Mental Illness Self-Medicating With Caffeine

Often people who have ADHD/ADD will self medicate with caffeine because of its stimulating effects, its ease of access and acceptance by society. Grandma used to give "Junior" a little cup of coffee if he was getting out of hand and this home remedy often worked! Caffeine has an effect on mental health; it perks up the mildly depressed, makes the anxious more anxious, and might take the edge off of ADHD. Caffeine is a mild stimulant and stimulants are used to treat ADHD. Caffeine in low doses can also take tie edge of minor depression but is not advised for those suffering from anxiety. The chemical adenosine accumulates in the brain when it is awake and active. In the basal forebrain, the cells are responsible for wakeful arousal and have adenosine receptors that inhibit them. It is as if they are moving really fast and then the adenosine attaches to them and slows them down, causing sleepiness. They actually inhibit them by releasing a second messenger in the cell, which increases the activity of certain genes, leading to a long-lasting affect that sustains sleep for hours. Caffeine belongs to the xanthine chemical group. Adenosine is a xanthine that is naturally occurring in the brain, used as a neurotransmitter at some synapses. Because of their relation, caffeine looks a lot like adenosine to nerve cells and therefore binds to adenosine receptors in the basal forebrain. The cells then can no longer sense adenosine because caffeine is taking up the receptors. Instead of slowing down, the nerve cells speed up and stop the person from getting tired. Here are some interesting facts about caffeine.
Caffeine is not as addictive as most believe; caffeine is a considered a safe substance most of the time. On rare occasion, death can occur from a caffeine overdose; but they can be caused by convulsions or an irregular heartbeat. The amount of caffeine considered to be an overdose varies by a person’s size, age and gender, but in general, doses of greater than 10 grams can be fatal in adults. A typical cup of coffee has about 100 mg of caffeine. While some stimulants, such as nicotine, are considered addictive, you aren’t likely to become addicted to caffeine if you consume it in moderation. Between 200 mg and 300 mg of caffeine, the amount in two to three cups of coffee, is considered a moderate amount and is generally considered safe for most adults. Routine consumption can lead to adverse reactions in some people if they don’t get that morning cup of coffee.

Some studies have shown that moderate consumption of caffeine may reduce your risk of diabetes, gallstones, Parkinson's disease, and liver disease, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, mitigating the effects of Alzheimer’s disease just to mention a few. Over the years there has been conflicting research about caffeine, but overall it does seem to have some positive effects on the body. Caffeine also helps the body absorb headache drugs more quickly, bringing faster relief. Adding caffeine requires less medication for the same effect, reducing the risk for potential side effects and possible drug addiction. Some skin care products contain caffeine because it has been shown to help make skin smoother and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

There is conflicting research on caffeine and pregnancy, but experts say pregnant women would be wise to moderate their intake. Some studies have linked a high intake of caffeine to increased risk for miscarriage and decreased fetal growth, but a cause-and-effect relationship has not been established. The American Dietetic Association recommends getting less than 300 mg per day, the equivalent of up to three cups of coffee. When a woman is breast feeding it should be known that babies can get a dose of caffeine from their mothers' milk. However, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "A morning cup of coffee is not likely to harm your baby, but too much caffeine can cause problems, such as poor sleeping, nervousness, irritability, and poor feeding." We have posted several articles on this website that have shown the possible link of stress during fetal development and general anxiety disorder. Even though caffeine is considered safe during breast feeding, mothers might wish to be overly cautious about what they consume during their pregnancy, as well as their emotional well being before and after the birth of their child.

Caffeine seems to affect men and women differently. A recent study found that men have a greater response to caffeine than women; however, another study suggested that this might not always be a good thing. Researchers found that caffeine tended to harm the performance of men in collaborative, stressful situations (such as an office environment), but it improved the performance of women. Caffeine also affects you as you age in that your body takes longer to process the caffeine and eliminate it from your system. So if you are used to your “morning joe” enjoy; but don’t over do it especially if you are prone to anxiety and always take special care of how you treat your body and what you consume during and immediately after a pregnancy.

this article is for informational purposes and not for diagnosing or treating any mental illness