My hands wrap around the warm cardboard of my to go coffee cup. The smell of roasted beans wafts up from the small hole in the top, beckoning me. I take my first sip and feel the chocolaty bitterness flow over my tongue and down my throat, warming my insides. This is the way to start a Tuesday. With every sip I feel more alert. It is not until I’ve finished my cup that I realize the mistake I’ve made. My hands start to shake. My vision becomes tunneled. I can feel my heart palpitating beneath my rib cage. Too many shots. Too little food. Four shots of espresso and an empty stomach do not mix. I go into overdrive.

Caffeine, or 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine, is the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world according to Medicinenet.com. The majority of adults world wide consume it every single day. It’s the second most traded commodity in the world, only beaten by oil. I mean, I guess one could argue it’s the oil of the body? The caffeine works to keep you awake by blocking adenosine, a naturally occurring chemical that causes drowsiness, from binding to receptors in the brain. This causes the brain’s blood vessels to constrict, helping with headaches, and neuron firing to increase. Because of this, the pituitary gland thinks an emergency is happening, causing adrenal glands to produce adrenaline, thus triggering the “fight or flight” response.

This triggering of the “fight or flight” response is what causes your heart beat to go off the charts and your muscles to tense. This can be great for late night study crams or long drives, but when is too much coffee actually too much?

Using this caffeine calculator, I found that my daily maximum of espresso for my weight is about 4.8 shots, with 119.7 shots being lethal. This explains why my four shots the other morning sent me wigging out. According to a 2005 study that investigated two caffeine related deaths, you’d have to ingest about five grams of caffeine to overdose; however, this number varies from person to person and isn’t truly known, as caffeine tolerance is highly individualized.

Caffeine seems to be the lifeblood of our society, whether that be in coffee, energy drinks, or soda. How do you like to get your fix?

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Wired on Caffeine by Zoe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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