How is a caffeine overdose treated

Coffee Overdose - Too Much Coffee - Signs, Countermeasures, and Therapy

Overdose of caffeine

Coffee is healthy. The myths like "Coffee weakens your nerves, makes you pale and sick" have long been refuted. However, consuming large amounts of coffee can have undesirable consequences.

Coffee overdose? The most important facts

  • In theory, excessive coffee consumption can result in an overdose. To do this, however, you would have to consume more than one gram of caffeine, which means that you would have to drink at least 12 cups of espresso in a row.
  • Seven or eight cups a day can also have a positive effect on the body.
  • An overdose of caffeine leads to palpitations, motor problems, nerve irritation, sleep disorders and can trigger nightmares and cognitive disorders.
  • The bitter substances in coffee, if consumed in large quantities, can spoil your stomach.
  • Caffeine is harmful to children under the age of 12, and the same applies to the fetus in the womb.

Too much coffee consumption - symptoms

Medical professionals consider around four cups of coffee a day to be healthy, and even larger quantities have shown very positive effects in new studies. However, everyone reacts differently to the caffeine contained in coffee. If your coffee consumption is too high, this can be recognized by the following symptoms:

  • Irritated nerves, inner restlessness, nervousness or increased anxiety, as well as over-sensitivity to external stimuli.
  • Racing heart caused by a faster heart rate.
  • Difficulty breathing and shortness of breath, driven by high blood pressure.
  • Twitching eyes.
  • Migraines and headaches.
  • Stomach discomfort as a result of an overdose of the bitter substances in coffee.

Too much caffeine

Coffee contains caffeine and just like other caffeinated drinks, whether energy drinks or black tea, the stimulant can cause side effects in excess. These include insomnia, headaches, nervousness or problems in the gastrointestinal tract. Tremors and blurred vision also occur. A loss of fine motor skills is also possible. In addition, bizarre nightmares, thought carousel and thought lawns were described. These symptoms mainly occur in people who otherwise consume very little or no caffeine.

Caffeine addiction

Those who consume high doses of caffeine over a long period of time can develop an addiction. The easy way to find out for yourself is by giving up caffeine. If withdrawal symptoms occur now, you will realize that you are dealing with an addiction. Typical symptoms of caffeine withdrawal are:

These withdrawal symptoms start 12 to 24 hours after the last blast of caffeine and last for up to nine days.

How does caffeine addiction come about?

Caffeine is similar to adenosine and blocks its receptors. Adenosine, as a component of ribonucleic acid RNA, protects the body from exhaustion, caffeine does not, which is why higher doses lead to irritability. As caffeine consumption increases, the body reacts to the lack of adenosine and forms additional receptors to absorb more adenosine. As a result, consumers now need to consume more caffeine to produce the same effect.

Caffeine overdose

We speak of an overdose of 1 gram or more of caffeine. In the worst case, this triggers a circulatory collapse. First of all, caffeine is a good injection of energy: It stimulates the release of stress hormones, the heart beats faster, and blood pressure rises. We notice this as increased concentration and increased performance. With up to around 400 milligrams, that's perfectly fine.
As a guideline, an espresso contains 80 milligrams of caffeine. So to get anywhere near an overdose, you'd have to drink at least twelve espressos in a row.

The situation is different for children under the age of 12 and for pregnant women - caffeine penetrates the placenta and can hinder the growth of the fetus. Caffeine is generally not recommended for children, and no more than 200 milligrams per day is recommended for pregnant women.

What to do?

If you have a caffeine overdose, seek medical help. You can only relieve the symptoms yourself, as caffeine is a fat-soluble substance that circulates through the body. You can eat cabbage dishes because they contain enzymes that accelerate the use of caffeine.

Coffee and sugar

Coffee is extremely healthy, but in combination with other substances it can quickly lead to unwanted side effects. One of these substances is sugar. Sugar and caffeine together are a short-term energy boost. Since caffeine promotes blood circulation, the sugar gets into the organism all the faster. The combination of coffee and sugar therefore raises the blood sugar level and that is only good if we use the energy again quickly, for example in competitive sports.

Coffee and alcohol

Coffee and alcohol make an even more explosive mixture than coffee and sugar. Above all, those affected misjudge themselves. You get just as drunk as if you drink the alcohol without the coffee, but the caffeine makes you imperceptible to your high. That was the result of a study by Temple University in Philadelphia.
This means that if you only drink alcohol, it will be easier for you to know that you are drunk because you are getting tired. Now, if the caffeine leads to wakefulness, you are mistaking wakefulness for sobriety. In this way, you are increasingly putting yourself in dangerous situations, for example because you believe you can drive a car.

In the study, the researchers gave mice caffeine and pure alcohol - once separately, once together. Under the influence of ethanol, the mice became less anxious and moved more. Under the influence of caffeine, they became more anxious and did less exercise. The combination of the two made them less anxious, even cocky. The clear result: caffeine does not weaken the effects of alcohol, but alcohol weakens the effects of caffeine.

Coffee and medication

Coffee enhances the effects of paracetamol and ibuprofen. Under no circumstances should you drink coffee if any medicine contains caffeine. This can lead to the consequences of a caffeine overdose described above, especially heart flutter. Some antibiotics prevent the body from breaking down caffeine. Gyrase inhibitors can be used in combination with coffee to cause insomnia. Many doctors generally say: If you take medication, avoid coffee, unless it is proven to be safe for the specific medication.

No coffee with iron deficiency

If you suffer from iron deficiency, you shouldn't drink coffee. The tannins it contains mean that iron simply passes through the body. This also applies to tannins found in black tea and mate tea.

Coffee consumption and life expectancy

The latest studies see moderate coffee consumption as a contribution to a healthy diet. Coffee drinkers have a lower risk of death than non-coffee drinkers. This is shown by a large-scale study by the National Institute of Health in Rockville of almost 500,000 British people.

Even in larger quantities, coffee therefore increases life expectancy. With the amount of coffee, the risk of death even decreased, with one cup by eight percent, with up to seven cups a day by as much as 16 percent, regardless of genetic polymorphisms and slow or fast caffeine metabolism. If you use more than seven to eight cups a day, you will at some point approach an overdose of caffeine and this can have negative consequences. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text complies with the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt
  • Heide Koula-Jenik, Matthias Kraft, Michael Miko, Ralf-Joachim Schulz: Guide to Nutritional Medicine, Urban & Fischer Verlag / Elsevier GmbH, 2005
  • National Institutes of Health: NIH study finds that coffee drinkers have lower risk of death, (accessed August 27, 2019), NIH

Important NOTE:
This article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.