Vice Squad
Friday, April 16, 2004
More on Caffeine

"Caffeine -- an atypical drug of dependence," by John W. Daly and Bertil B. Fredholm, appeared in Drug and Alcohol Dependence in June, 1998. I will draw upon it to develop yesterday's coffee post a bit further.

I mentioned some health benefits of caffeine. Daly and Fredholm note that "caffeine has been used therapeutically to treat narcolepsy, asthma, and apnea, and as an analgetic adjunct."

Folks typically find a little caffeine to be pleasant and stimulating, though higher doses become unpleasant. "Most individuals adjust their intake of caffeine-containing beverages so as to minimize the undesirable effects." As with other "addictive" drugs, caffeine is reinforcing, though only weakly, and physical withdrawal symptoms are common. "In humans caffeine withdrawal typically manifests itself in symptoms of headache, fatigue, apathy and drowsiness. Withdrawal symptoms generally begin slowly, maximize after 1 or 2 days and are over within a few days. In both animals and humans the withdrawal symptoms are rapidly relieved by caffeine."

The Daly and Fredholm paper also offers an encapsulation of the health risks (as understood circa 1998) of caffeine: "Health hazards are small if any and caffeine use is not associated with incapacitation. Thus, although caffeine can be argued to fulfill regulatory criteria as a dependence-producing drug, the extensive use of caffeine-containing beverages poses little apparent risk to the consumer or to society."

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