Caffeine-Related Disorders

Caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world. Caffeine is found in a variety of beverages, including coffee, tea, sodas, and energy drinks, and also as caffeine tablets. Among the caffeine-related disorders are caffeine dependence, caffeine withdrawal, and caffeine intoxication.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-V) includes caffeine use disorders as one of the “other disorders of interest.” Caffeine dependence (also called caffeine use disorder) is characterized by excessive use or inability to limit consumption despite a strong desire to do so. Caffeine withdrawal is typified by symptoms such as headache, nausea, sleep disturbance, and jitteriness associated with abrupt cessation of caffeine use. Caffeine intoxication can occur if an individual consumes significantly more than 250 to 400 mg of caffeine (roughly the equivalent of two extra large commercial coffee beverages) over a period of a couple of hours or less. Intoxication symptoms include impaired functioning or distress shortly after significant caffeine consumption, along with five or more of the following symptoms: (1) rapid or irregular heartbeat, (2) restlessness, nervousness, agitation, irritability, (3) muscle twitching or shaking, (4) rambling speech, (5) sleeplessness, (6) nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bowel incontinence, gut pain, (7) significantly increased frequency of urination, and (8) headache.

Many different products contain caffeine, including coffee, tea, colas, and energy drinks.

Many different products contain caffeine, including coffee, tea, colas, and energy drinks.
© Martyn FChillmaid/Science Source

The most commonly cited caffeine-related disorder is caffeine dependence. Steven Meredith of Johns Hopkins University and his team's research indicated that the indicators of caffeine dependence include the need to consume more over time in order to achieve the same effects, continuing use despite an awareness of unpleasant side effects such as irritability, jitteriness, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, and inability to cut down or quit despite a strong desire to do so, inability to cease or limit caffeine consumption despite awareness of recurrent problems stemming from caffeine use, and withdrawal symptoms from cessation or abrupt decrease in use. Other primary symptoms include consuming more caffeine than intended, failing to meet social or work/ school obligations due to caffeine use, tolerance resulting in a need for increased use, craving caffeine, and spending an excessive amount of time thinking about caffeine and how to obtain it.

See also Addiction/addictive personality ; Central nervous system ; Compulsions ; Consumer psychology ; Smoking behavior .



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Addicottt, M. A. “Caffeine Use Disorder: A Review of the Evidence and Future Implications.” Current Addiction Research 1, no. 3 (September 2014): 186–92.

Ferré, Sergi. “Caffeine and Substance Use Disorders” Jour-nal of Caffeine Research 3, no. 2 (June 2013): 57–68.

Meredith, S. E., et al. “Caffeine Use Disorder: A Comprehensive Review and Research Agenda.” Journal of Caffeine Research 3, no. 3 (September 2013): 114–30.


American Psychiatric Association. “Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders.” http:// (accessed July 13, 2015).

Medline Plus. “Caffeine.” (accessed July 13, 2015).

National Geographic Society. “Caffeine—What's the Buzz?” (accessed July 13, 2015).


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