As millions people consume caffeinated beverages in ever increasing amounts, the effects of caffeine on the system needs to be better understood. Recent studies have shown that the stimulant in our coffee, teas, and ever more popular by the day, energy drinks is a complex chemical that has a myriad of effects both in the immediate and long term.
Caffeine is a stimulant, and as such, has serious influence over the central nervous system. Mental alertness is found to be sharpened in the short term, with a lowered ability to concentrate and focus present as the effect of the drug wears off, or when caffeine addiction pushed the body into withdrawal in its absence. The duration and power of the stimulant effect is in direct relation to the amount of caffeine ingested. Though considered a mild stimulant, overuse can lead to insomnia, irritability, and even moderate signs of physical addiction. The recent popularity of energy drinks including guarana as a caffeine source has been of particular notice, as the amount in caffeine contained in this South American Fruit is up to 4 times as potent as the coffee bean and 3 times as strong as stout tea. These drinks also contain high levels of simple sugars, especially fructose, which are horrible for health, and should be considered when evaluating them for use.
While the adverse side effects of caffeine addiction can usually be reversed with discontinued use, the mildness of its effects make addiction hard to take seriously by most people, and the will to discontinue its use low. Longer term side effects do not seem to have an overall negative impact on health in general, but the existence of certain health conditions or the taking of particular medications might make the taking of caffeine a more risky endeavor. While usually considered safe in moderation it is always advisable to talk over dietary and medication conflict over with your health care professional. For now, caffeine is seen to increase temporary mental alertness with minimal negative results. Abuse of any drug increases these results, and caffeine is not different in this matter, and should be respected as the stimulant it is. If you have a history of drug abuse, especially stimulants, then drinking coffee can actually help to trigger this addiction, so precaution is to be taken. Minors, pregnant women, and those with sleep sensitivity issues are recommended to choose caffeine free alternatives because of its stimulant properties.