The National, Thursday 04th April, 2013
CAFFEINE is a chemical that excites the brain and nervous system. It can make you feel more alert and better able to concentrate, and it also increases acid production in the stomach, which helps digestion.
If you regularly drink large quantities of caffeine – say, five or more cups of coffee a day – you may find your tolerance has increased and you need to drink even more to get the same stimulant effect.
The disadvantages of caffeine are that it increases your heart rate and blood pressure and makes you pass more urine – so you may end up losing calcium from your body.
Sensitivity to caffeine varies, but too much can make you anxious, restless, irritable, jittery and sleepless.
It can also give you headaches, stomach pain, nausea, muscle twitching or palpitations.
Cutting out caffeine in one go may cause withdrawal symptoms, including severe headaches as well as nausea, anxiety, fatigue and depression.
Plan to gradually decrease the amount of caffeine you consume, either by drinking fewer cups of coffee each day or by gradually switching to decaffeinated coffee.
It’s important not to switch to other substances that also have high levels of caffeine, such as cola or chocolate.
Medicinal drugs, such as tranquillisers and sleeping tablets, may have been prescribed for very good reasons, but they can also cause health problems if used for long periods.
These drugs help anxiety for about a month and sleeping tablets are only effective for a couple of weeks.
After that, you may find you need a higher dose to get the same effect and even then your anxiety may increase or your sleeplessness can reoccur.
Street drugs, such as cannabis or ecstasy, can affect you depending on the type of drug, your own physiology, the amount you use, your mood and your environment.
For some people, the problems may start as their bodies get used to the repeated use of the drug, and they need higher and higher doses to maintain the same effect.
Next issue: Types of drugs
Dr Uma Ambi
Mental Health Services
PO Box 8, Boroko, NCD