Yesterday I stumbled upon a very interesting “ism”. At first I wanted to laugh it off, as it seemed practically illegitimate. After all, before I was restricted from caffeine for other reasons, I used to drink coffee like my life depended on it. While living in Georgia, I worked at Caribou Coffee and would spend hours drinking special concoctions that my co-workers made, which allowed me to sleep only a few hours a night (which is useful when you are pre-med!) I looooovvvveeeddd coffee. As far as I knew, this did not produce too many negative effects. However, the more I looked into it, the more I realized that this “ism” not only has scientific backing, but can provide very useful information for any caffeine lover.
“Caffeinism” is defined as having roughly 650 mg- 1000 mg (1 gram) of caffeine in your body. While this may seem like a lot, consider the following chart to see just how easy it can be to acquire this level:
Now that you have seen the caffeine content, you should know that the half-life of caffeine (the amount of time it takes for the body to metabolize 1/2 of the substance) is 8 hours.
Once there is over roughly 650 mg of caffeine in the system, you enter a state of caffeinism. This state identically mimics common symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder: heart palpitations, nervousness, anxiousness, irritability, trembling, muscle twitching, headaches, insomnia, and ulcers.
So let’s look at a hypothetical situation. You wake up early and have some stressful event that day…maybe a presentation at work, or an exam at school. In order to get the psychological effects of caffeine in the mind, you decide to go to Starbucks and get a venti coffee (putting you at about 500 mg caffeine). This instantly perks you up! Unfortunately, it takes about 1 hour for the caffeine to lose the psychological effect. So, within the next hour or so you decide to drink a soda. Unbeknownst to you, that original caffeine is still in your system…even if you can’t feel the effects of it. As the day goes on, you find yourself getting more anxious, sweating and trembling and heart racing. Even if you stopped at that second cup of coffee, your body may be too overwhelmed with caffeine, leaving you keyed up and worried, and probably unable to sleep.
Now, this is a situation that many people who drink too much caffeine can face. What is the bottom line? If you are nervous or anxious about something, DO NOT drink too much caffeine. It will stress you out more and may even negatively affect your performance. Remember, even if you don’t feel it in your system anymore, it’s still there.
So I guess all that anxiety I felt in Georgia may not have just been from the rigorous curriculum or my homesickness. Whatever role it played, caffeine likely did more harm than help.