In this country, people like to consume a lot of coffee. In everyday office life in particular, this wake-up call is indispensable. But it is not just excessive consumption of coffee that leads to addiction, known as caffeinism, other caffeinated beverages such as energy drinks and teas also have this effect.
What is caffeinism?
The term caffeinism has two meanings. On the one hand, it describes a caffeine overdose that results in poisoning. On the other hand, it describes in colloquial language a coffee addiction or an abuse of other beverages containing caffeine. If there is caffeinism, the person affected must constantly supply the body with the usual dose of caffeine.
In today’s society, caffeine addiction is still not taken as seriously as nicotine or alcohol addiction. Despite the trivialization of caffeine addictions, caffeine in very large quantities can be deadly. Its lethal limit is around ten grams, which is the equivalent of around 200 cups of double espresso.
Caffeinism comes about when the body is regularly supplied with very large amounts of caffeine in the form of coffee, tea, cola or energy drinks. But sometimes it also happens that the body does not get the usual dose of caffeine. And if the amount of caffeine is not enough, the first withdrawal symptoms will appear soon. These can be very uncomfortable for those affected.
But with a little patience, the body can get used to the change on its own. The symptoms go away on their own as soon as the body gets used to the caffeine withdrawal. The second definition of the term caffeinism is caffeine intoxication. This is due to the intake of a very large amount of caffeine in a short period of time.
Symptoms of poisoning occur with around one gram of caffeine. This amount is reached when ten liters of commercially available cola or twelve cans of 250 milliliters of energy drinks are consumed at once.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
If there is a caffeine addiction, the person concerned often suffers from insomnia, nervousness and hyperactivity, as if the body were constantly electrified. The stimulating effect of caffeine may also lead to increased heart activity and high blood pressure. Chronic headaches can also be the result of caffeine addiction.
Withdrawal symptoms, on the other hand, express themselves in a contrasting picture to the dependence symptoms. The person reacts with lead-forming fatigue, depression, slowed movements and fatigue to the sudden caffeine withdrawal. The appetite, on the other hand, can increase so much that a large amount of food is necessary to reduce the craving for the addictive substance. Often times, caffeine withdrawal also triggers bizarre and uncomfortable dreams.
Finally, acute caffeine poisoning usually has serious health consequences. These range from tachycardia to cardiac arrhythmia. There are also disorders of the central nervous system. Depressive moods, listlessness, concentration disorders and uncontrolled movements are just a few of the many complaints.
Diagnosis & course
Coffee or caffeine addiction is usually not diagnosed as long as the body is given the same ration of caffeine over and over again. This is because the symptoms of dependency are often not perceived as such, but are rather associated with other causes. The first withdrawal symptoms do not set in until about 12 to 24 hours after the last cup of coffee or the last caffeine consumption.
This is the case, for example, when a person has to completely avoid caffeine as part of a fasting cure or medical procedure. During a weaning process, the symptoms feel very unbearable for the first two to three days. Once the worst phase is over, the withdrawal symptoms subside for another four to six days. These then pass by themselves after about seven to nine days.
Those who show patience will also be rewarded with successful weaning. Acute caffeine poisoning, on the other hand, occurs quickly, namely with more than one gram of caffeine or after the amount of caffeine tolerated by the body has been exceeded. The first symptoms of intoxication in severe caffeine intoxication can be followed by a circulatory collapse. If you suspect caffeine poisoning, you should therefore always consult a doctor as soon as possible.
Various complications can arise with caffeinism, which depend heavily on the amount of coffee consumed. In addition, the physical and mental state of the person concerned also play a large role in the effects of caffeinism. Usually, a high dose of caffeine is followed by a mental disorder.
This occurs primarily in the form of restlessness, the need to urinate and insomnia. If the poisoning is very severe, the caffeinism can also lead to circulatory collapse. The heart rate is increased so that the patient feels increased palpitations. Concentration does not necessarily have to be disturbed with caffeinism, it can also increase.
However, above a certain amount of caffeine it decreases. Poisoning also leads to symptoms of anxiety, often diarrhea and headaches, as well as uncontrolled twitching. If a large amount of caffeine has been consumed over a long period of time, this can also lead to muscle paralysis. The lethal dose in caffeinism is ten grams for the human body.
During the treatment, all caffeine intake is withdrawn from the body. This usually leads to strong withdrawal symptoms such as tiredness, increased appetite or sleep disorders, as well as very unpleasant dreams. Caffeinism is rarely treated in withdrawal. In most cases, weaning is done by the patient himself.
When should you go to the doctor?
Acute caffeine poisoning is usually mild without medical treatment. A healthy adult is only at risk of death from a dose of around 10 grams of pure caffeine. This amount cannot be absorbed through normal stimulants, including so-called energy drinks.
Those who have consumed too much coffee or black tea usually notice symptoms such as irritability, frequent urination, tremors, insomnia and occasionally severe headaches. These symptoms usually subside on their own after a few hours at the latest, provided that the person concerned cuts off the caffeine intake. A doctor’s visit is not necessary in these cases.
However, caution is advised in children and adults with previous illnesses. Anyone who suffers from severe cardiovascular disease or has already had a heart attack should consult a doctor as a precaution if they suspect acute caffeine poisoning. The same applies if the poisoning is due to abuse of caffeine tablets or other caffeine-containing drugs. Then there is a risk that the lethal dose will be reached. In such cases, the emergency doctor should be informed immediately.
In addition to intoxication with the substance, caffeinism also describes a state of caffeine dependence. This is not considered dangerous unless it causes other serious disorders such as gastric mucosal inflammation. Anyone suffering from the addiction, however, physically or mentally, should seek professional help. The first point of contact is the family doctor.
Treatment & Therapy
Clearly, acute caffeine poisoning must be treated by a doctor. The situation is different when you stop caffeine addiction. This can also be done without medical supervision. Then a lot of rest and patience is required. Consciously avoiding any form of caffeine is very important, as a relapse would ruin the progress. All herbal and fruit teas are allowed, but under no circumstances are caffeinated teas such as green and black teas.
Regular sports units or an exciting hobby are suitable for distracting yourself from the craving for caffeine. Of course, this stimulant can be consumed in moderation again after successful withdrawal. If you start again with light doses and do not consume more than three cups of coffee or 400 mg of caffeine a day, you will not quickly become addicted again.
If you only suffer from coffee addiction, but not from caffeine addiction in general, you can switch to decaffeinated coffee, for example. This addresses the reward center in the same way as normal coffee, but without burdening the mind and body with caffeine.
Outlook & forecast
Patients with caffeinism have a good prospect of recovery when taking therapy. In caffeinism, a distinction must be made between addiction to caffeine and caffeine overdose. An overdose is usually completely cured within a short time. By consuming water or emptying the stomach, the symptoms decrease within a few hours. Most of the time healing occurs after a day, if there are no risk factors.
The caffeine is removed from the organism and the existing symptoms are alleviated at the same time. In the case of caffeine addiction, the path to recovery is significantly longer. In many cases, the patient needs several months or years to be completely free of symptoms. Nevertheless, with cooperation and the will of the patient, healing is possible.
Often the patient suffers from further addiction symptoms. These can relate to material or immaterial substances. As with other addictions, there is also a risk of relapse with caffeinism. The more stable the patient is integrated in his social life and the lower his general stress experience, the faster healing will take place. There is also a prospect of recovery for patients who do not seek medical or therapeutic help. The healing process is often delayed in these patients, but it is quite successful.
In order for caffeinism not to develop in the first place, the coffee drinker must adhere to a few preventive measures. The risk of addiction arises when a certain pattern is repeated over and over again. The motto here is to create variety. If you cover the morning dose of caffeine not only with coffee, but also with a delicious tea, you can prevent coffee addiction.
And the afternoon coffee cup could be replaced with decaf coffee. In this way, the daily intake of caffeine can be reduced and the risk of addiction avoided. A walk in the fresh air or a short break for a gossip with a colleague usually helps against tiredness or a lunchtime low.
Caffeinism is rarely treated professionally. For this reason, former caffeine addicts are usually left to their own devices when it comes to follow-up care. Since caffeine has no serious physiological consequences for physically healthy adults, reduced consumption is possible in the long term. However, some caffeinists find it easier to completely abstain. If people want to continue drinking caffeinated beverages, however, they should set a limit, for example two cups of coffee a day.
Former caffeinists can set themselves appointments during aftercare to check their caffeine consumption. The following questions are helpful:
- How Much Caffeine Do I Consume Per Day / Week / Month?
- How do I consume caffeine?
- How often?
- On what occasions?
- Why do I drink coffee or something similar? Out of habit, stress or pleasure?
- What if I don’t consume caffeine for a few days / weeks?
By repeating the questions regularly, those affected can observe whether their caffeine consumption has changed. The answers should therefore be written down. In this self-test, answers that indicate high and frequent caffeine consumption are critical.
Caffeine tablets are more problematic than a cup of mate tea or a few pieces of chocolate. If former caffeinists mainly consume caffeine out of habit and stress or experience withdrawal symptoms without caffeine, it is time to cut back on caffeine consumption and, if possible, address the causes.
You can do that yourself
In our society, caffeinism is not taken nearly as seriously as alcohol addiction or nicotine addiction. Caffeinism is also far less dangerous. Those affected who notice a dependency on coffee or other caffeine-containing products should nevertheless take countermeasures.
The first thing you should do is determine your daily caffeine intake. It should not be overlooked that the substance is not only contained in coffee beans, but also in tea, many soft drinks and, above all, in so-called energy drinks.
Anyone who notices symptoms of caffeinism, such as insomnia, nervousness, and hyperactivity, even though they are not consuming any caffeinated beverages, should check medication, especially headache pills and dietary supplements, for the ingredients.
As a rule, caffeine addiction does not have to be treated professionally. It is sufficient if the person concerned reduces the caffeine intake when the first symptoms appear. The daily dose should be slowly reduced, as otherwise unpleasant withdrawal symptoms can threaten.
Many coffee drinkers usually lack not only the stimulating substance, but also the habit itself, especially the ritual of coffee preparation and the cup in hand or on the desk. This group of people is helped by substitute products that are offered on a grain basis. Malt and spelled coffee are particularly tasty and digestible. Decaffeinated coffee beans are also available, but it is less stomach-friendly than the grain-based alternatives.