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What Are the Dangers of Caffeine Abuse?

author image Christy Bowles
Christy Bowles has 15 years of experience in the field of education, with 10 years working in mental health and wellness. She specializes in the treatment of depression, anxiety and substance abuse, with a focus on alternative treatment modalities. Bowles holds a Master of Education from Harvard University.
What Are the Dangers of Caffeine Abuse?
A woman pours coffee into a mug in her kitchen. Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

Many people drink caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and energy drinks for a boost of energy to start the day or stay awake and focused throughout the day or evening. Caffeine stimulates your central nervous system, so it can make you feel more alert and energized, but excess use of caffeine can result in a variety of negative side effects.

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Caffeine Intake

Most individuals can consume 300 milligrams of caffeine per day, which is considered moderate intake, without experiencing serious side effects. Caffeine content for beverages can vary widely depending on the size and brand of the drink, but in general you can drink approximately three 6-ounce cups of coffee, which equal 300 milligrams of caffeine. Tea, cocoa, soda, and energy drinks may also contain caffeine, and intake of these beverages also should be limited. Non-prescription medications containing caffeine include Excedrin, 65 milligrams, Anacin, 32 milligrams and maximum strength Midol, 60 milligrams, according to the University of Michigan.

Physical Effects of Excess Caffeine

Ingesting large amounts of caffeine, 1,000 milligrams or 6 cups of coffee per day, may lead to physical side effects caused by habitual use and the stimulating effects of caffeine. Heavy use and abuse may result in restlessness, rapid heart rate, nausea, muscle tremors, insomnia, and, according to the University of Michigan, problems with conception. Lack of sleep from caffeine use can lead to ongoing sleep disturbances, fatigue, and a decline in physical performance and energy levels.

Habitual Caffeine Abuse and Mood

Caffeine abuse can be habit forming. If you abruptly stop caffeine intake, you may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and mood changes. Caffeine abuse can lead to psychological symptoms such as anxiety and irritability, and withdrawal from caffeine causes marked nervousness and depression leading to reduced motivation and sleeplessness.

Expert Insights

McKinley Health Center recommends, if you are already consuming large amounts of caffeine and suffering from symptoms, you should gradually reduce your daily consumption by selecting beverages with a lower caffeine content and alternating coffee or teas with decaffeinated or caffeine-free options such as decaf coffee, herbal teas or water.

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