Caffeine Abuse: Buzz Gone Wrong
Caffeine Abuse Is a 'Growing Problem' Among Young Adults, Experts Say
Oct. 16, 2006 -- It's time to wake up about the dangers of abusing caffeine.
Taking the buzz too far can make you sick.
That's according to Northwestern University's Danielle McCarthy, MD, and
They note 265 caffeine abuse cases reported to a U.S. regional poison
control center from 2001 through 2004.
Their findings were presented today in New Orleans at the 37th annual
scientific assembly of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).
"This study is a first step in understanding the problem of caffeine
abuse," McCarthy says, in an ACEP news release.
"Part of the problem is that people do not think of caffeine as a drug,
but rather as a food product," McCarthy says.
"We want people ingesting caffeine pills and supplements to know that
caffeine is a drug, and overuse is potentially harmful, especially when mixed
with other pharmaceuticals for euphoria."
Young and Overdoing Caffeine
The patients in McCarthy's study were 21 years old, on average (age range:
All had taken caffeine seeking energy or a caffeine high (euphoria).
Thirty-one patients were hospitalized from "medical complications from
caffeine; 20 required ICU [intensive care unit] admission," the researchers
Symptoms of caffeine abuse can include insomnia, palpitations, tremors, sweating,
nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chest paints, and neurologic symptoms,
according to the ACEP.
None of the patients in McCarthy's study had simply drunk too much coffee or
Caffeine was in the form of a medication in most cases, followed by a
caffeine-enhanced beverage, and then by a dietary supplement, the researchers
Most of the patients were sickened solely by caffeine. But some had also
taken alcohol or other drugs.
Seven cases involved alcohol, six cases involved illegal drugs, and 81 cases
involved other pharmaceutical products.
Too Much Caffeine May Be Risky
McCarthy's team wants to set people straight on the dangers of caffeine
"Recreational abuse of caffeine or other pharmaceuticals is not
safe," the researchers write.
"Young people taking caffeine either to stay awake or for a feeling of
euphoria may actually end up in the emergency department more often than we
think," McCarthy says.
She says "young people being hospitalized for chest pain and heart
palpitations are rarely asked if they've taken caffeine supplements because
everyone perceive[s] them to be safe."
The study didn't capture caffeine abuse cases nationwide. But McCarthy's
team cites other research showing a rise in the abuse of legal drugs -- such as
caffeine -- among young people.
McCarthy and colleagues call for public education and further study of the
"growing problem" of caffeine abuse.