When I worked at my last company, I bought a 12 ounce cup of coffee every morning. When I started working at home, however, I started making my own coffee. Not thinking about the caffeine intake, I’d make a pot of 3 to 4 cups (18 – 24 ounces). This seemed like a good amount…worthy of the coffee filter, but manageable for one person to finish. This logic, however, didn’t account for the possibility of the physiological dependence that soon ensued.
Without even thinking, my daily wake-me-up cup quickly became a daily fix. And what once was a ‘nice to have’ became a ‘need to have.’ And when I got to the bottom of the pot, I often wished there was more. My curiosity and dependence peaked, I decided to get to the bottom of the world’s most popular drug:
- Color: Although most caffeinated beverages have a dark color, caffeine is actually a white, bitter-tasting, crystalline substance (much like the description of cocaine). Further, darkly roasted coffee has less caffeine than lightly roasted.
- History and Popularity: Caffeine can be found in 60 different plants and many anthropologists believe its use may date back to the Stone Age. Coffee, specifically, appeared in Africa in 6th century A.D. and was later introduced to Arabia and the rest of the east. While the Chinese drank tea at least as far back as 2700 BC. In 1573 coffee was introduced to the Europeans and tea was introduced later in 1657. Caffeine was first isolated from coffee, however, in 1820 and from tea in 1827. Today, it’s the most popular drug in the world with 90% of Americans consuming it in some form. Specifically, Americans consume 450,000,000 cups of coffee a day.
- How it Works: Caffeine causes your brain to have a higher sense of alertness and an increased level of dopamine, improving your feeling of well-being and your mood. Consumed in liquid form, caffeine reaches all tissues of the body within five minutes, while peak blood levels are reached in about 30 minutes. Normally, almost all ingested caffeine is metabolized.
- Side-Effects: 1 – 2 cups of coffee causes increased metabolism, increased rate of breathing, increased urination, increased fatty acids in the bloodstream and increased gastric acid in the stomach. It may increase blood pressure and if taken before bedtime disrupts sleep patterns. Larger doses can cause headaches, jitters, abnormally rapid heartbeat, convulsions, and delirium. Consumption above 650 mg a day (about 8 or 9 average cups of coffee) can cause longer term effects, including: chronic insomnia, persistent anxiety and depression, and stomach ulcers.
- Effects on Reproduction: Caffeine can effect reproductive processes, including congenital abnormalities and reproductive failures, reduced fertility, prematurity, and low birth weight.
- Most Common Medicinal Usage: Caffeine is most widely used in headache medication and other pain relievers; and is the main ingredient of non-prescription “Anti-Sleep” pills. Caffeine stimulates breathing in the treatment of apnea (cessation of breathing) in newborn babies, and is used as an antidote against the slowing of breathing caused by overdoses of heroin and other opiate drugs.
- Dependence/Addiction: Regular use of upwards of 350 mg of caffeine a day causes physical dependence on the drug, meaning an interruption of regular use will produce withdrawal symptoms, including severe headaches, irritability and tiredness.
- Dosage in Products: 10g of caffeine is considered a lethal dose. The lowest known fatal dose to an adult has been 3,200 mg – administered intravenously by accident. The fatal oral dose is in excess of 5,000 mg – the equivalent of 40 strong cups of coffee taken in a very short space of time. The following is a breakdown of caffeine in various products:
|Food/Substance||Type or Brand||Dosage|
|Plain Coffee, 8 oz||95 – 135 mg|
|Espresso 1 oz||30-50 mg|
|Decaffeinated 8 oz||5 mg|
|Green tea 8 oz||25-40 mg|
|Black tea 8 oz||40-70 mg|
|Hot Chocolate, 8 oz||5 mg|
|Colas 12 oz||35 – 47 mg|
|Mountain Dew 12 oz||55.5 mg|
|Sunkist Orange 12 oz||42 mg|
|Full Throttle, 16 oz||144 mg|
|Red Bull, 8.5 oz||80 mg|
|SoBe No Fear||158 mg|
|Chocolates||50-gram chocolate bar contains between 5 and 60 mg, increasing with the quality of the chocolate|
|Over the Counter Pain Relievers||60 – 65mg|
|NoDoz 100 mg||32.4 mg|
Have you ever been dependent on caffeine? When did it start? How does caffeine affect you?
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