Caffeine can be found in a variety of beverages, such as coffee, soda, and tea, as well as in foods, like chocolate, and in some over-the-counter and prescription strength medications. The stimulant, regardless of how it is consumed, can cause jitteriness, increased urination, nausea, diarrhea, and insomnia. While these symptoms may be uncomfortable, they do not necessarily pose an immediate danger. A caffeine overdose, however, can create serious health consequences for an individual. For example, hallucinations, convulsions, an irregular heartbeat, and difficulty breathing may occur, and usually, it requires urgent medical attention.
For many coffee drinkers, the majority of typical caffeine intake comes from that beverage. For the most part, when consumed in moderation, the substance is generally harmless and rarely leads to serious or long-term problems. Anxiety, nervousness, and insomnia are among the most common physical symptoms that follow caffeine intake. These usually subside, though, unless the person continues to consume it throughout the day. Drinking excessive amounts of coffee or other products that contain the stimulant may cause a caffeine overdose.
Some over-the-counter diet pills and weight loss supplements, along with stimulant medications designed to keep people awake, also commonly contain caffeine. For most people, when taken as directed, these do not lead to any serious physical problems. Others may be more sensitive to the ingredients. however. Taking more than the recommended dosage, or using it in conjunction with other products that contain the stimulant, may lead to a caffeine overdose. When an individual accidentally, or purposely, takes too much of the medicine, symptoms of a severe caffeine overdose may become apparent. Emergency services are generally required in those instances.
When dangerous symptoms occur, hospitalization is often needed in order to stabilize the patient. An electrocardiogram (EKG) may be used to record the heart's rhythmic cycle. Blood pressure is usually monitored. Intravenous therapy (IV) may be administered as well.
In extreme cases, a doctor may recommend a gastric lavage, conducted by inserting a tube through the nose or mouth and into the stomach. During this procedure, the stomach contents are extracted. Generally, gastric lavage is performed only when high doses of a poison or substance, as in cases of caffeine overdose, are present. It is usually effective only when done within one hour of ingestion. Other types of medical treatment may include breathing support or the administration of activated charcoal to prohibit caffeine from entering the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.