Printer Friendly

Voices in your head? Cut back on the coffee; Seven cups a day could also have you seeing things.

Byline: Tony Henderson Environment Editor

DOWNING seven cups of coffee a day could leave you hallucinating and hearing voices. Durham University researchers carried out a study of people with high caffeine intakes to find out how big doses of the chemical affected the brain.

And they concluded heavy coffee drinkers who down up to seven cups of instant could be prone to hallucinations.

Their study, which also included tea and caffeinated energy drinks, found people with high intakes were three times more likely to have heard a person's voice when there was no one there compared with people who consumed less than the equivalent of one cup of instant coffee a day.

The researchers said the findings would contribute to the beginnings of a better understanding of the effect of nutrition on hallucinations.

In the study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Medical Research Council, 200 students were asked about their typical intake of caffeine-containing products, such as coffee, tea and energy drinks, as well as chocolate bars and caffeine tablets. The likelihood of them having hallucinatory experiences was then assessed, alongside their stress levels.

Seeing things that were not there, hearing voices and sensing the presence of dead people were among the experiences reported by some of the participants.

The researchers said their findings could be down to the fact that caffeine has been found to exacerbate the physiological effects of pressure. When under stress, the body releases a hormone called cortisol.

More of this stress hormone is released in response to stress when people have recently had caffeine.

It is this extra boost of cortisol which may link caffeine intake with an increased tendency to hallucinate, said the scientists.

Lead author, Simon Jones, a PhD student at Durham University's Psychology Department, said: "This is a first step towards looking at the wider factors associated with hallucinations.

"Previous research has highlighted a number of important factors, such as childhood trauma, which may lead to clinically relevant hallucinations.

Many such factors are thought to be linked to hallucinations in part because of their impact on the body's reaction to stress. Given the link between food and mood, and particularly between caffeine and the body's response to stress, it seems sensible to examine what a nutritional perspective may add."

Mr Jones said hallucinations were not necessarily a sign of mental illness. He said: "Most people will have had brief experiences of hearing voices when there is no one there."


CAFFEINE is a central nervous system stimulant, having the effect of temporarily warding off drowsiness and restoring alertness .

It is considered to be the world's most widely used drug.

In its pure state, caffeine is a crystalline white powder.

Caffeine is completely absorbed by the stomach and small intestine within 45 minutes of ingestion. When taken in moderation, studies have shown it can increase the capacity for mental or physical labour.

Caffeine use can lead to a condition called caffeine intoxication. Symptoms include nervousness, irritability, anxiety, muscle twitching, insomnia, headaches, and heart palpitations. This is not commonly seen when daily intake is less than 250mg.


CAFFEINE SIDE EFFECTS Symptoms of caffeine intoxication include irritability.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 14, 2009
Previous Article:Cash blow hits stem cell work; Scientists turned down for funding.
Next Article:Children to carry on spying.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters