Psychosis is a mental state that involves a loss of contact with reality. The main symptoms of psychosis are hallucinations and delusions. Psychosis is a temporary condition that may or may not occur as the result of a mental disorder. Taking certain drugs can result in psychosis. Caffeine, arguably the most popular drug of choice, can cause psychosis-like symptoms when consumed in large amounts. Sources of caffeine include coffee, teas, soda and energy drinks.
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The impact of caffeine on mental health has been the focus of a number of clinical studies. These studies have supported the causal relationship between caffeine and psychiatric symptoms, according to a review of the scientific literature conducted by the University of Oklahoma in 2004. For example, there is evidence that psychosis can be induced in individuals without a mental disorder if caffeine is consumed in toxic doses. In addition, psychotic symptoms can be exacerbated by caffeine consumption in people diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Hallucinations are heightened sensory experiences that have no basis in reality. Examples include auditory hallucinations, such as hearing voices, and visual hallucinations, such as visions. The relationship between caffeine and hallucinations may be mediated by the cortisol. Caffeine increases cortisol in the presence of stress and cortisol is involved with producing psychotic experiences. However, in a study published in the March 2004 issue of "Personality and Individual Differences," increased levels of caffeine increased vulnerability to hallucinations regardless of stress level.
Caffeine consumption in moderate amounts is generally safe. This amount differs for adults and teenagers. A moderate amount for adults is between 200 mg and 300 mg per day whereas the maximum recommended daily amount for teenagers is 100mg, according to KidsHealth.org. Although the average daily caffeine intake in the U.S. is 200 mg, up to 30 percent of Americans consume 500 mg or more every day, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Overconsumption beyond that can result in confusion and hallucinations.
Continual overconsumption of caffeine may produce more than just temporary psychiatric effects. In fact, caffeine dependence can actually increase the risk of psychiatric and substance abuse disorders, according to a study in the December 2006 issue of "Psychological Medicine." Specifically, this study found that heavy caffeine use moderately increased the lifetime risk of major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, alcohol dependence, adult antisocial behavior and cannabis and cocaine abuse/dependence. However, the researchers noted that these relationships are more likely familial than causal.