What is it? Caffeine is considered the most widely used mood altering substance, enjoyed by many the world over. It is classified as a stimulant and shares many of the features of that class of drugs, albeit with nearly no life threatening consequences. It does, however, have many of the addictive properties of other drugs such as its stimulating effects, tolerance and withdrawal. Part of “needing that first cup to get me started in the morning" is a response to overnight withdrawal.
How does it affect the body?
Caffeine is mostly consumed in the form of coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate confections. It is found in high quantities in weight loss supplements and headache remedies. Caffeine causes mild increases in heart, pulse and blood pressure rate. People report feeling an initial increase in excitement and stimulation of the senses. That experience is quickly lost on those who become regular drinkers, except after a short period of withdrawal where those feeling are rekindled through relieving withdrawal or, as with non-regular caffeine drinkers, the body’s caffeine level has gone back to zero. Regular use can be accompanied by loss of appetite and trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. In too large a dose or over time, the user can experience a lot of nervousness, some jitteriness, restlessness, stomach aches, sometimes rambling speech and irritability.
- Caffeine is potentially addictive.
- Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it causes the body to lose water through urination. This can lead to dehydration.
- Caffeine can cause insomnia, especially if consumed at night.
- Caffeine can kindle very uncomfortable anxiety.
- Rebound sluggishness often requires more caffeine.
- Caffeine can cause headaches due to withdrawal or overuse.
- In some people, caffeine can affect mood, causing increased fighting with friends and family.
- Caffeine can exacerbate health problems such as ulcers, high blood pressure, and cholesterol. Caffeine can cause problems for women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant.
How to recognize if someone has a problem
Usually only the person affected is able to notice negative consequences from drinking too much caffeine. Stomach aches, sleep issues and nervousness are often the uncomfortable feelings that people cite as reasons that they cut down or eliminate their caffeine intake.
How to cut back on misuse
Becoming aware of the caffeine content in coffee, teas, soft drinks, energy drinks and candies can help a person wanting to cut down or stop. By looking at your caffeine intake, you can experiment with moderating diet accordingly. Some people find success with slowly substituting decaffeinated drinks for coffee and caffeinated sodas. For some people, any exposure to caffeine gets them craving more, so they choose to stop consuming it altogether.