Tag Archives: A Cautionary Tale of Caffeine

A Cautionary Tale of Caffeine

Woman drinking coffee

Everyone seems to have their “mother’s little helper.”  Their little vice that perks them up on those days when their ordinary emotional hygiene practices are just not working.  For some its alcohol, for others prescription drugs,  maybe  marijuana, for some stronger drugs.  Considering all that is available, it would seem that caffeine sort of pales in comparison. It’s legal, requires no prescription and in fact, it is available all over the place and its accessibility is growing.  We can’t walk five blocks without passing a Starbucks, or some other similar gormandizer, and if we don’t, we can always find some Red Bull or Rock Star at the convenience or grocery store. Indeed the ways we get out caffeine are getting more creative by the day; there is talk of a caffeine patch, caffeine gum and caffeine mixed with alcohol.  In the midst of all this madness, it becomes almost impossible for us to imagine that a product with so much hype may also be bad for us, but listen to this:

How Does Caffeine Work?
Caffeine usually begins to take affect 15-45 minutes after ingestion and peaks after 30-60 minutes.  The immediate effects are increased heartbeat, respiration, metabolic rate, production of stomach acid and urine.  It also relaxes muscles, especially the bronchial muscle.  This brings about a “lift”  which causes the user to feel awake and confident mentally and physically.

When Caffeine Turns Dark
After consuming caffeine for a while, users develop a tolerance which means they will need higher doses to get the same effect.  If they do not receive the higher dose, they may experience caffeine withdrawal.  They may develop a throbbing headache, drowsiness, irritability, nervousness to depression.

The Caffeine Overdose
If someone drinks about 7 cups of coffee (250-750 mgs of caffeine) they may become restless, nauseous, experience irregular heart beat, and sleep disturbances.  Anything over that can cause symptoms similar to an anxiety attack, with delirium, ringing ears and diarrhea.  Long-term drinking of coffee can result in heartburn, ulcers, heart problems and fibrocystic breast disease.

A Scary Story
Since caffeine is known to increase metabolism, act as a diuretic, and suppress hunger, it is often  found in weight loss supplements.  Much of the time, caffeine will not be listed as an ingredient in the supplement, instead, it will appear under the guise of an herbal dietary substance, such as guarana.   A 38- year old woman was taking a dietary supplement known as Zantrax 3 a “power packed pill”  featuring niacin, caffeine, and various herbs.  After taking the pill for three months, the woman began to experience blurry vision and suffered a seizure. The MRI showed a possible atrophy in the right frontal lobe of her brain.  After discontinuing Zantrex-3, the patient experienced no more seizures.

Note that reactions to caffeine can vary, and many people swear by it, but it is important that we are aware of when we are consuming it and the variety of foods and pharmaceuticals that contain it.