You've kicked off your day with a flat white and are ready to tackle anything. But after just one hour, you feel the need for another caffeine hit. Perhaps an iced long black this time. And as you sit there sipping on another caffeine beverage, you wonder to yourself, "Am I addicted to coffee?"

Well, that's the question we're going to try and answer here! With about three of four Aussies drinking at least one cup of coffee each day, caffeine consumption is a big topic for people.

So what we're going to do here is dive into what caffeine is, how it works when we consume it, whether can we become reliant on it, and how can we consume it safely. Just remember that if you need support or someone to talk to, our Sonder support team is available 24/7 to chat whenever you need it.

Okay, so tell me about caffeine and what it does to me

Caffeine is a stimulant drug, meaning that it speeds up messages travelling between the brain and the body. It also increases the circulation of cortisol and adrenaline in the body, which is the "high" people feel when they drink their first coffee of the day.

It is naturally found in the leaves and fruits of several different plants. Once processed, caffeine is used in a variety of drinks, including coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, and energy drinks.

The body quickly absorbs caffeine once consumed and the short-term effects can include increased breathing, heart rate, mental alertness, and physical energy. Depending on the person, these effects can last up to 12 hours. When people say that coffee gives them energy, makes them more alert, and puts them in a good mood (not to mention that it tastes good), it's because that's exactly what caffeine does to the body.

So can I get addicted to caffeine?

In short, yes. Caffeine is known to be an addictive drug and our bodies can become reliant on it over time. As such, the body can also develop a tolerance to caffeine and will require greater amounts for the same effect.

Generally speaking, the easiest way to break caffeine dependence is to gradually reduce the amount consumed as this will help the body slowly adjust and function without the drug.

It is possible to develop withdrawal symptoms after giving up caffeine as the body has to readjust. This usually kicks in within 12 to 24 hours after the last dose of caffeine consumed and can last anywhere from a few days to a week, depending on how much caffeine the person regularly consumes. Withdrawal symptoms of caffeine consumption include:

  • Fatigue or drowsiness

  • Nausea

  • Irritability and/or depressed mood

  • Persistent headache

  • Sweating

  • Muscle pain

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Anxiety.

Overdosing on caffeine is also possible, but it requires a large amount of it. It's rare that someone can consume a toxic amount of caffeine from caffeinated drinks alone. Having said that, there are negative effects to consuming an excessive amount of caffeine, including:

  • A rise in body temperature

  • Frequent urination

  • Dehydration

  • Dizziness and headaches

  • Rapid heartbeat and breathing

  • Restlessness and excitability

  • Anxiety and irritability

  • Tremors

  • Confusion and panic attack

  • Sleeplessness.

If you are experiencing some of the aforementioned effects after consuming a large amount of caffeine, call an ambulance right away on 000 in Australia or 111 in New Zealand.

Alright, what's the best (i.e safest) way to have caffeine?

In terms of the safest way to have caffeine, it's essential to understand that there's no safe level of drug use and there's always a risk involved.

As for how much caffeine one can safely consume each day, that depends on factors such as body size, health, weight, metabolism rate, whether the person is used to getting regular caffeine doses, and how much is consumed in one sitting.

Research has shown that about 400mg of caffeine per day is an acceptable level for most people. Here are the approximate caffeine amounts in popular drinks:

  • Chocolate drinks: Five to 10mg per 250ml

  • Instant coffee: 80–120mg per 250ml

  • Drip or percolated coffee: 150–240mg per 250ml

  • Espresso coffees such as espresso or latte: 105–110mg per 250ml

  • Decaffeinated coffee: two to six mg per 250ml

  • Black tea: 65–105mg per 250ml

  • Cola drinks: 40–49mg per 375ml

  • Red Bull energy drink: 80mg per 250 ml

  • Other energy drinks: 160mg per 250ml

  • Dark chocolate bar: 40-50mg per 55g serve

  • Milk chocolate bar: 10mg per 50g serve

  • Guarana: can contain up to 100mg per one gram of guarana

  • Caffeine tablets such as No-Doz: 100mg per tablet.

Children and pregnant women need to be careful with regard to caffeine consumption. There's no guideline for children's intake of caffeine so it's important to monitor them. For pregnant women, researchers recommend a daily caffeine intake of less than 200mg as it can affect heart rate and blood pressure.

In short, it's fine to have caffeine and being dependent on it is pretty common. What's important is to be aware of it and to be responsible when it comes to caffeine consumption, especially if you're thinking about making a lifestyle change.

Related reading:

If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Information sourced from: ABC, Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Better Health, and Healthline

Image credit: Futurama

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

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