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Caffeine and its Dangers

The dreaded question every morning: full-blooded or decaf? As if our puffy, veiny, bag laden, dull eyes weren’t enough, or our caveman-like way of ordering, “COFFEE, 1, Large, Now.” to inform the barista that we need as much caffeine as legally allowed to be put in our bodies. But what are the effects of this innocuous drug we imbibe every day, and when coffee isn’t enough are the alternatives safe?

 

We all know that feeling. The moment that bitter brown liquid cascades down our throats and we are merely waiting for the jolt of energy sapped from us due to poor sleeping habits and mindless work. Romantics aside, the physiological effects of caffeine can begin as early as 15-45 minutes after ingestion. Its maximum central nervous system effects are reached in about 30-60 minutes. Caffeine increases heartbeat, respiration, basal metabolic rate, and the production of stomach acid and urine; and it relaxes smooth muscles, notably the bronchial muscle. All of these changes vary considerably among people and may depend upon the individual’s sensitivity to this drug, his/her metabolism, or upon whether the consumer habitually uses or rarely uses caffeine. How long caffeine’s effects last is influenced by the person’s hormonal status, whether he/she smokes or takes medications, or has a disease that impairs liver functioning.

 

However, caffeine is a drug, one that is not closely monitored by the FDA, and as with any drug, you can overdose and the results can be fatal. The problem with most drugs (caffeine included) is that they are highly addictive and lose potency with constant use. With someone who has been drinking full blooded coffee for a few years, the effects will diminish and suddenly their regular cup of Joe has no seeming effect on their alertness yet still wreaks havoc on their central nervous system. These people will then drink more coffee or turn to energy drinks which can have four times the amount of caffeine in them (1 serving of energy drink is usually double what is in a cup of coffee and most energy drinks have 2-3 servings in a can). Worse still is the new push for caffeine powder, which is so potent that 1 teaspoon is the equivalent of 50 cans of Redbull.

Although adults can safely consume up to 400 mg of caffeine per day, children should only consume 45-85 milligrams per day depending on their weight. For reference, a regular cup of coffee averages about 100 mg of caffeine.

The amount of caffeine needed to overdose differs from person to person. If you have a high tolerance for caffeine you may be able to drink more than the 400 mg allotted per day (college would have been impossible otherwise.) However, monitor your reactions when ingesting caffeine. The symptoms of a caffeine overdose can consist of dizziness, diarrhea, insomnia, headache, fever, trouble breathing, vomiting, hallucinations, chest pain, and convulsions. Be aware that the most common form of death from a caffeine overdose is cardiac arrest, as the drug strains and stresses your heart. There are long-term effects from drinking caffeine including higher risk of incontinence, higher risk of early onset osteoporosis, reoccurring gout, insomnia, and higher blood pressure.

While coffee may be your life blood, try to limit your intake of this drug. If you have multiple cups of coffee a day, switch one to decaf. If you find yourself lagging in the middle of the day get up and do 10 jumping jacks. Try going to sleep earlier, work out in the evenings, and eat healthier. Caffeine should become the exception, not the rule.

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Thomas J. Curcio
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Tom Curcio, the driving force behind Curcio Law, is a dedicated trial lawyer with more than 35 years of experience in Northern Virginia. He has dedicated his career to representing people who have been seriously injured through no fault of their own. He works tirelessly to obtain the compensation his clients are legally entitled to…

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Rakin Hamad
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Rakin Hamad is a recent graduate of the George Mason Law School and joined Curcio Law as an associate in August 2018. Rakin works closely with Tom Curcio and staff in preparing cases from the initial client meeting through trial and has been a perfect fit for the firm. During law school, Rakin interned at…

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Julia Martinez
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Julia Martinez, a Florida native, joined Curcio Law as a paralegal in 2013. She began her legal career in 1998 working at a personal injury firm that primarily handled automobile accidents, slip and falls, and products liability cases. Then, in 2008 she expanded her knowledge by working at two other law firms. She obtained her…

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As the firm’s office manager, Kathy McAfee is dedicated to making sure the office runs smoothly and that the team has what it needs by way of resources, technology, and supplies to best serve our clients. Kathy graduated with a B.A. in Sociology from Roanoke College in 1986 and afterward, returned to Alexandria. She began…

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Maureen Burke was born and raised in the Boston, Massachusetts area and relocated to the Alexandria area in 1984 where she and her husband raised their three children. Maureen graduated with a BS in Nursing from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire and an MS in Nursing from George Mason University. Maureen has worked at…

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