while with some notable differences still. although not as dramatic.
So, I don't know. I feel like something was working extremely well and observably gently on his system. If I could find that in a medication without wreaking havoc on his body, brain, and or sensory system, I might give it a go, but it's a big leap and my mommy gut tells me it wouldn't be an easy process on him or us...