Caffeine is being added to a lot of foods and drinks these days. For a person who is highly sensitive to caffeine, the effects are obvious, but the source is often a mystery, since sodas, energy drinks, even jerky, gum, painkillers and candy are showing up with caffeine additives.
Caffeine is an alkaloid that is drawn from coffee, cocoa, or tea, with coffee as the biggest source. Caffeine is classified as a central nervous system stimulant, along with the more alarming cocaine and amphetamines.
Caffeine related disorder is officially in the DSM-IV-TR under the class of substance related disorders, with four types: intoxication, anxiety disorder, sleep disorder and unspecified disorder.
Most people are completely unaware that caffeine is a substance of potential abuse because it is so commonly consumed, is readily available, and is quite underestimated as a potential source of problems.
Caffeine intoxication symptoms can approach the symptoms of a panic attack, as the caffeine in the brain increases the production of norpinephrine, which is the neurotransmitter that is associated with "fight or flight" stress responses.
There is also a mild "natural sedative" called Adnosine that deals with the nerve cell activities. Caffeine interferes with normal adnosine action and can result in fatigue or sleepiness.
In caffeine intoxication, distress is enough to impair functioning, and five or more of the intoxication symptoms, some of which are nervousness, flushed face, rambling in thought and speech, uneven or upset heart rhythms, agitation, inability to get exhausted, and muscle twitching. In the anxiety and sleep disorders the symptoms of insomnia and anxiety must be severe enough the require attention by a clinician. Sensitivity: Some individuals are more sensitive to caffeine than
others who, for example, claim that they can drink full strength coffee just before they go to sleep, while others become distressed after ingesting any amount caffeine. Sensitivity factors include not being a normal coffee drinker, smoking, stress, other health conditions, sex, drug or hormone use, and pre-existing anxiety disorders. Men may be more susceptible to sensitivity than women.
The problems with caffeine consumption are that others rarely show alarm or conduct interventions when a person is ordering their third coffee of the morning, even when they show the beginning symptoms of caffeine intoxication, because coffee and tea are not considered to be drugs that can be abused.
The Mayo Clinic advises that two to four cups of coffee (200 to 300 mg per day)is a moderate dose that should not be harmful. But 500-600 mg per day can cause the symptoms of caffeine intoxication or distress.
In summary, it is a good thing these days to watch out for unexpected increases or additions of caffeine content to foods and drinks in order to keep to an overall reasonable caffeine consumption for the day.
Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, "Caffeine Related Disorders"
Energyfiend.com, "Database of "Caffeine in Candy"
Mayo Clinic.com, "Caffeine: How Much Is Too Much?"