Are Caffeine Pills Dangerous?
Globally, caffeine is the most popular legal drug. You can find it in coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks, to name a few. It is a stimulant acting on the central nervous system to increase the feeling of wakefulness and alertness. However, over time, a cup of coffee or a single caffeine pill may not give you the desired level of being awake that you are looking for, leading you to ingest more caffeine to achieve the same effects. This increased usage leads some people to wonder, “Are caffeine pills dangerous?”
To find out, let’s explore the unique properties of caffeine pills, potential side effects, and guidelines to use them safely.
Is There a Difference in Caffeine from Coffee or Pills?
The fundamental caffeine in coffee or caffeine pills is the same, but there are a few noteworthy differences in how your body consumes these products.
Caffeine from food and beverages enters your bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine, meaning individuals may not feel the effects for around 15 minutes after consumption. However, caffeine pills hit your body faster since you are taking the caffeine supplement all at once. This also means the caffeine crash from pills can hit harder than from a cup of coffee or tea.
In terms of lifestyle considerations, coffee tends to be bitter, leading some people to add sweetener and creamer to counteract that taste thus adding calories. For some, coffee can also trigger heartburn or irritate the digestive tract. Caffeine pills, on the other hand, do not have this same digestive effect, and so may appeal to people with heartburn or digestive issues. The pills are also calorie-free, which can be a deciding factor for some.
How Much Caffeine Is in Caffeine Pills?
Every brand of caffeine pill is different, so consult the packaging for specifics. But typically, most caffeine pills will have between 100-200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine each. To help put that amount in perspective, here is he amount of caffeine in a few popular beverages:
- 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola = 34 mg
- One bag of brewed Lipton Black tea = 55 mg
- 16-ounce can of Monster Energy = 160 mg
- 16-ounce cup of Starbucks Dark Roast brewed coffee = 260 mg
With this in mind, a typical caffeine pill has less than a grande coffee from Starbucks, but as much as up to six cans of Coca-cola.
How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?
According to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), 400 mg of caffeine per day should not compromise the average adult's health. However, if caffeine is upsetting your stomach, causing your heart to race, or impacting your sleep, you may be sensitive to caffeine or ingesting too much.
It can also be risky to consume higher doses for pregnant or nursing women, children and adolescents, and people on certain medications.
Caffeine can be deemed "unsafe" if you take in too much too quickly or consistently exceed 1,200 mg daily. This can be more true if you have underlying health issues such as high blood pressure or heart complications.
What Are the Side Effects of Too Much Caffeine?
Caffeine pills can cause the same side effects as drinking too much coffee, tea, or energy drinks. These effects will be more potent if you are sensitive to caffeine.
- Acid reflux
- Caffeine dependency
- Excessive thirst
- Racing heart rate
- Sleep paralysis
How to Deal With Side Effects from Caffeine
For minor caffeine ingestion jitters, drinking water or taking a walk can help. In more severe cases, individuals may require intravenous hydration or medication for an irregular heartbeat. If you experience dizziness, nausea, vomiting, or a seizure, contact your doctor immediately.
Can You Get Addicted to Caffeine Pills?
Just because taking up to 400 mg of caffeine in a day is considered "safe" does not mean it is recommended or acceptable for every individual. Regularly taking in excess amounts of caffeine can lead to complications, including addiction. Although caffeine is legal, that does not make it any less addicting. Any stimulant can lead to addiction, so it is essential to recognize the signs early and to be able to find a safe way to withdraw from the drug without too many side effects.
Aside from the above symptoms indicating too much caffeine, there are a few additional symptoms that can be signs of caffeine abuse or addiction:
- Constant thirst
- Chronic insomnia
- Frequent urination
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Skipped heartbeat
- Uncontrolled muscle twitching
- Wide pupils
Can You Overdose on Caffeine Pills?
Like with other drugs, a caffeine overdose is possible. However, it happens so rarely that there is not a lot of research on the subject. It is much easier to overdose on caffeine pills and powder than on liquid, which could take as much as 20-30 cups of coffee.
Most often, caffeine overdose can happen when caffeine pills or powder are mixed with carbonated drinks or energy drinks. Some common symptoms of caffeine overdose are:
- Constant vomiting and dehydration
Even though caffeine pill-induced death is rare, a study from 2018 discovered 92 individuals who have died from a caffeine overdose.
Are Caffeine Pills Safe?
In moderate quantities, up to 400 mg per day, caffeine pills are considered safe. However, they are still a stimulant that acts on your central nervous system, and they can be addicting.
While most people can take caffeine pills safely, individuals with chronic diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and insomnia should lower their dosage or abstain.
If you sense you are abusing caffeine or becoming addicted, do not quit all at once. Gradually withdrawing is the easiest and safest way.
Caffeine is legal and rarely lethal, so monitoring your caffeine intake can easily be done by tracking how many milligrams you are ingesting daily and checking in with yourself on side effects.
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