Do you feel as if you may have a caffeine addiction? Find yourself drinking energy drinks or coffee throughout the day, just to maintain a normal energy level?
You’re not alone. About 90% of Americans consume caffeine every day, in one form or another. Let’s look at caffeine addiction, the side effects of caffeine, and potential dangers of consuming too much of the substance.
Is Caffeine Addictive?
Is caffeine addictive? In a word, yes. Caffeine, like many other drugs, acts as a stimulant, affecting the central nervous system. Like, for instance, nicotine, caffeine creates a very quick “buzz,” which some may find to be mildly addictive.
Millions of people rely on caffeine each day to get “up and going,” and this reliance could be interpreted as an addiction.
Scientifically, however, caffeine is not by definition addictive. The substance doesn’t affect a user in the same way that drugs classified as addictive will. For example, users of heroin will often find that their physical health is threatened. Or those suffering from alcohol addiction will find their social lives have been impaired as a result.
There is such thing as caffeine withdrawal, and there is such a thing as a caffeine craving. But the substance doesn’t cause the same drug-seeking behaviors or severe withdrawal symptoms as other drug. For this reason, doctors and other experts do not classify caffeine as addictive.
We’d like to issue a caveat to this, however. Those who use caffeine as a way to avoid sleep may suffer from other psychological issues. Consuming caffeine as a way to pull “all-nighters” for work, for gaming or for social reasons may signify a problem. We look at these issues in other places on the Addictive Addiction website.
Is Caffeine Bad for You?
Caffeine is not inherently bad for you. Again, 90% of Americans consume the substance daily, and most will suffer no ill effects from this. A cup of coffee in the morning is not likely to impact your health negatively.
In fact, studies have indicated that 400 milligrams of caffeine are perfectly safe for healthy adults. That equates to 4 cups of coffee, or even two energy shot drinks. To put it into perspective, the amount of caffeine which is considered safe is equivalent to TEN cans of cola every day.
The exception to this is caffeine consumption in children. Even at that, studies have shown that the amount of caffeine in a can of coke is safe for children as young as 4 years of age. Caffeine may impact children’s sleep, can cause anxiety, and may change a child’s appetite. It’s best that children avoid caffeine use.
So is caffeine bad for you? No. Is caffeine good for you? Also no. There have been fads lately which tout caffeine as a healthy additive to a normal diet. These fads are based on the claims that caffeine will help prevent mouth cancer, will reduce the risk of stroke and may reduce the risk of diabetes. Other benefits are claimed as well.
These claims are unsubstantiated. There is very little medical research which indicates that caffeine is a “cure-all” for any of these conditions. The caffeine fads are just that – fads.
There is one exception to this. In those diagnosed with respiratory conditions, caffeine is sometimes used as a bronchodilator. This is only true for emergency situations, however, and is not a long-term solution.
Also, caffeine can be deadly when consumed in large quantities. The same applies to everything though and most things can kill you under certain circumstances.
Side Effects of Caffeine
As with any substance, caffeine carries side effects. If you’ve ever had a cup of green tea, you can attest to this. The most immediate side effect is a burst of energy, sometimes preceded by a “warm” feeling. Your heart rate will increase, and your breathing may quicken. These effects are the most common, and are the most common reasons cited for use of the drug.
However, in some cases, negative side effects may occur. Stomach irritation, even vomiting, may occur as a result of caffeine use. Sleep may be disrupted if caffeine is consumed less than 6 hours prior to bedtime. Headache, dizziness, chest pain and a feeling of agitation are other possible side effects of caffeine.
Recommended Caffeine Intake
As caffeine is not a dietary requirement, there is no recommended caffeine intake. However, as stated, it’s been proven that there is little to no risk in consuming up to 400 milligrams of caffeine each day.
What Soda has the Most Caffeine?
In the United States, Mountain Dew is commonly thought to be the soda with the most caffeine. You may be surprised to learn that this is not the case. Almost, but not quite. Mountain Dew Game Fuel contains 150 mg of caffeine. Other “labels” of Mountain Dew contain just as much.
However, these drinks are not commonly found at retailers. So a more appropriate way to phrase this question might be, “what commonly available soda has the most caffeine?” The answer to that is Diet Pepsi Max, with 69 mg of caffeine.
Some energy drinks contain much more caffeine than this. Redline, for instance, contains 316 milligrams of caffeine per 8 ounces. Consuming more than one bottle of such drinks is likely to interfere with sleep, and may cause other side effects.
Are Caffeine Pills Addictive?
While some people choose to drink their caffeine in coffee, tea, energy drinks or soda, others choose to just swallow it in one convenient little pill. These caffeine pills can be found in service stations, drug stores, and big box retailers.
Caffeine pills are no more addictive than other forms of caffeine. That is to say that someone who consumes caffeine pills will experience the same side effects as those who consume it other ways. They will not, however, experience any more risk of caffeine addiction.
Are Caffeine Pills Dangerous?
Caffeine pills, like caffeine, aren’t by nature dangerous. However there are some caffeine pills which also include other ingredients. These pills may indeed cause serious side effects and should be avoided.
As an example, the ECA stack is a pill which combines ephedrine, caffeine and aspirin. These pills can be highly dangerous to the heart, particularly to those with existing heart conditions.
It’s recommended that if you wish to consume caffeine pills, you use only pills which contain only caffeine. The combination of caffeine with other substances may prove harmful to your health.
Are Other Energy Pills Dangerous?
We’ve been asked about other energy pills by Addictive Addiction readers, and this caffeine addiction overview seems the best place to include those.
There are other energy pills on the market which do not contain caffeine, but instead include ingredients such as ephedrine, branch chain amino acids, tyrosine, and ginseng.
Each of these supplements, when taken in moderation, are thought to be safe. It’s important to note, however, that because they are not evaluated by the FDA, the safety of these energy pills is not guaranteed.
Too many amino acids in your system can cause a severe drop in blood pressure, kidney stones, and liver damage.
Tyrosine does have effects on the central nervous system, and while the substance has not been studied, it’s important to use only in moderation.
Ginseng is considered to be safe even in large amounts. However, overdose can carry some nasty (yet relatively harmless) side effects, such as itching and diarrhea.
It’s recommended that you speak with your healthcare practitioner if you’re in search of an energy pill suitable for your health and lifestyle. While caffeine addiction isn’t a probability, it’s a possibility for those with other, underlying psychological complaints.
As always, take care when using caffeine or any other substance. If you feel that you have a caffeine addiction, please seek the advice of a physician. He may be able to direct you to resources which can help you.