In modern American society, an addiction to caffeine has become as commonplace as driving a car. A large percentage of Americans report drinking coffee, or other caffeinated beverages, on a daily basis.
Our obsession with caffeine has resulted in many people feeding an addiction they don’t even know they have. And although many people never get a point of not being able to function because of a caffeine addiction (thus the reason for no official diagnosis of a “caffeine addiction”), the fact is that there is such a thing as too much caffeine.
Caffeine is found in a variety of different foods and drinks. Most people are familiar with caffeinated coffees and soft drinks. However, caffeine is also found in tea, chocolate, most sports/energy drinks, pain relievers and cold medicines. Classified as a stimulant, caffeine produces an effect that causes users to enjoy a heightened level of activity and alertness.
As most users know, however, caffeine users often come “down” a short while after consumption, often resulting in symptoms such as: decreased alertness, headaches, nausea and drowsiness, to name a few. Excessive quantities of caffeine can result in less-desirable effects upon intake, such as: restlessness, anxiety, tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), difficulty sleeping and more. The timetable usually takes place as such: Within about 15 minutes after consumption, the effects of caffeine begin to kick in. Then, the effects peak about 15 minutes after the onset, then a plateau occurs before the effects begin to dissipate, returning users to a normal rate of activity.
Although most people are not necessarily aware of how much is too much, it is an important fact to remember, especially for those who consume large quantities of coffee. A moderate dose of caffeine in a single day is 250-300 mg. This equals about three cups of coffee (at around 8 ounces for each cup). Between three and ten cups is excessive and drinking beyond ten cups in a day can result in caffeine poisoning. For other beverages, this equals four cups of tea of six sodas (at around 12 ounces).
There are negative effects of excessive caffeine use. Oftentimes, those who consume caffeine on a daily basis, find themselves in a “withdrawal” if consumption decreases or ceases all together. These symptoms can include: vomiting, headaches, tremors, nausea, irritability, depression and a general feeling of discomfort. These symptoms are similar to those of a caffeine overdose. The major difference between the withdrawal from caffeine and an overdose is that after a few days of “caffeine withdrawal,” symptoms will cease. In a caffeine overdose, symptoms progressively worsen leading to more serious effects and in some cases, death. And although ingesting a lethal dose of caffeine is difficult to do with coffee or soda, there have been reports of people dying from caffeine overdoses using caffeine pills. Students and those who have to work long shifts, and need to be alert despite sleepiness, often use caffeine pills. However, these pills do carry risks (higher than those of consuming caffeinated beverages) and should be used with care and caution.
Therefore, there is such a thing as too much caffeine and with respect to your overall health, it’s a good idea to be informed about how much is too much, balance caffeine consumption with healthier alternatives, such as water, and be careful to lessen your intake gradually in order to avoid symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.
However, many people stay within a moderate dose of caffeine on a daily basis and drinking java and soft drinks has certainly become ingrained in American culture. As with anything, consuming caffeine in moderation doesn’t usually have negative effects as long as users are aware of how much is too much and are sure to stay within the above mentioned limitations.