While you’re probably familiar with the signs and symptoms of alcohol intoxication, alcohol isn’t the only drink that can cause an adverse reaction when consumed in significant quantity. Drinking too many cups of coffee or tea over a short period of time can result in symptoms of caffeine intoxication, a syndrome that’s not only unpleasant, but can potentially lead to death.
The amount of caffeine required to give symptoms of caffeine intoxication is surprisingly low. As little as three cups of coffee drank in a short period of time can give rise to the nervousness, flushing, and anxiety, characteristic of caffeine intoxication. While these symptoms are uncomfortable, they’re generally not life threatening unless there are underlying medical problems such as poorly controlled hypertension or heart disease. If heart disease is present, lower doses of caffeine can result in abnormal heart rhythms.
At higher doses of caffeine, the symptoms of caffeine intoxication can become even more pronounced and troubling. A person may experience significant personality changes and psychological impairment. At this stage, a caffeine intoxicated person can experience marked hyperactivity and disorientation and may see and hear things that aren’t there. At this stage, the caffeine intoxicated person will need immediate medical evaluation.
The worse case scenario? Caffeine intoxication can lead to death. Although it generally takes a large quantity of coffee, around ninety cups, there are individuals who are of low body weight or who metabolize caffeine more slowly that may experience life threatening symptoms at much lower caffeine levels. Caffeine can also be found in some medications ranging from diet pills to pain pills which can be a source for caffeine intoxication. It’s obvious that intake of high levels of caffeine can create serious problems.
Is there a way to reduce the risk of caffeine intoxication? The best way to avoid overdosing on caffeine is to be aware of how much caffeine you’re taking in on a daily basis and how it’s affecting you. Keep in mind that caffeine is found in sources other than coffee and tea, including many soft drinks, chocolate, as well as certain over-the-counter and prescription medications. Always be aware of the caffeine content of the drinks you drink and the pills you take to avoid unpleasant surprises. You can get print out the approximate caffeine content in common beverages and medications at various online sites.
If you experience jitteriness or nervousness after consuming caffeine, try keeping a journal of your caffeine intake for a few days along with your symptoms to determine at what caffeine level you experience problems. Keep in mind that you can still enjoy your favorite coffees and teas without risk of caffeine intoxication by choosing decaf instead.