Ostracising caffeine from the pharmacological arsenal for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder--was this a correct decision? A literature review

J Psychopharmacol. 2014 Sep;28(9):830-6. doi: 10.1177/0269881114541014. Epub 2014 Jul 1.


Caffeine is one of the most widespread psychotropic substances in the world. It exerts multiple effects on the brain including adenosine receptor antagonism, and thereby has been found to modulate aspects of cognition, including attention, in animal models and in healthy human volunteers. This review considers what is known of the effects of caffeine on symptoms and cognitive functions in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a prototypical disorder of cognitive dysfunction. We consider the merits of investigating further caffeine's therapeutic potential as a monotherapy or as an adjunctive agent in ADHD. The potential benefits of re-opening a dialogue regarding the use of caffeine in ADHD clinical practice are highlighted, along with potential implications for the use of adenosine receptor antagonists in ADHD and other disorders characterised by cognitive impairment.

Keywords: Adenosine; antagonists; attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder; caffeine; methylphenidate.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Caffeine / pharmacology
  • Caffeine / therapeutic use*
  • Cognition Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Purinergic P1 Receptor Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Purinergic P1 Receptor Antagonists / therapeutic use*


  • Purinergic P1 Receptor Antagonists
  • Caffeine