Caffeineis currently the world's most commonly used drug. It is present in many foods and drinks, which makes it is easy to forget that it is a drug. It is even an ingredient in beverages and foods that are marketed to children. While caffeine has some health benefits, it does have significant negative effects on the body and brain.
Unlike many other psychoactive drugs, caffeine is legal and is one of the most widely used substances in the world.
Also Known As: Because caffeine is legal, slang terms are generally not used when referring to it. Slang terms for coffee and tea, two of the most common naturally caffeinated beverages, include Joe and cuppa.
Drug Class: Caffeine is classified as a stimulant. It increases activity in the central nervous system.
Common Side Effects: Caffeine can increase energy levels and alertness, but side effects can include irritability, jitters, anxiety, rapid heart rate, and insomnia.
How to Recognize Caffeine
Caffeine is an alkaloid found in a wide variety of plants including coffee beans, tea leaves, and cocoa beans.It is found both naturally and as an additive in many food and drink items including coffee, tea, chocolate, and soft drinks. On its own, caffeine has no flavor and does not have any nutritional value.
Note that while Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations stipulate products containing added caffeine must be labeled, labeling is not required for food and beverages that naturally contain the stimulant. Since many products do not specify how much caffeine they contain, it can be difficult to know how much caffeine you are consuming.
What Does Caffeine Do?
Because caffeine acts as a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, people usually take it to feel more alert and energetic. Caffeine can improve mood and help people feel more productive. It is believed to work by blocking the neurotransmitter adenosine's receptors, increasing excitability in the brain.
What the Experts Say
Research has shown that caffeine can have both positive and negative effects on health.
It can improve mental performance—up to a point. In a study published in 2012, caffeine was shown to improve performance on a range of different tasks including vigilance, response times, information processing, and some—but not all—proofreading tasks.
But it's no shortcut to improving your performance. When comparisons are made between people whose daily intake of caffeine is low (up to 100 mg caffeine per day) and those who regularly consume a lot of caffeine (more than 300 mg caffeine per day), the improvements are quite small and don't get better with more caffeine.
While people who use a lot of caffeine every day do show improved performance with more caffeine, it may be that they are simply counteracting the effects of caffeine dependence—so by taking more caffeine, they are getting closer to what their performance would be if they weren't addicted to caffeine in the first place.
Caffeine might improve reaction times, but expectations may also play a role. According to a review published in 2010, caffeine improves vigilance and reaction times. Another study published in 2009 explored the subtleties of how this works and found that at least some of the time, this is an expectancy effect.
Expectancy effects play a significant role in the effects that drugs have on people's perceptions and behaviors. People's expectancies of how caffeine will affect their performance—in particular, if they think it will impair their performance—seems to underlie some of these improvements.
In other words, if people think consuming caffeine will make their performance worse, they try harder and compensate for the expected effects of caffeine.
At recommended doses, caffeine can have a beneficial effect on mood. Caffeine influences neurotransmitters that play a role in mood and mental performance including norepinephrine, dopamine, and acetylcholine. Research published in 2013 found that drinking two to three cups of caffeinated coffee each day was linked to a lower risk of suicide.
While the FDA and other health groups have recommended limits for caffeine consumption for adults, they have not established a safe level for children. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages caffeine use by children and adolescents.The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 mg per day.
Caffeine is sometimes prescribed or used off-label to improve mental alertness in patients experiencing fatigue or drowsiness. Caffeine citrate is also used as a short-term treatment for breathing problems in premature infants.
Common Side Effects
Caffeine can improve alertness, but it can also lead to a number of unpleasant side effects, including:
- Flushed Face
- Excessive urination
- Gastrointestinal disturbances
- Muscle twitching
- Rambling speech
- Tachycardia or cardiac arrhythmia
- Periods of inexhaustibility
- Difficulty relaxing
Caffeine can also affect:
Mood: While people often use caffeine to improve mood, excessive caffeine consumption can increase anxiety.
Heart rate: Caffeine speeds up the heart rate with significant effects occurring after consuming 360 mg, the equivalent of about three and a half cups of brewed coffee. In higher doses, caffeine can cause more significant effects on the heart by changing the speed and regularity of your heartbeat. This is known as tachycardia or cardiac arrhythmia and can be serious.
If you think your heartbeat is abnormal, check with your doctor.
Blood pressure: Caffeine consumption may raise blood pressure. This effect of caffeine, known as the "pressor effect," is evident across age and gender groups, and is particularly pronounced in people with hypertension (high blood pressure). If you are unsure of whether this applies to you, ask your doctor about your blood pressure and get their advice on moderating your caffeine intake accordingly.
When caffeine is consumed in large quantities, theside effectscan range from unpleasant to severe, sometimes even resulting incaffeine overdose.
Caffeine can also pose dangers when taken with other substances including alcohol. Caffeine use can result in excessive alcohol consumption since the stimulant effects of caffeine mask the depressant effects of alcohol.
Signs of Use
Since it is not an illicit drug, people rarely try to disguise their caffeine consumption. There are signs that someone might be overusing caffeine, including:
- Symptoms such as jitteriness, insomnia, nausea, tremors, and heart palpitations
- Changes in mood including agitation or depression
- Excessive consumption of caffeinated beverages
Caffeine overdose can lead to symptoms such as chest pain, confusion, hallucinations, convulsions, and trouble breathing. If someone is experiencing these symptoms, contact emergency services immediately.
Some people think caffeine improves their memory. According to a review published in 2015, the research evidence for this is mixed, although a number of studies found improved memory was associated with using energy drinks.
People also often wonder if excess caffeine consumption might contribute to heart problems. While caffeine use does have short-term effects on heart rate, it is unclear whether larger intakes increase the risk of cardiovascular problems in the longer term.
According to a 2017 review, several studies have indicated no increased risk for cardiovascular problems in either men or women related to caffeine intake, but caffeine may be problematic for people with high blood pressure. However, if you have any type of heart disease, you should speak with your doctor before consuming any caffeinated foods and beverages.
A common misconception is that caffeine use can cause infertility. A study published in 2017 suggests that there is no link between consuming low amounts of caffeine (around 200 mg per day or less) and fertility problems.
Another common question is whether caffeine pills and other high-dose products are different from food and beverages containing caffeine. Products that contain high concentrations of caffeine such as pills and powders, while not chemically different from other forms of the stimulant, do pose additional dangers.
Because these products are so concentrated, the difference between a safe and toxic dose is difficult to measure, which increases the risk of accidental overdose and negative side effects such as seizures.
Tolerance, Dependence, and Withdrawal
Repeated consumption of caffeine can lead to tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal. Tolerance takes place when you must consume larger or more frequent doses in order to have the same effects. Dependence involves needing to keep taking the substance in order to ward off unpleasant withdrawal effects.
How Long Does Caffeine Stay in Your System?
Caffeine reaches peak levels in the body about an hour after consumption, but you may continue to feel these stimulating effects for up to six hours.
While using caffeine can lead to becoming physically or psychologically dependent on it, it does not have strong enough of an effect on the brain's reward system to result in a true addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as the chronic, uncontrollable use of a substance despite negative consequences.
However, people often casually refer to their love of coffee and other caffeine-containing beverages as an "addiction."
While caffeine is not considered addictive, caffeine intoxication is recognized as a disorder in the DSM-5. Caffeine intoxication is defined as the consumption of more than 250 mg of caffeine followed by at least five symptoms that can include restlessness, excitement, insomnia, diuresis, stomach upset, tachycardia, psychomotor agitation. These symptoms must result in significant distress and impairment in functioning and must not be due to another medical condition.
Caffeine Addiction Symptoms and Withdrawal
People often continue to use caffeine as a way to reduce any negative symptoms of caffeine withdrawal that they might experience.
The short-term benefit you may get from caffeine can be offset by increased anxiety while you are under the influence of caffeine, and when the effects wear off, withdrawal symptoms may worsen the very mental processes you are hoping to improve.
Caffeine withdrawal usually begins within 12 to 24 hours after consuming the last dose. It can lead to a number of unpleasant withdrawal effects including:
- Lack of energy
- Fatigue and drowsiness
- Problems concentrating
- Low mood
Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to more severe depending on how much caffeine you are used to consuming. These unpleasant effects usually begin to subside within two or three days.
Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms
How to Get Help
If you use a lot of caffeine—drinking the equivalent of more than three cups of tea or coffee per day—it may be negatively affecting your health, so lowering your intake is worth considering.
The best approach is to gradually taper your caffeine consumption. Doing this lowers your dependence gradually while minimizing the negative effects of withdrawal.
It is important to be aware of all of the different sources of your intake, including foods, energy drinks, caffeine, tea, and soft drinks. Try eliminating these sources progressively by replacing them with lower-caffeine or caffeine-free alternatives.
Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your caffeine use, or contact SAMSHA at 1-800-662-4357 to find mental health services in your area.
But in ADHD, dopamine levels are too low. Stimulant chemicals such as caffeine or amphetamines tend to increase dopamine levels. For most people, adding stimulants will push dopamine levels too high, causing agitation and anxiety.Does caffeine make OCD worse? ›
increased arousal due to caffeine intake may increase inhibition, which in turn may play a crucial role in stopping intrusive thoughts (such as disgust), urges, and compulsive cleansing in individuals with high contamination fears.”Why does caffeine give me such bad anxiety? ›
Because caffeine indirectly triggers the release of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin into the bloodstream, blood pressure rises. People then feel their heart racing, which can lead to or worsen feelings of anxiety. Caffeine can also negatively affect sleep.How long does caffeine-induced anxiety last? ›
Know the higher your caffeine intake, the more severe your symptoms might be, and the longer it may take for you to feel well again. Symptoms are likely to begin around 12 to 24 hours after you last ingested caffeine, and they can last between two and nine days.What is the Starbucks syndrome for ADHD? ›
If a person feels different, the dose is too high or too low. “When the dose is off,” Dodson says, “hyperactive people tend to slow down to a crawl; this is commonly known as 'zombie syndrome. ' Other people get over-stimulated with the wrong dose, and this is called 'Starbucks syndrome.Does caffeine calm ADHD people down? ›
How does caffeine affect ADHD? The effects of caffeine consumption on ADHD remain largely anecdotal. The stimulant calms some people, while increasing anxiety in others. However, many parents and adults with ADHD, (and some studies) report light to moderate caffeine use as a way to help boost focus and concentration.Can caffeine cause psychosis? ›
It antagonises adenosine receptors, which may potentiate dopaminergic activity and exacerbate psychosis. In psychiatric in-patients, caffeine has been found to increase anxiety, hostility and psychotic symptoms.Does caffeine affect schizophrenia? ›
The reasons are unclear. In nonhumans, caffeine enhances the effects of dopamine, which might be expected to worsen positive symptoms and improve negative symptoms of schizophrenia and worsen tardive dyskinesia. Eliminating caffeine among patients with schizophrenia does not appear to make them better or worse.What calms down OCD? ›
- Talk to someone you trust about your OCD. Find a quiet space to talk where you won't be interrupted. ...
- Spend time with friends and family. You might not feel ready to talk openly about your OCD yet.
While the side effects of caffeine and anxiety can be alike, you can't get anxiety from caffeine directly. But, drinking coffee can make anxiety symptoms worse. Research shows that in people with panic disorder, caffeine consumption raises the risk of having a panic attack and increases levels of anxiety.
Some people are sensitive to the anxiety-promoting effects of caffeine, while others are more sensitive to caffeine-induced insomnia or sleep disturbances. People with anxiety or panic disorder may experience a worsening of their symptoms after consuming caffeine.How do you calm down caffeine-induced anxiety? ›
Caffeine is a stimulant, which is why you feel jittery. More than 400 milligrams (about 4 cups) of caffeine is too much. Drink lots of water, take a walk, practice deep breathing and wait it out.Should I cut out caffeine for anxiety? ›
Drinking less coffee or even eliminating caffeine entirely can help reduce anxiety, improve sleep quality, and reduce headaches, among several other benefits.Can quitting caffeine make anxiety worse? ›
While consuming caffeine can cause feelings of anxiousness, cutting it out can cause this side effect as well. Anxiety is a commonly reported symptom in people who withdraw from regular caffeine consumption ( 3 ). The body can become mentally and physiologically dependent on it, causing feelings of anxiety.Why am I suddenly sensitive to caffeine? ›
A variety of factors causes caffeine sensitivity, such as genetics and your liver's ability to metabolize caffeine. A caffeine allergy occurs if your immune system mistakes caffeine as a harmful invader and attempts to fight it off with antibodies.What is one celebrity with ADHD? ›
- Simone Biles. 1/12. U.S. Olympic champion Simone Biles took to Twitter to let the world know she has ADHD. ...
- Michael Phelps. 2/12. ...
- Justin Timberlake. 3/12. ...
- will.i.am. 4/12. ...
- Adam Levine. 5/12. ...
- Howie Mandel. 6/12. ...
- James Carville. 7/12. ...
- Ty Pennington. 8/12.
What is the Rarest Type of ADHD? The rarest type of ADHD diagnosed is the hyperactive-impulsive type with no indication of inattentive or distracted behavior, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.Are ADHD people sensitive to caffeine? ›
A warm cup of coffee is THE reason we get out of bed. But if you have ADHD, this may not be your experience. In fact, caffeine can even make some ADHD symptoms worse.Is caffeine better than Adderall for ADHD? ›
In the three core symptoms of ADHD (attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity), methylphenidate was more effective than caffeine10in reducing only hyperactivity. Amphetamines were more effective than caffeine in reducing both hyperactivity and impulsivity.Does ADHD count as a disability? ›
Is ADHD considered a disability? Yes, ADHD is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504). There are several types of disabilities, including but not limited to: learning disability.
- Disorganization and problems prioritizing.
- Poor time management skills.
- Problems focusing on a task.
- Trouble multitasking.
- Excessive activity or restlessness.
- Poor planning.
- Low frustration tolerance.
Caffeine and Diagnosing Mental Health Disorders
Caffeine is a moderately potent stimulant and can induce many conditions that mimic symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders, including heightened alertness, irritability, agitation, rapid heart rate, and increase in blood pressure.
The reasons are unclear. In nonhumans, caffeine enhances the effects of dopamine, which might be expected to worsen positive symptoms and improve negative symptoms of schizophrenia and worsen tardive dyskinesia. Eliminating caffeine among patients with schizophrenia does not appear to make them better or worse.Can caffeine make you manic? ›
Most research on the effects of caffeine on people with bipolar disorder indicates that the stimulant may trigger manic episodes. Caffeine acts as a mood elevator. Some experts have suggested that caffeine may, as a result, trigger the disorder's manic episodes, which some may refer to as high periods.What two factors can trigger schizophrenia? ›
- Stressful life events. Highly stressful or life-changing events may sometimes trigger schizophrenia. ...
- Drug and alcohol use. Some people may develop symptoms of schizophrenia after using cannabis or other recreational drugs. ...
- Genetic inheritance. ...
- Differences in brain chemistry.
Drinking caffeinated drinks makes some people feel angry, anxious, or irritable, but did you know that caffeine can sometimes induce psychosis in otherwise healthy people? Psychosis is a state of mind in which a person loses touch with reality through hallucinations, paranoia, or delusions.Does caffeine cause anxiety or paranoia? ›
If the amount of caffeine is high enough, these effects are stronger, resulting in caffeine-induced anxiety. While there are mental benefits to caffeine, high doses are known to induce anxiety symptoms, and people with panic disorder and social anxiety disorder are especially sensitive.What is root cause of OCD? ›
Experts aren't sure of the exact cause of OCD. Genetics, brain abnormalities, and the environment are thought to play a role. It often starts in the teens or early adulthood. But, it can also start in childhood.What is the best vitamin for OCD? ›
Vitamin B12 and folate are thought to be effective in OCD treatment due to their associations with neurotransmitters. Depending on their antioxidant effect, zinc and selenium can be used in augmentation therapy for OCD. However, both trace elements and vitamin B12/folate can be affected by diet.What is it like to quit caffeine? ›
The severity of symptoms vary from individual to individual, and most commonly include a headache, fatigue, decreased energy/activeness, decreased alertness, drowsiness, decreased contentedness, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and feeling foggy/not clearheaded.
Limit alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, cannabis, and other drugs. They can make your symptoms worse.What is the root cause of anxiety? ›
A big event or a buildup of smaller stressful life situations may trigger excessive anxiety — for example, a death in the family, work stress or ongoing worry about finances. Personality. People with certain personality types are more prone to anxiety disorders than others are. Other mental health disorders.What foods counteract caffeine? ›
Eating may slow the release of caffeine into your bloodstream. Opt for slow-digesting, fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, beans, lentils, starchy vegetables, nuts, and seeds ( 1 ).What are the symptoms of caffeine intolerance? ›
With caffeine sensitivity, you will experience adverse symptoms after drinking caffeine, such as jitteriness, headaches, diarrhea, and insomnia. Symptoms like these can occur to anyone when they drink too much coffee, but caffeine sensitivity is an abnormal response that occurs at typically smaller doses.Is there a way to flush caffeine out of system? ›
Begin to substitute cold caffeinated beverages with water. Water is a healthy choice and satisfies the need for drinking a liquid. Water also naturally flushes caffeine from your body and keeps you hydrated. If you are a coffee drinker, gradually switch from regular coffee to decaf.How has stopping caffeine changed my life? ›
Quitting has made me feel empowered. I experience less anxiety - Caffeine is a naturally-occurring chemical stimulant that affects the central nervous system. I no longer feel the racing heart feeling I used to get and my anxiety has calmed down overall.Why do I feel better after giving up coffee? ›
Giving up coffee allows your adenosine to reset and fix your sleep schedule. Your body will bounce back into working order when you take away the loads of caffeine you consumed. You might find yourself with more energy, better sleep, and more stable moods.Will quitting caffeine make me happier? ›
Many people who quit caffeine find that the boost they experience in their sleep quality results in them feeling happier and more energized. In individuals who are prone to experiencing depression, anxiety, or irritability, regular caffeine consumption can make these feelings worse.Will switching to decaf help anxiety? ›
Decaf coffee can help with:
Many people experience insomnia, restlessness, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, and anxiety from the caffeine in coffee. If you experience anxiety and drink regular coffee, perhaps think about switching to decaf coffee if you find your anxiety worsening with coffee.
If you're feeling sick after drinking coffee, it's probably because you're sensitive to the caffeine. Caffeine can cause stomach upset, heartburn, and anxiety. It can also disrupt your sleep cycle. If you're having trouble avoiding feeling sick after drinking coffee, try switching to decaf.
Caffeine Allergy Symptoms
Skin rashes, such as hives or red blotches. Swelling of the throat and tongue. Itchy skin. Difficulty breathing and in severe instances, anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening.
Caffeine and ADHD Medications
Caffeine doesn't target ADHD symptoms as effectively as proven prescriptions. And caffeine plus medication “can result in dangerously acute jitteriness or out-of-control impulsivity,” according to CHADD, a national resource for children and adults with ADHD.
Additionally, combining caffeine and ADHD medication can increase the risk of overstimulation, which can cause heart palpitations, nausea, and even seizures. It is crucial to speak to your doctor before combining caffeine with ADHD medication to understand the potential risks and benefits.Do people with ADHD have a tolerance to caffeine? ›
3 This may actually decrease your ability to concentrate. Also, as caffeine is a highly addictive substance, it is very possible—and common—for one to develop a tolerance for caffeine meaning they will need more to get the same effect. Excess caffeine4 may also lead to insomnia, resulting in fatigue.Does caffeine make you tired if you have ADHD? ›
Because caffeine is a stimulant, it usually wakes people up and general wisdom is not to drink it anywhere near bedtime. However! Some people with ADHD find it has the opposite affect and makes them want to sleep.Why do stimulants calm ADHD? ›
Stimulants are believed to work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with motivation, pleasure, attention, and movement. For many people with ADHD, stimulant medications boost concentration and focus while reducing hyperactive and impulsive behaviors.Should people with ADHD avoid caffeine? ›
Caffeine consumption has adverse effects on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. However, it may positively affect some individuals with this condition. Some might feel increased focus when having their caffeinated drink.What gives people with ADHD energy? ›
They mentioned things like watching funny videos, listening to some music, or playing a quick game on a phone as helpful things to try. Taking a few minutes to engage in quick distracting activities can be the equivalent of hitting the pause button for your brain. It can give your brain time to replenish its energy.What wakes up someone with ADHD? ›
People with ADHD frequently report having trouble waking up in the morning. For help getting out of bed, try using light therapy or plan something enjoyable for when you get out of bed, such as exercise or a nice breakfast.Does Adderall counteract caffeine? ›
Drinking coffee while Adderall is still in your system may worsen side effects of both Adderall and caffeine, including: Elevated heart rate and blood pressure. Feeling jittery or restless. Nervousness and anxiety.
Ginseng tends to have a stimulant effect and is thought to work similarly to caffeine and stimulant medication in ADHD individuals. Noticeable improvement in attention and distractibility occurred in children and adolescents with ADHD after 4 weeks of using a supplemental Ginkgo/Ginseng combination.How do you increase dopamine in ADHD? ›
- Try something new.
- Make a list of small tasks and complete them.
- Listen to music you enjoy.
- Exercise regularly.
- Try meditation or yoga.
People with SCT have trouble focusing and paying attention, but they're less likely to be impulsive or hyperactive.Should people with ADHD drink alcohol? ›
Individuals with ADHD may engage in impulsive behavior that can lead to harmful consequences. When they consume alcohol, these symptoms can increase. Alcohol can also intensify symptoms of inattentiveness and restlessness.What is a paradoxical reaction to caffeine? ›
Part of the paradoxical effects of caffeine results from its effects on what researchers refer to as “sleep pressure,” which fuels how sleepy we become as the day wears on. From the moment we wake up, our bodies have a biological clock that drives us to go back to sleep later in the day.