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Sara Bellum

This post from 2012 gets a refresh highlighting new caffeine trends.

Question: What’s the most widely used drug?

It’s not marijuana—and no, it’s not tobacco or alcohol either. Nine out of 10 Americans take it in some form every day, and it’s not limited to adults.

Hint: According to a recent study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly three-fourths (75%) of children, teens, and young adults use it daily too—in the form of soda, coffee, and energy drinks.

Answer: Caffeine!

That’s right, caffeine is a drug—a stimulant drug, to be exact. It’s even possible to be physically dependent on it—which means that a person who is used to drinking lots of caffeinated beverages can experience withdrawal symptoms if they quit.

Caffeine: Breaking Down the Buzz

Caffeine has a perk-up effect because it blocks a brain chemical, adenosine, which causes sleepiness. On its own, moderate amounts of caffeine rarely cause harmful long-term health effects, although it is definitely possible to take too much caffeine and get sick as a result.

Consuming too much caffeine can make you feel jittery or jumpy—your heart may race and your palms may sweat, kind of like a panic attack. It may also interfere with your sleep, which is especially important while your brain is still developing.

Some caffeine drinks and foods will affect you more than others, because they contain very different amounts.

Caffeine Source Caffeine Content
8 oz black tea 14‒70 milligrams (mg)
12 oz cola 23‒35 mg
8.4 oz Red Bull 75‒80 mg
8 oz regular coffee 95‒200 mg
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 104 mg
2 oz 5-Hour Energy Shot 200‒207 mg







But it’s more than just how much caffeine a beverage has that can make it harmful. Even though energy drinks don’t necessarily have more caffeine than other popular beverages (that is, unless you take 8 ounces of 5-Hour Energy Shot, which has 400 milligrams!), it’s the way they are sometimes used that worries health experts.

In 2011, of the 20,783 emergency room visits because of energy drinks, 42% were because the user combined them with other drugs (e.g., prescription drugs, alcohol, or marijuana).

Caffeine + Alcohol = Danger

Mixing alcohol and caffeine is serious business. As a stimulant, caffeine sort of has the opposite effect on the brain as alcohol, which is a depressant. But don’t think the effects of each are canceled out! In fact, drinking caffeine doesn’t reduce the intoxication effect of alcohol (that is, how drunk you become) or reduce its cognitive impairments (that is, your ability to walk or drive or think clearly). But it does reduce alcohol’s sedation effects, so you feel more awake and probably drink for longer periods of time, and you may think you are less drunk than you really are.

That can be super dangerous. People who consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks are 3 times more likely to binge drink than people who do not report mixing alcohol with energy drinks.

Stay Away From Caffeine?

Drinking a cup of coffee, or eating a bar of chocolate, is usually not a big deal. But there are alternatives to caffeine if you’re looking for an energy burst but don’t want to get that jittery feeling caffeine sometimes causes. Here are a few alternatives you can try to feel energized without overdoing the caffeine:

  • Sleep. This may sound obvious, but getting enough sleep is important. Teens need 9 hours of sleep a night.
  • Eat regularly. When you don’t eat, your glucose (sugar) levels drop, making you feel drained. Some people find it helpful to eat four or five smaller meals throughout the day instead of fewer big meals.
  • Drink enough water. Since our bodies are more than two-thirds H20, we need at least 64 ounces of water a day.
  • Take a walk. If you’re feeling drained in the middle of the day, it helps to move around. Do sit-ups or jumping jacks. Go outside for a brisk walk or ride your bike.

Now we want to know: Do you think it’s possible to overdo caffeine?

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


Of course it's possible to overdo caffeine! The way I look at it, it's possible to overdo anything. We hear stories about hyperventilating or overhydrating, and that's air and water, things we have to have. I think about caffeine and sugar every time talk about the prohibition or what's going on with marijuana now comes up. Or really any drug. We have these laws about certain drugs and then let doctors give them out. We've let some become legal that weren't before. Why do we trust common sense and basic decision making to some very harmful drugs and not to others? People hurt themselves with everyday common items like sodas and coffee while others use the really bad drugs in moderation. I think I'm trying to understand why caffiene is okay and its okay for sugary cereals to be marketed to young children and for people to buy cigarettes and energy drinks, when we know these things can be good or bad, depending on who is using it. Why are we allowed to make decisions for ourselves on somethings but not on others?
I drink coffee everyday soooo I don't care.....................?
You could say the same about heroin and it would still make just as much sense (none). Using it every day doesn't mean you should care less about what it does to your body, it should make you care more. It's not that coffee is bad for you, you should just know and understand what you're putting in your own body.
I do the same
swaggggggggggggggggg dawg what wha
coffee is my life
it makes enough sense to me that I would never let more than one cup of caffeine touch my lips
I recently read online that caffeine might actually be poisonous, so you're making a good decision
That statement holds no weight at all if you can't link the source or support that claim, because it's basically universally excepted that caffeine is, for the most part, harmless. Also, when you say that because there are risks you won't partake in something, please realize that literally everything in our day to day lives has some form of risk. When you walk down the street, you are far more likely to find yourself in danger than if you drink caffeinated beverages. The same goes for driving a car, riding a bike, inhaling air in a space where freshener was just emitted... I think anyone reading this gets the picture.
In being a drug and alcohol specialist this question often arises. My response is that addiction is addiction no matter what it is you are addicted to because the way of thinking is identical. The definition of addiction is anything that causes your life to become unmanageable. I would say that I am addicted to caffeine and will go through withdrawal if stopped but it has not caused my life to become unmanageable.
Based on your definition of addiction you contradict yourself with your last statement. According to ASAM, APA, and NIDA, the definition of addiction is the craving or desire of any substance or activity that affects the pleasure centers of the brain. There is no mention of whether it makes life unmanageable. If we look at it based on your definition, would someone who has a strong desire or craving to partake in sex and does so in an addictive manner, but it does not make their life unmanageable, then they would not have a sex addiction? There are many people with addictions to nicotine, legal and illegal drugs (and for those who do not realize, caffeine is considered a drug) or activities that are able to manage their lives. Lack of manageability has nothing to do with whether a person has an addiction. I have known people who have a cocaine addiction who used for many years totally undetected by family and friends. Their life was not unmanageable. They worked, socialized etc. just like any other person would but that did not make them any less addicted. I have a BA of Science in Counseling specializing in Alcohol and Substance abuse, so I too come from the same line of work.
wasup dawgs