Caffeine 101 | A Legal And Unregulated Psychoactive Drug


For morning coffee to afternoon tea, caffeine is so thoroughly entrenched in our daily routines and has become the worlds most widely used psychoactive substance.

Caffeine is a chemical compound that stimulate the central nervous system. It accomplishes this by attaching itself to adenosine receptors in the brain. In doing so, it blocks adenosine molecules, which are responsible for slowing down the central nervous system before we sleep.

The result? Adenosine cannot regulate and neurons start firing. This results in a person's reduced fatigue and increased alertness and cognitive performance. Side effects many seek by consuming caffeine.

Caffeine occurs naturally in coffee beans, tea leaves, cacao beans and some tree nuts. People have been consuming it for centuries. But daily consumption took off sporadically at different times in different places around the world.

Coffee became popular in the 15th and 16 centuries. But Cacao was used among early Mesoamerican civilizations hundreds of years earlier. Tea became popular by the 14th century in China during the Ming dynasty, but didn't catch on in Britain until almost 400 years later.


Today, caffeine can be found nearly everywhere and more and more caffeine-infused products are hitting the shelves everyday.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant of the methylxanthine class. It is the world's most widely consumed psychoactive drug. Unlike many other psychoactive substances, it is legal and unregulated in nearly all parts of the world. When it reaches your brain, the most noticeable effect is alertness. You'll feel more awake and less tired, so it's a common ingredient in medications to treat or manage drowsiness, headaches, and migraines.(Wikipedia & Healthline.com)

In the United States, nearly 90% of the population has at least one caffeinated beverage everyday. Up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day or about four cups of coffee is considered safe for an adult.

Too much caffeine for any one person can cause side effects, such as migraines, insomnia, nervousness and muscle tremors. One tablespoon of pure caffeine equivalent to drinking 75 cups of coffee at once can have lethal consequences.

Due to this risk of caffeine overdoses, in 2018, the United States Food and Drug Administration banned the bulk sale of products containing pure or highly concentrated caffeine.

While caffeine may provide great benefits, such as increased focus, alertness and energy, it comes with considerable risks just like any other substance.

Transcript provided by National Geographic.

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