5-HTP for ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral problem in young children. Inability to maintain attention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness can lead to problems functioning at home and at school. As of the time of publication, specific causes of ADHD are not known. Low levels of certain neurotransmitters may contribute to ADHD symptoms.


Three to five percent of school-aged children are diagnosed with ADHD, according to the National Institutes of Health. Boys are more commonly diagnosed than girls. A child with ADHD may be unable to focus attention. This can manifest as poor school performance, difficulty organizing or finishing a task and problems communicating directly. A child may also be hyperactive, unable to remain still, constantly fidgeting and playing loudly and continuously. ADHD can also manifest as an inability to wait, commonly interrupting. Medication and behavioral therapy are used to manage the disruption of school and home life.


5-HTP, 5-hyrozytryptophan, is a product produced from the amino acid trytophan that is a precursor for neurotransmitters, including serotonin and melatonin. Supplementing with 5-HTP may increase the production of these neurotransmitters. It is thought that the brains of children with ADHD may be understimulated, seeking out stimulation from the environment to obtain the level of activity the brain wants to maintain.


According to Billy J. Cahley, Ph.D. and certified clinical nutritionist, 5-HTP may improve the symptoms of children with ADHD and related behavioral disorders. Because there appears to be varied genetic components to ADHD, not all children will benefit from 5-HTP. Supplementation with 5-HTP does not replace, and may alter the effectiveness of, medications prescribed by your doctor to treat ADHD.


5-HTP is produced naturally by the body and is likely safe in healthy individuals when taken in low to moderate doses. Consult with your child's physician before using and adhere strictly to dosing guidelines. A high-protein diet that contains amino acids from which many neurotransmitters are derived may also help treat ADHD without the risk of supplements.