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  • Caffeine is among the most popular drugs in the world. As a stimulant, it speeds up your central nervous system, increasing your energy and mental alertness. 

    Most people consume caffeine in coffee, chocolate, energy drinks, or other foods and beverages. However, some people take caffeine pills. These pills pose serious health risks when abused.

    What Are Caffeine Pills?

    Caffeine pills, also called caffeine tablets, are energy supplements that contain natural or synthetic forms of caffeine. Popular brands include:

    • Alert
    • Craft
    • Lucidex
    • No-Doz
    • Pep-Back
    • Stay Awake
    • Vivarin
    • Yellow Jackets

    Some brands are available over the counter, while others require a prescription. 

    The amount of caffeine in each brand varies, though most brands contain between 100 to 200 milligrams (mg). For comparison, an average cup of coffee has about 100 mg of caffeine, and an average cup of black tea has about 50 mg of caffeine. 

    Most people can safely consume caffeine pills in moderation. However, when you use the pills, you should limit your caffeine intake from coffee and other sources. You may also want to avoid caffeine pills if you:

    • are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive 
    • are under 18
    • are extremely sensitive to the effects of caffeine
    • have regular migraine headaches, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), high blood pressure, or heart disease

    Effects Of Caffeine Pills

    Like other types of caffeine, caffeine pills reduce sleepiness and increase alertness. 

    They can also cause negative side effects such as:

    • anxiety 
    • irritability
    • trouble sleeping
    • dizziness
    • diarrhea
    • nausea
    • upset stomach
    • heartburn
    • excessive thirst
    • increased urination
    • increased blood pressure and/or heart rate
    • shivering

    Caffeine Pill Abuse

    Some people abuse caffeine pills, often to improve their performance at school or work. Caffeine pill abuse occurs when you use the pills more frequently or at larger doses than recommended. 

    The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that healthy adults consume no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day. 

    You can also abuse caffeine pills by mixing them with other drugs, such as alcohol, opioids, or cocaine

    Risks Of Caffeine Pill Abuse

    People who abuse caffeine pills face a much higher risk of the drug’s negative side effects, such as anxiety and high blood pressure. 

    Other risks of caffeine pill abuse include: 

    Overdose

    You’re much more likely to overdose on caffeine pills than you are on coffee or other caffeinated foods and drinks. That’s because pills deliver a large amount of the drug to your body very quickly. 

    The most common signs of a caffeine overdose include:

    • fever
    • diarrhea
    • dizziness
    • irritability
    • trouble sleeping

    Rarer, more serious signs include:

    • nausea and vomiting
    • confusion
    • hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there)
    • chest pain
    • irregular heartbeat
    • seizures

    If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, seek medical help right away. When left untreated, a caffeine overdose can lead to coma or death. 

    Poor Birth Outcomes

    Pregnant women who use large amounts of caffeine may face a higher risk of miscarriages, premature birth, low birth weight, and other poor birth outcomes. 

    In addition, if you use caffeine while breastfeeding, the drug may cause issues for your baby, including insomnia and irritability. 

    Dangerous Additives

    Some people buy caffeine pills off the street. These pills may be laced with other substances, including dangerous drugs.

    For example, many drug dealers sell yaba, which are pills that contain caffeine and methamphetamine. Methamphetamine, or “meth,” is a highly addictive drug linked to serious health issues like psychosis, heart attack, and permanent brain damage. 

    Another substance that may appear in a caffeine pill is fentanyl. This powerful opioid has been responsible for numerous overdose deaths. Dealers usually don’t tell buyers when they’ve added fentanyl to a drug. That’s why buying caffeine pills off the street is extremely dangerous. 

    Tolerance

    When you regularly use caffeine pills or other forms of caffeine, your body becomes less sensitive to the drug. You’ll then need increasingly larger or more frequent amounts of it to feel the desired effects. 

    This condition, which is called tolerance, increases your risk of negative side effects and overdose. 

    Dependency

    Many people who abuse caffeine pills become dependent on them. That means that if they don’t take the pills, they’ll experience withdrawal symptoms. The most common caffeine withdrawal symptoms include:

    • drowsiness
    • headaches
    • depression
    • irritability
    • nausea
    • trouble concentrating

    In most cases, these symptoms begin 12 to 24 hours after your lost dose of caffeine. They typically fade within a few days. 

    While the symptoms usually aren’t life-threatening, they can be highly uncomfortable. That’s why some people who are dependent on caffeine seek help at addiction treatment programs. In these programs, doctors can help you safely stop using caffeine with minimal withdrawal symptoms. 

    If you or someone you love struggles with caffeine pills, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. Our treatment centers offer personalized, evidence-based care for people living with drug dependency and addiction.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2021 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Sources

    Government of Alberta - Substance Use: Common Drugs
    National Institute on Drug Abuse - Is Caffeine Really Addictive?
    United States National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Caffeine

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on August 22, 2022
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