In Drugs & Addictions

On Caffeine Intoxication and Overdose

Caffeine Intoxication

In this faced paced world, millions of people turn to caffeine to start the day, and also to get through the day. Some people get their caffeine fix in coffee, others use tea, while others want a super boost of caffeine and get their rush from energy drinks. With the popularity of energy drinks, came serious side effects to the caffeine. You may believe that you are getting the caffeine rush that you need to keep you going at full steam, however, you may actually be suffering from caffeine intoxication, and chances are you can also be addicted.

Caffeine Facts

Caffeine is produced naturally in many plants such as guarna, cacao pod, and cola nut. It can also be artificially, in a chemical called methylxanthine. This chemical causes the release of catecholamines, which stimulates the brain. Often times, energy drinks use the natural forms of caffeine to give consumers that boost, while diet pills, and oral stimulants use the chemical form. The recommended amount of caffeine depends on the person’s weight, age, and overall health. In general however, the recommended amount of caffeine is between 200mg and 300mg per day. Because there are other factors, it is difficult to determine how much caffeine would cause an overdose.

Various foods, drinks, and caffeine pills contain different amounts of caffeine. Coffee for example, contains 133mg in an eight ounce cup. The energy drink Red Bull contains less than coffee at 80mg per eight ounce can. When a person is looking for a serious caffeine boost, NoDoz caffeine tablets contain 200mg of caffeine.

Causes of Caffeine Intoxication and Overdose

A caffeine overdose occurs when a person consumes more than the recommended amount. It is difficult for a person to know how much caffeine is too much. A person who consumes caffeine in high amounts very often will be able to handle more caffeine than a person who does not.

Most people do not intentionally overdose on caffeine. They may have a long day ahead of them, and feel the need to drink large quantities of coffee to keep them going. They may not be doing it intentionally, however, not paying attention to the amount of caffeine being ingested is a common cause of caffeine overdose.

Another case of caffeine overdose is not realizing what you are consuming actually contains caffeine. You may have a few cups of coffee and think that you are done for the day, and did not go over the recommended amount of caffeine. After your coffee, you might have a piece of chocolate, and then take an appetite suppressant, both containing caffeine. By the time you have ingested your third product of the day that contains caffeine, you could begin to suffer from the effects of caffeine overdose, not realizing that you had ingested too much.

Symptoms of Caffeine Intoxication and Overdose

When you are suffering from caffeine intoxication, you may not realize it. The symptoms of caffeine intoxication could be linked to a variety of different conditions.

  • Dizziness: When a person feels dizzy, they could assume it was due to not eating in a few hours, or getting up too fast.
  • Diarrhea: There are many causes of diarrhea. The person could think it was something that they ate, or just a stomach bug.
  • Insomnia: This is a common condition which can be chalked up to stress, or having difficulty winding down from a hectic day.
  • Headache: There are many reasons a person gets headaches. The last thing that a person would suspect as the cause is caffeine intoxication.
  • Irritability: Everyone gets in a mood at one time or another. Most people think that the irritability that they are experiencing is simply that, a mood.
  • Increased thirst: Most people blame increased thirst on the heat, or dehydration.
  • Fever: When a person has a fever, they usually suspect that they are coming down with a virus, they do not suspect caffeine intoxication.

While many of the symptoms of caffeine intoxication are minor, there can be more severe symptoms which require immediate medical treatment.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • Twitches and uncontrollable muscle movements
  • Convulsions

It is also possible for babies to suffer from caffeine intoxication. While they are not directly ingesting the caffeine, it can be passed on in the mother’s breast milk. This is the reason it is important that breast feeding mothers do not eat or drink anything containing caffeine. The symptoms of caffeine intoxication can be very serious in babies.

  • Vomiting
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shock

Diagnosing Caffeine Intoxication and Overdose

When a patient goes to the hospital with symptoms of caffeine overdose, the doctor will first ask a few questions, including how much caffeine the patient had ingested that day. The patients breathing rate and blood pressure will be monitored to check for abnormalities which can cause a doctor to suspect caffeine intoxication. Often times, a urine test or blood work will be given to identify the drugs in your system, and the amount of that drug. These tests can give the doctor an exact diagnosis of caffeine intoxication.

Treatment for Caffeine Intoxication and Overdose

When the symptoms of the caffeine overdose are serious, the doctor will act quickly to get it out of the patient’s system. Often times, activated charcoal is used. This is a common treatment in any type of drug or alcohol overdose. The charcoal prevents the caffeine fro entering the gastrointestinal tract. If the caffeine has already entered the gastrointestinal tract, the patient will be given either a laxative or a gastric lavage. This is a tube which is used to wash all of the contents from your stomach. The doctor will use which ever method that will get the caffeine out of your body the fastest.

While the doctor is working to get the caffeine out of the patient’s system, he will also help manage the symptoms as well. The patient’s heart will be monitored with an electrocardiogram. If the patient is having difficulty breathing, they may receive respiratory support. As far as the minor symptoms go, the doctor will typically not treat them, as they will begin to fade as the caffeine leaves the patient’s system.

Prognosis Following Caffeine Intoxication or Overdose

Most patients can be treated for caffeine intoxication with no long term effects. Younger patients, such as babies and toddlers can have irreversible health issues, and can also die due to intoxication or overdose.

Preventing Caffeine Intoxication and Overdose

The best way to prevent caffeine intoxication is to closely monitor the amount of caffeine a person is ingesting a day. It is also important to know what foods and drinks that are being consumed contain caffeine. Patients who have a sensitivity to caffeine should avoid it all together. Their chances of caffeine intoxication and overdoes are exponentially higher than those without a sensitivity. Patients should understand that sometimes a good nights sleep is just as good as caffeine.

Caffeine Addiction

Many people may not realize it, but caffeine meets all of the requirements for being an addictive substance. A person may think that you just need a fix to start the day, however, they are actually addicted. There are many withdrawal effects that are associated with caffeine addiction.

  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Muscle twitching
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Sensory disturbance
  • Flushing
  • Arrhythmia
  • Heart palpitations

Chronic Medical Conditions Related to Caffeine Addiction

There are several long term medical problems associated with caffeine addiction. High blood pressure, and rapid heart beat are among the most serious. Addiction can also lead to irritable bowel syndrome. Studies have also linked diabetes, and gastroesophageal reflux disease to caffeine addiction.

Because caffeine is found naturally in many different foods and drinks, people think that there is nothing wrong with it. Because it is not banned by the Food and Drug Administration, they believe that they can rely on caffeine to keep them awake and give them the boost that they need to get through the day with no serious side effects. It is important for caffeine users to understand what can happen by ingesting too much. It is also important for users to know their bodies, and how much caffeine is too much. While caffeine may be found in natural forms, and is found in many popular foods and drinks, if it is abused, it can be as dangerous as alcohol and other illegal drugs. Caffeine can be safe, when consumed in moderation.

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