Adderall and coffee are central nervous system stimulants. While a small dose of each one on its own is usually safe, taking the two together can enhance their effects, potentially causing adverse side effects.
In this article, we look at the individual effects of Adderall and caffeine before examining the side effects that could occur when taking the two together.
Adderall is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that consists of a combination of two stimulants: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine.
Due to its addictive nature, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) categorize Adderall as a schedule II controlled substance, which means it is considered to have a high potential for abuse.
Adderall comes in the form of oral tablets ranging in dosage from 5 to 30 milligrams (mg). Due to its chemical makeup and effects, people with cardiovascular problems, certain thyroid issues, or a history of substance abuse should avoid taking Adderall.
Adderall uses: How does it help?
Like most CNS stimulants, Adderall increases the amount of the chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. The drug helps to improve a person’s attention span, keeping them alert and focused.
This balancing of these chemicals in the brain can help people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by calming any erratic tendencies and improving concentration.
Adderall also helps to boost energy levels and increase wakefulness, which could help people with narcolepsy, a sleep disorder causing excessive sleepiness.
As the drug can boost levels of focus, some people use it to improve their performance in sport and study. As a result, nearly all sports organizations have banned the use of Adderall.
Caffeine is a different kind of CNS stimulant to Adderall. It reduces fatigue and drowsiness by blocking the action of adenosine, a chemical in the brain that usually promotes sleep.
Consuming a lot of coffee, or caffeine through other means, can result in symptoms caused by the body’s “fight or flight” response. These include:
However, caffeine only delivers a temporary boost of alertness that can lead to withdrawal symptoms once the effects wear off. Withdrawal symptoms may include headaches and mood swings.
Adding the stimulant effect of caffeine in coffee to an Adderall dose may magnify the drug’s adverse side effects.
While a prescription of Adderall at lower doses can help control symptoms of ADHD and excessive sleepiness, there are possible side effects. These can include:
With larger doses, these effects may last for more extended periods.
Coffee could also reduce the effectiveness of Adderall. It has diuretic properties that could shorten the lifespan of Adderall by prompting the body to remove the drug from its system sooner.
Drinking coffee with Adderall could affect the following:
Heart and blood pressure
The chemicals that Adderall activates in the brain cause the blood vessels to constrict, and the heart rate and blood pressure to rise. Adding caffeine can cause them to rise further.
Caffeine and Adderall are designed to increase alertness. In higher doses, a combination of the two can make it difficult for a person to fall asleep, which could lead to insomnia.
Insomnia is a well-known side effect of Adderall. As a result, consuming coffee while taking Adderall can lead to:
- extreme feelings of jitteriness
- nervousness and anxiety
Caffeine dependence or Adderall addiction
The likelihood of experiencing adverse side effects from combining Adderall and coffee can vary from person to person, but it is generally better to avoid taking the two stimulants together.
If someone is already drinking a moderate amount of coffee when they get their Adderall prescription, they may want to avoid a withdrawal headache caused by quitting coffee.
If this is not an option, they should discuss the amount of coffee that they drink with a doctor. The doctor may ask them to keep an eye on their caffeine intake.
However, if taking Adderall is causing adverse side effects, such as insomnia, adding caffeine to the mix can make the situation worse.
People taking Adderall could try switching to decaffeinated coffee. They should also keep an eye on the caffeine content of the other drinks and foods they are consuming, such as energy drinks and chocolate.
As well as the symptoms that can occur when someone drinks coffee while taking Adderall, there is also an increased risk of addiction.
The Adderall dosages that doctors prescribe for specific conditions, such as ADHD or narcolepsy, are unlikely to be high enough to cause addiction. As such, the people with the highest risk of developing an Adderall addiction are those who take the drug to help with studies or sports.
In a 2014 survey by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, 20 percent of college students reported abusing prescription stimulants at least once in their lifetime. So, there is also a very significant risk of addiction to Adderall for students who feel under pressure to perform in their studies or sports at school.
Therefore, people with ADHD should try to avoid foods and drinks that contain stimulants such as caffeine, including coffee.
Coffee or caffeine dependence
People who consume large quantities of coffee can become caffeine dependent. Research suggests that consuming high doses of caffeine can lead to cardiovascular problems and poor sleep quality. Withdrawal headaches can also occur when someone stops having caffeine.
Coffee is not highly addictive, and it is possible to reduce any adverse effects by switching to decaffeinated drinks or by only drinking caffeine at certain times of the day.
As well as coffee, there are other sources of caffeine that people taking Adderall should be aware of.
Foods and drinks containing caffeine include:
- coffee and tea
- energy drinks
- fizzy pop
- some migraine and cold and flu medications
- dietary or herbal supplements
It is essential for people to keep an eye on their caffeine intake by being mindful of what they are consuming.
If someone feels that they are consuming too much caffeine, herbal teas and decaffeinated coffee provide alternative options to caffeinated coffee.
Consuming small to moderate amounts of coffee is unlikely to cause significant problems in combination with Adderall. However, people should be aware of the possibility that the caffeine in the coffee might reduce the effectiveness of the Adderall and enhance its side effects.
People taking Adderall for ADHD may wish to discuss their caffeine intake with their doctor.
Those who use Adderall without a prescription face the risk of taking doses that are not controlled by a doctor. As such, the risks that come with mixing coffee and Adderall are higher.