Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Caffeine And Stimulants


I have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and was reading over various pages on your site. I thought you might like to know about the effects of stimulants on certain people, including myself.

For those individuals with ADHD, caffeine has the paradoxical effect of calming the person rather than stimulating them. Several years ago I took 100 mg caffeine tablets, thinking the caffeine would help me stay awake and alert at times when I felt sleepy.

After taking 2 tablets, I felt no stimulating effects and to the contrary, kept feeling more and more sleepy. After about 1.5 hours, I gave up and went to bed, sleeping soundly for a couple of hours. I put the tablets aside and didn't try them again.

A few years later when I went back to university, I noticed I didn't learn like the other students did. After some testing by a psychologist, I was told I had ADHD Combined Type. Since I was in my 40's at the time, it certainly wasn't just the behaviour of a kid lacking discipline.

Reading all I could about ADHD, I saw myself mirrored back and finally understood why I was like I was. But I also read that caffeine has the opposite effects on someone with ADHD, so thought I'd try caffeine again.

Again, I found it did little to keep me stimulated but I wasn't as drowsy this time. The caffeine made me feel calm and very relaxed. Now, I drink a fair amount of tea regularly but don't steep it for a long time, just average length. I also drink tea before bed because it helps calm me for sleep.

Another interesting effect (I have no idea if this is common with people who have ADHD) is that valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) capsules, that are used to promote sleep, make me feel unpleasantly wired.

They give me a uncomfortable feeling similar to what others people described when they've ingested too much caffeine. So, at least in me, valerian root, instead of calming has the effects of being stimulating but in a very unpleasant manner.

I have no idea if all drugs that are considered stimulants would have the same effect as caffeine for people with ADHD, but I do take Dexedrine (a drug in the amphetamine family) for my ADHD and for narcolepsy, but only when I can't get by without it. Because it's a mild prescription form of speed, I don't wish to overuse it so am cautious.

I don't think I'd get addicted but I have noticed if I need to use it a number of days in a row, I find it harder to stay alert and awake without it. So I let myself sleep lots the day or two after I've been using it.

I also take Alertec (Provigil in the US or generic name, modafinil) for my narcolepsy. My narcolepsy is fairly mild, it doesn't cause me to fall over asleep, but I find it hard to stay awake during the day without fighting it constantly. Alertec is considered a stimulant but in a different way than amphetamines.

Supposedly, it affects a different part of the brain than amphetamines. The effect is very gentle with no coming down (like Dexedrine makes me feel) but it seems to work well most times. Whether it calms me, I'm not sure.

Decades ago when I was in my late teens, I tried (and regularly consumed) a number of what most people consider recreational or illegal drugs. I stopped using those drugs when I was still in my 20's. However, my experiences and memories are quite clear.

I became one of Jehovah's witnesses which is why I stopped using them. Unlike most parents who warn their children about drugs, I didn't lie about the effects, I explained the reasons why I stopped, and let them make their own decisions.

The one time I injected methamphetamine (prior to being diagnosed with ADHD), I was amazed at how good and normal it made me feel. That scared me a bit because I knew how addictive it was (from seeing friends who were regular users). I knew it made me feel so normal and alive that I knew it would be something I'd want again and again. I decided then never to try it again.

I smoked marijuana fairly regularly, though not daily, and also tried hashish a few times. The effects were similar to what others felt, nothing unusual. Mescaline and LSD produced the same sort of effects most have, the only difference was I had a great deal of pleasant visual hallucinations overlaid onto the normal world.

I would see twining flowers and vines patterned on the inside of my arms, likely triggered by the pattern of veins through my skin. Also I can remember sparkling slow multi-coloured fireworks overlaid on the pattern of stars in the night sky, and images and patterns overlaid on smears seen in a mist covered window.

Many people experience visual hallucinations while under the influence of drugs like mescaline or LSD, but even as a child I remember seeing patterns and shapes easily overlaid on normal backgrounds simply from slight differences in colors or textures.

My sons also can see this easily, so I think it has something to do with the way the brain works in some people. Perhaps, some people are just more aware of this.

The only paradoxical effects of drugs I've noticed (compared to a majority of the population) are drugs classed as stimulants and valerian root. Stimulants do stimulate me in the sense of helping me stay alert and awake, but at the same time, they also calm my mind and the way I think, they help me focus better.

As for the narcolepsy, I've never noticed anything one way or the other so can't advise what may be good to take or to avoid. I did have one experience with nitrous oxide (laughing gas) that turned out negative.

A dentist tried it on me once for a particularly unpleasant painful extraction of a wisdom tooth. I ended up being taken to the hospital to have it surgically extracted instead. Nitrous oxide did nothing for me, I could have been breathing ordinary air for all its effect even though I was given the maximum allowable.

I want you to know that these are just my personal experiences and not everyone with ADHD and/or narcolepsy will have the exact same response, especially if other factors such psychological conditions are different.

I thought that this info might be of help other people and wanted to share it. People (not diagnosed with ADHD) that feel calmed rather than stimulated by amphetamines or other stimulant drugs may want to consider talking to their doctor about it.