Dangers of Overdosing on Caffeine
Written by Jade McNulty BMS’23 Neuro’23
Published on April 26, 2021
Most people start their day with coffee or tea. When used in recommended amounts, caffeine can help to increase alertness and energy. It’s often used in the morning to ‘wake people up’ and can be a critical part of an adult's morning routine.A cup or two a day is perfectly healthy, but once individuals start to over consume caffeine, problems can arise.
Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, cocoa, energy drinks, and soft drinks. It is classified as a stimulant due to its increasing energy metabolism in the nervous system and brain. This increase in activity causes those refreshing feelings to occur through the reward system of dopamine, but once there is too much caffeine in the system, anxious feelings can arise. The maximum recommended dose of caffeine is 400mg per day, (about 4 cups of coffee) but it varies due to body mass, metabolism, health, and tolerance. Just like any other drug, the body gets used to consumption and forms tolerance to a moderate dosage, fueling the need for more caffeine to get the same effects. This is what leads to a cycle of dependence and overuse.
Moderate symptoms of caffeine overuse include dizziness, fever, and insomnia while severe symptoms include vomiting, hallucinations, and uncontrollable muscle movements. A caffeine overdose can be life-threatening, but most individuals experience only mild symptoms. These symptoms occur within the four-six hour half-life of caffeine and lessen as the caffeine wears off. Treatment for caffeine overdose includes activated charcoal to prevent the drug from entering the gastrointestinal tract or a gastric lavage that washes out the stomach.
Though caffeine is perfectly healthy in reasonable amounts, it is important to keep these risk factors in mind. The negative effects of caffeine overuse can worsen the symptoms of anxiety and can influence other addictions. Millions of students and adults turn to caffeine to stay energized, but there are other strategies like exercising, eating well, and staying hydrated which work equally as well and may be safer.