What is Caffeine? Caffeine is a drug, which can be produced in many different types of plants, as well as artificially, and stimulates the central nervous system. It’s a component in tea, coffee, pop, chocolate, and medications, and you may recognize it as what gives you that energy boost and rise in mood. Most teenagers get their fix from pop and carbonated drinks. Well, what’s so bad about it? There are many statistics involved with caffeine addiction. Did you know that out of 4 people that drink coffee, 3 of them are severely addicted to caffeine? Oh? I also heard that about 50 percent of people who quit drinking caffeine were faced with large headaches that last from 2 to 9 days! But caffeine can’t kill you can it? No, that’s completely wrong. If you drink 100 cups of coffee in a matter of 4 hours it can kill you! In the U.S alone, from 2005 to 2009, the amount of cases of caffeine poisoning increased by 11,986 cases. That’s 11,986 different poisoned people in the span of 4 years alone. Wow. That was only until 2009. The numbers would be really high by now. What’s scary is that the majority of these cases happened to those under the age of 20, so people like you and me. Hang on, what if I’m overdosing on caffeine and I don’t know it? If you feel like you regularly experience insomnia, frequent headaches, or difficulty concentrating, it’s a definite possibility. The symptoms of having a caffeine addiction? Well, there’s a lot. The most common ones are headaches, sleepiness, irritability, lethargy, constipation, and muscle pain. There are many more symptoms that you should consider if you think you may be addicted to caffeine. Caffeine can have large permanent effects on the body, other than just showing symptoms. Depression is linked to caffeine use, and can increase the risk of depression if you consume it too much. More long-term effects are anxiety and insomnia. Addicted users can usually be found unable to sleep in bed, having high levels of energy. When you ingest something that has caffeine in it, it goes through the small intestine and since caffeine is water and fat soluble, it enters the bloodstream and it goes to your brain. Oh, I know this part! Since caffeine has about the same chemical makeup as a molecule in our brains called adenosine, this chemical makes us sleep, caffeine can replace the adenosine in our brain cells’ receptors. Yes, and when the adenosine receptors are blocked, we do not get the sense of sleepiness. This effect usually doesn’t subside for four to six hours. What should I do if I know I have a caffeine addiction? You should first know how much caffeine you are consuming every day. Don’t try to quit cold turkey, as the withdrawal effects could be harmful. The typical headache can last over a day. If you want to quit, switch to decaf drinks, and stay away from pop and energy drinks, like Red Bull, and Nestea. Make sure you read your medications so that you know what’s in them, a sudden dose of caffeine after weeks of quitting can be devastating to both your body, and your determination. Try to set your goal to have a daily caffeine intake under 100 milligrams. You won’t get there from the start, but if you are constantly staying away from harmful drinks, you’ll get there in no time. If you feel you have a serious problem, it’s time to see a professional. Consider an addiction therapist to help you. In 2012, a girl by the name of Anais Fournier drank two cans of 24 ounce of Monster energy drink and died soon after from cardiac arrest. She was at the mall with her friends and she drank one 24 ounce can. Later, before 24 hours passed she drank another. She was put into cardiac arrest and sent to the hospital. When she got there she was put into a coma to prevent further damage. Her mother was quoted as saying “She never regained consciousness and we never got to say goodbye.” She also had a condition called “mitral valve prolapse” which cause a malfunction in a valve located in her heart. However, as many as 1 in 10 people have this condition, and doctors report it as “usually harmless.” She drank about 480 mg of caffeine in those two cans. To put it into perspective, that is the equivalent of drinking 14 cans of Coke. Where should I go to get help from my community if I have a caffeine addiction? There are many services that can help you out in case you need community support. Your local addiction therapist can also help you if you have a serious case. There are tons of websites online that can provide you with advice and support if you or a loved one is suffering from a caffeine addiction. Now, you know the risks of Caffeine. Even a single cup of coffee can lead you down the path of addiction. Make sure you carefully watch how much you drink every day, and protect yourself from the harms of overdosing. In teenagers, the tolerance for caffeine is much less, and should be regulated. Don’t let yourself go. Caffeine is a drug. It can be as dangerous as any drug out there.