Caffeine Dependence

Research on Caffeine Dependence

Caffeine is the most commonly used stimulatory psychoactive agent in the United States. This happens due to legality of psychoactive agent and its availability in different products (Nawrot, 2003). Most common products that contain the substance include coffee, tea, dark chocolate, carbonated beverages such as cola and some candy (Nawrot, 2003). It implies that caffeine may cause dependence among the consumers including even children. The aim of this paper is to discuss the effects of dependency and how to curb them.

It is estimated that from 80% to 90% of both children and adults consume the psychoactive agent regularly (Ogawa, 2007). The use of caffeine in small doses may have beneficial effects to the body such as altering the mood of the consumer. Researchers also suggest that from 9% to 30% of users develop dependence according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM-IV) criteria (Nawrot, 2003). The consumers do not realize the onset of caffeine dependence due to its addictive nature. Those who recognize it do so in late stages where the dependence is too high. The DSM-IV criteria also suggest that 26% of the caffeine users develop withdrawal (Ogawa, 2007). Personal aspiration to control the use of caffeine was found to be only 23%. According to the DSM-IV criteria, only 10% are those who consult for help from a physician (Higdon, 2006). The need to control caffeine addiction is important because it may give rise to other harmful effects (Ogawa, 2007).

Understanding the effects of caffeine requires knowledge on its pharmacological activities. When caffeine is in the body, it is metabolized in the liver to produce three metabolites (Ogawa, 2007). The first is paraxanthine that is used in deamination and increasing levels of glycerol in the blood. The second metabolite is theobromine, which dilates blood vessels and also has diuretic effects of increasing urination (Ogawa, 2007). The third metabolite theophylline is a bronchodilator. Caffeine mostly acts in the brain after crossing the blood brain barrier where it blocks the effects of adenosine, which plays a role in inducing sleep (Ogawa, 2007). In moderate doses caffeine causes increase in alertness, sociability and significantly reduces sleepiness. However, once a user of caffeine is dependent on caffeine it may have more adverse effects such as mood swings, sleep deprivation depression, impaired judgment and anxiety (Higdon, 2006).

Withdrawal occurs when a user reduces the amount of caffeine used regularly or when one stops to consume caffeine. The symptoms of withdrawal include irritability. Irritability is one of the early signs of withdrawal together with loss of concentration in places of work or at school (Higdon, 2006). Headaches fatigue and drowsiness are also experienced by some adults and adolescent consumers. Howeer, some patients have developed stomach pain and insomnia. It is important to create awareness on these symptoms to the public in order to increase the management and also to reduce dependency (Higdon, 2006). Tolerance also occurs in about 75% of consumers and only occurs when intake is in high doses. Tolerance is the reduced receptiveness of a drug that occurs due to exposure to the drug (Higdon, 2006).

There are several harmful effects of caffeine dependency. Some of the direct effects of dependency of caffeine abuse include suppressed appetite, nausea and stomach aches and vomiting (Higdon, 2006). All of this happens due to caffeine’s effect of stimulating the small intestine and also its effect of inducing secretion of water and sodium. Caffeine dependency also causes negative effects on perceptual memory, thus affects learning process (Ogawa, 2007). Some other effects include blurred vision, irritability, high blood sugar, cold sweats and a pale clammy appearance. Rapid heart rate and palpitation may also occur due to caffeine’s effect of enhancing circulation of catecholamines and endothelium dependent vasodilation (Ogawa, 2007).

There are also beneficial effects of caffeine in the human body. Researchers suggest that small dose consumption of the psychoactive agent causing awareness is beneficial to the user (Higdon, 2006). It also builds up the enhancement of attention in the brain. This may be beneficial to children in school and adults at work. Caffeine may be beneficial as a headache reliever in low doses due to its ability to constrict dilated vessels in the brain (Higdon, 2006). Researches also suggest that it may be useful in the preventive role of Parkinson’s disease development. The stimulating agent may also be used to reduce sleepiness in various cases (Higdon, 2006).

Researchers believe that the most effective way of reducing or managing caffeine addiction is by gradually reducing the dose or concentration consumed regularly. This is done slowly over a long period of time and has worked in most of the patients that were willing to take up the task (Ogawa, 2007). Use of mild analgesics may be used to prevent some of the symptoms of withdrawal in some cases (Higdon, 2006). The slow treatment is important in order to prevent occurrence of the withdrawal symptoms.


Caffeine is both useful and harmful depending on dose and period of time it is consumed. To avoid the problems that are associated with caffeine use, it is important for manufactures of food products to clearly indicate the presence and concentration of caffeine in their products. Since there is no method to diagnose caffeine dependency, it is important to create awareness on personal observation of caffeine amount used to the public. The effects of caffeine can be easily avoided and managed in order to prevent the adverse effects of the psychoactive agent by following the above suggestions.

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