caffeine

Caffeine is an interesting drug. Caffeine is a plant alkaloid which we extract primarily from coffee beans though significant amounts are also found in th tea bush Camellia sinensis. Caffeine is very popular due to its stimulatory affect on the central nervous system.

Most people who partake of this drug do so in one of 3 forms, coffee, tea or soda. Coffee typically delivers the largest dose with 100mg per 8 ounces being typical. Tea only has a third as much caffeine and soda has a fifth. Chocolate limps way back behind these infusion style drinks in caffeine content.

However there are some people, like me, that take caffeine in other ways. Periodically I take prescription drugs for migraine headaches. Many of these drugs contain caffeine, which is a little weird because caffeine is one of the triggers for migraines. The reason that these drugs contain caffeine is because caffeine, which is usually a vasoconstrictor, can actually increase the effect of certain vasodilators so that despite the innate vasoconstrictive nature of caffeine there's a net dilation effect on the blood vessels of the head. This also has the benefit of less vasodilator drug needing to be present. Neat, huh?

Caffeine can kill you, but it's not easy to get that much. The LD50 of caffeine is dependent on a person's weight and can be estimated to be about 150 to 200 mg per kg of body weight. So that's essentially a cup of coffee for every pound you weigh. The stereotypical 150 pound person would need to drink 150 cups of coffee in 5 hours time (that's how long it takes the body to break down 50% of the caffeine) to have a 50% chance of dying. That's a lot of coffee! Of course a 10% chance of dying from caffeine overdose would require a lot less coffee, but it's still not much of a danger. People that use diet pills with caffeine are far more likely to die from overdose yet only a few cases of that have been documented in the past decade.

That's all rather morbid so let's move on to something more pleasant. Drug side effects! LOL While lethal doses aren't very likely in humans, there's plenty of other effects that can be observed by smaller amounts.After all, we've all experienced the buzz that too much coffee or soda can bring on. In fact, some folk out there take such a strong anti-caffeine stance that it almost becomes a religion. Check out this site, for example. The fellow there blames all migraines on caffeine withdrawal.

While I think that's going a bit far, caffeine is a drug. Really! It happens to have only limited side effects in humans but some species are more affected by it. Dogs, horses and spiders, for example.

Here's two webs, the first created by a spider that had no caffeine, and the second web by a spider after being dosed with caffeine. That's one freaky spiderweb.

Personally I don't like coffee so my main source of caffeine is soda, which I consume in vast quantities! Mostly for the sweet carbonated goodness, not so much for the caffeine. A more literary exposure to caffeine is the book The Coffee Trader by David Liss. It's a very good book though a little dense for some readers. Liss is well known to make his novel historically accurate and the depth of detail can slow things down a little. This book takes place in Amsterdam in 1659 when coffee first hit the international scene. Coffee had been known to Ethiopians for centuries and more recently to Arab traders, but the mid 1600s was when coffee went into broad circulation. This book chronicles the times by means of one Dutch trader who staked his future on the coffee trade and how the trade affected him and his peers.

Comments

used*to*be*me* said…
I drink all three. And eat chocolate. I have two cuppa joe in the a.m., then a coke at lunch, then usually iced tea on the way home, then another coke with dinner. My hell. No wonder I'm up blogging and not sleeping.

I have migrains too. And I used to take Imetrex (sp) but now, I just suffer because I refuse to self inflict that damned shot. Stupid yes. But I learned to control with my diet and sleep (usually) so I've not had a really bad episode in about a year.
Michelle said…
I live for coffee! I usually have around 6 strong coffees per day. However, i drink a bit of water, and only have diet sodas a couple of times a week :o)
Oreo said…
Dave, I didn't unnerstand half of what you said but I'm purrty sure Momma am 'dicted to cafe-cafi- that stuff in the form of Dr. Pepper.........don't tell her I told!
Carol said…
Every few years I decide to wean myself off caffeine -- and it causes one hell of a headache although it's not too bad if I slowly decrease the caffeine. But then after a few months, I go back to my Diet Coke and coffee. Now I want to quit Diet Coke because of the artificial sweeteners. I don't see myself quitting coffee anytime in the foreseeable future.
Thanks for the BOTB battle - and congrats on the win! You ALWAYS beat me!
Tracy said…
Not a clue what you're talking about, but caffeine is my best friend. Ever.
Pearl said…
Interesting tale of the caffeine and dilation. I had wondered why the pharmacist said the tylenol 3 would knock me out for a couple hours when it had caffeine in it. (In fact it didn't make me drowsy but bleh)

Funky effect on spiders.
Paul said…
Caffine is so good, and having done a caffine test i am most definatly an addict.

As for the spiders it's really freaky, they also tested them with all sorts of illicit drugs, with interesting efects, cant find the page but they are out there on the net.
kenju said…
I am very caffeine-sensitive so I try to stay away from it. If I feel blah, though, I know how to get my groove back...LOL
That was the most interesting post ever! It's like you demistified the devils elixor.

Best Scientist EVER!
Becky said…
I came by way of Michele, but I think I've been here before:) I'm love tea and Diet Pepsi for the taste/fizz. I've never been able to tell if I need the caffeine or if it just happens to be in the drinks that I like the taste of (if that makes sense). I also get migraines and I take either prescription pills or Excedrin (the only one with caffeine in it).

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