Coffee: When is the Limit?

In America people of all ages are chronically sleep deprived. According to the National Sleep Foundation too many teens that have to go for team training before sunrise, as well as working mothers, sleep less then six hours a night.

We are pushing the limits of self-stimulation by coffee.

Healthcare professionals report increasing numbers of people with symptoms of coffee overdose: suffering from the rapid heartbeat and nausea. It is particularly alarming that youngsters are forming the caffeine habit, even toddlers. Children’s consumption of soft drinks has doubled in the past 35 years, with sodas supplanting milk. A 2003 study in Columbus, Ohio middle schoolers found some taking in 800 milligrams of caffeine a day – more than twice the recommended maximum for adults of 300 milligrams.

As the world’s most popular habit-forming drug, caffeine fights fatigue, brightens mood, eases pain, and makes your productive work days longer. Coffee is triggering the release of adrenaline to help muscles work harder and longer.

Caffeine so clearly enhances athletic performance that until 2004 it was considered a controlled substance by the International Olympic Committee. Supercaffeinated energy drinks like Redline RTD are marketed to bodybuilders.

There is no question that coffee has many positive effects on health, when it is taken appropriately. The latest findings on coffee suggest that it even helps fight certain disorders. It was reported that caffeine reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease by blocking receptors for adenosine, a neurotransmitter that plays a major role in motor function. It is now being tested as a possible role in Parkinson’s treatment. Caffeine also cuts off migraines by contracting blood vessels in the brain. Coffee, like other potent antioxidants, appears to reduce the risk of colon cancer, gallstones and liver cancer, among other illnesses.

What goes up could go down, and what heals could kill! The great rush of energy isn’t entirely benign. Too much caffeine can cause cardiovascular disease. It also can cause anxiety, jitters, and heart palpitations, particularly in people who are sensitive to it. The list of side effects continued: stomach pain and gastrointestinal reflux may make it harder for a woman to get pregnant and may increase the risk of miscarriage or low-birth-weight baby. Sleeplessness, not surprisingly, is a most common side effect of caffeine, especially in kids.

Caffeine causes lack of sleep in children, interferes with concentration and attention; it also can make kids fidgety. The young adults who take caffeine to offset alcohol related sedation are putting themselves at some risk too. High caffeine overdoses are rare because people become anxious, shaky, and nauseated before they could imbibe enough. Withdrawal syndromes are often, but misdiagnosed frequently. Caffeine use is much more common than stimulants, but its effect is more prolonged.

Prescription stimulants such as Ritalin, Concerta, and Adderall are widely prescribed to treat the inattention of ADHD. They have become a source of alertness and energy for studying, and for late-night parties. About 3 percent of college students say they’ve used prescription stimulants illegally, according to a March 2007 study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. The number is small compared with students’ use of alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco, but stimulant abuse is increasing faster, almost doubling between 1993 and 2005. The “Coffee culture” has become so much a part of American culture that 26-year-old Starbucks, once considered a gourmet’s treat, now boasts 9,401 stores nationwide and has focused growth on economically struggling neighborhoods in its early success.

A little history

According to the story published by People magazine, an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi first recognized the special powers of coffee sometime around 850 A.D. He noticed that when his goats ate berries from coffee trees, they didn’t sleep at night. It’s thought that tea was used in China as early as 2700 B.C. as a medicinal drink.

Coffee is believed to first have been brewed as a drink in Arabia and consumed at home and in public coffeehouses in the fifteenth century. Europeans learned about coffee in 16th century. The Dutch transported a coffee tree from Yemen to Holland, but the brew didn’t gain a following, the story goes, until Pope Clement VIII gave it his blessing.

An anonymous writer in England published The Women’s Petition against Coffee, complaining that men were spending all day in coffeehouses. ‘”We find of late a very sensible Decay of that true Old English Vigour,” it said, “due to the Excessive use of that Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called Coffee.” It brought the public attention to “coffee.” There is no negative publicity, as marketing gurus teach us.

The first advertisement for Coca-Cola appeared in the Atlanta Journal.

Pepsi-Cola got its name in 1898.

Ludwig Roselius, a German coffee merchant who believed his father had died from drinking too much caffeine, patented the decaffeination process in 1909.

Ritalin, thought to be less prone to abuse than amphetamines, was introduced as a mood enhancer in mid-fifties.


The first Starbucks opened in Pike Place Market in Seattle in 1981. At the end of 2006, the company counted 12,440 outlets worldwide.

Red Bull, with more than twice the caffeine of Coke in a serving only two-thirds the size, was created in Austria in 1987. Ten years later, it arrived in the United States.

Caffeine and driving

The current common sense mantra is “drink coffee if you’re sleepy,” and medical science seems to support this slogan. But a few words of caution we need to interject into the hymn to coffee are that people have different sensitivity and type of reaction to coffee. Similar to alcohol intake, some people get excited, some get paradoxically sleepy, and others just became irritable. An overdose of caffeine combined with sleep deprivation and fasting produces road rage, loss of concentration, distracting urges for urination, hand shaking, and loss of sense of speed.

It is important to mention that Canadian study by Dr. Leonid Kayumov demonstrated that caffeine overdose created episodes of enlightened vigilance alternated with sleepiness when daydreaming, causing visualizations superimposed with reality, but people were not aware of it.

Caffeine and learning

Caffeine is good if the person is not sleep deprived and just needs to have more time to study. Otherwise, sharp attention will sharply switch to a sharp drop of comprehension and retention memory. Too much coffee eventually brings too many learning troubles.

The question is: How much is too much? The answer to this important question is in the “one’s knowledge of his or her own limits,” and it also depends on the level of resistance and the importance of the situation for the person.

The main symbol of medicine – snake around a chalice – stands for:

“Any poison can have medicinal effects, but any medicine could have poisonous effects.”

The bottom line is caffeine can be a healer, and it can also be a killer.

Use it, but don’t abuse it!