After a toss-and-turn night with too little sleep and a day ahead with too much to do, caffeine can seem like your fairy godmother, giving you that magic boost you need to survive. Caffeine stimulates your central nervous system, fueling your body and brain so that you're energized and more alert. But the side effects of a caffeine high can be far more serious than a headache or crashing when your hectic day is only half over. When your body has had too much caffeine, hallucinations are a real possibility.
If you've had an espresso-shot happy day, you've probably felt the jitters of a caffeine high. If you've had so much caffeine that you've hallucinated, you're not crazy, and you're not alone. A study by La Trobe University found that large doses of caffeine cause auditory hallucinations. When caffeine is coupled with stress, the hallucinations are more likely. Just 5 cups of coffee a day were enough to increase the tendency to hallucinate, according to the La Trobe study published in the April 20011 issue of “Personality and Individual Differences.”
When it comes to caffeine intake, know your limits. Caffeine affects different people differently. If you lead a healthy lifestyle, a moderate amount of caffeine will likely have no negative side effects, according to the American Medical Association Council on Scientific Affairs. Three 8-ounce cups of coffee a day, which is about 250 milligrams of caffeine, or five servings of caffeinated soda or tea is a moderate amount for most people. Ten 8-ounce cups of coffee in one day is defined as excessive.
If you don't think about the caffeine content in your beverage, it's time to start. From your favorite cup of Joe to that deliciously sweet soda, your daily intake of caffeine can really add up. Caffeine content varies widely depending on the drink. A generic brewed 8-ounce cup of coffee contains about 95 to 200 milligrams of caffeine. An 8-ounce cup of green tea contains 24 to 40 milligrams of caffeine, while an ice tea may only contain 5 milligrams of caffeine. The caffeine content in 12-ounce caffeinated soft drinks ranges from 18 to 55 milligrams.
Energy drinks can contain dangerous amounts of caffeine because in addition to the caffeine content listed on the nutritional label, they might also contain guarana, which is a type of caffeine that manufacturers can exclude from the listed caffeine content. When a 2-ounce energy shot contains guarana, the total caffeine is much higher than 200 milligrams on the label.
Hallucinations aren't the only scary side effect you have to worry about from caffeine. With an overdose of caffeine, you may experience trouble breathing, irregular heartbeat, muscle twitching, vomiting and even convulsions. If you experience any of these side effects, seek immediate medical attention. Less serious side effects of caffeine include anxiety, depression, restlessness, difficulty sleeping, increased heart rate and nausea. These symptoms are a sign that it's time to cut back on caffeine. Caffeine withdrawals are a real thing, so it's best to cut back slowly instead of ditching caffeine cold turkey.
Ivy Morris specializes in health, fitness, beauty, fashion and music. Her work has appeared in "Sacramento News and Review," "Prosper Magazine" and "Sacramento Parent Magazine," among other publications. Morris also writes for medical offices and legal practices. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in government-journalism from Sacramento State University.