Mom Gives 7-Year-Old Son Coffee Daily to Treat ADHD

Christine Haskell turned to coffee as a treatment for her son's ADHD

September 7, 2011, 8:24 AM

Sept. 7, 2011 -- When Christie Haskel saw the classic symptoms of Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in her 7-year-old son, Rowan, she became concerned.

"At home there was a lot of just hyperactivity," she told ABC News. "Not being able to keep his hands to himself, talking when he's not supposed to talk, lack of concentration or ability to concentrate when he needed to."

Convinced Rowan suffered from ADHD, but without an official diagnosis, Haskell turned to the Internet in search of a treatment that would ease her son's attention difficulties.

ADHD is one of the most common behavioral problems in children, characterized by difficulty in sustaining attention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. It occurs more frequently in boys than girls, and is typically treated with drugs.

Haskell wanted a treatment, for what she diagnosed as ADHD, for her son that wouldn't give him the side effects of traditional drugs, like Ritalin, commonly used to treat the disorder.

What Haskell found, and began to use to treat Rowan, took her not to the medicine counter or even the natural health foods store.

Haskell went to her kitchen, and brewed her 7-year-old son a pot of coffee.

Twice a day, seven days a week, Rowan now gets a four ounce cup of coffee, delivered as consistently as, and just like, medicine.

Haskell, a writer for CafeMom's blog The Stir, says the caffeinated beverage, known for its ability to rev up a person's energy, actually makes her son less jittery.

"He doesn't overreact if we ask him to pick up Legos, rather than screaming and throwing himself on the floor," she said. "And if we ask him to sit down and do homework, he can actually do it."

Rowan says he enjoys two things about his coffee regimen.

"It tastes good," he told ABC. "And it calms me down."

Haskell blogged about her treatment on The Stir, and says plenty of parents claim similar success using coffee to treat ADHD.

Doctors Say Beware

Doctors, however, warn there is no proof that coffee works as a treatment for ADHD.

They also, more ominously, warn the well-documented, dangerous side effects of caffeine in children, from a higher heart rate, to higher blood pressure and headaches, may do more harm than good in the still developing bodies of young children like Rowan.

"Caffeine is not the answer for real, bonafide ADHD," Dr. David Rosenberg, chief of psychiatry at the Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit told ABC News. "I don't want parents to be deluded into a false sense of security that if I just go to the local Starbucks, I'm going to cure my son or daughter's ADHD."

A study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this month found that diagnoses of ADHD are on the rise, with nearly one in 10 American children receiving an ADHD diagnosis.

"ADHD continues to increase, and that has implications for educational and health care because kids with ADHD disproportionately use more services, and there are several co-morbid conditions that go along with it," Dr. Lara J. Akinbami, lead author of the study, told

From 1998 to 2009, according to the study, the percentage of children ever diagnosed with ADHD increased from 7 percent to 9 percent. The study also found a larger increase in ADHD among children in the South and Midwest regions of the U.S.

Facing statistics like those, doctors say it's a risky move, like the one made by Haskell, in turning to the Internet, or "Dr. Google," in search of medical advice.

"A lot of children get into trouble by treatments that are just designed by parents who find stuff on the Internet," said Dr. Richard Besser, senior health and medical editor for ABC News.

Haskell acknowledges she "can't entirely" be sure she is not solving one problem, her son's ADHD, while creating more, severe medical issues for Rowan from the side effects of his daily coffee.

Still, she tells ABC News, she knows the risks and says skeptics should try the treatment before casting doubt.

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