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General Ignorance: Caffeine

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154255.  Tue Mar 06, 2007 11:04 am Reply with quote

Apparently it doesn't boost alertness, rather it eases the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. In other words if you never drink coffee, you're more alert than someone who has just had a double expresso.


154348.  Tue Mar 06, 2007 5:53 pm Reply with quote

That's a nice snippet. Anyone got any thoughts on how to frame it as a question?

Frederick The Monk
154483.  Wed Mar 07, 2007 6:42 am Reply with quote

This is rather what Dr Alan Carr used to say about smoking - the enjoyment comes not from the nicotene per se but from releif from withdrawal from nicotine.

154574.  Wed Mar 07, 2007 10:29 am Reply with quote

"Dr Alan Carr"

Alan (RIP from lung cancer) was an accountant...never a doctor.

154620.  Wed Mar 07, 2007 1:47 pm Reply with quote

Caffeine is an addictive drug. Among its many actions, it operates using the same mechanisms that amphetamines, cocaine, and heroin use to stimulate the brain. On a spectrum, caffeine's effects are more mild than amphetamines, cocaine and heroin, but it is manipulating the same channels, and that is one of the things that gives caffeine its addictive qualities. If you feel like you cannot function without it and must consume it every day, then you are addicted to caffeine.

154622.  Wed Mar 07, 2007 1:57 pm Reply with quote

Why do caffeine-containing drinks keep you awake?

Adenosine is created in the brain, and binds to adenosine receptors. This causes drowsiness by slowing down nerve cell activity and making blood vessels dilate.

To a nerve cell, caffeine looks like adenosine and binds to the adenosine receptor. However, unlike adenosine, it doesn't slow down the cell's activity, and because caffeine is taking up the adenosine receptors, the nerve cells are not binding to adenosine. Instead of slowing down because of the adenosine level, the cells therefore speed up. Caffeine also makes the brain's blood vessels constrict, because it blocks adenosine's ability to open them up.

The pituitary gland responds to increased neuron firing in the brain by releasing hormones that tell the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline (epinephrine). Adrenaline is the "fight or flight" hormone, and it makes your pupils dilate, your breathing tubes open up, your heart beat faster, your blood pressure rise, the blood supply increase to your muscles but decrease to your skin surface and stomach, and your liver release sugar into your bloodstream.

154623.  Wed Mar 07, 2007 1:58 pm Reply with quote

How about Are you an addict? as a question?

154849.  Thu Mar 08, 2007 6:09 am Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
How about Are you an addict? as a question?

We’d have to be prepared, in the chairman’s notes, for one of the panellists knowing that a very large proportion of experts in that field deny the existence of addiction; they consider the concept meaningless, impossible to define or test.

154881.  Thu Mar 08, 2007 7:20 am Reply with quote

Really? I thought an addictive substance was clinically defined as something that's habit forming, requires higher and higher doses to achieve the same effect as the initial dose (as the body gets used to it) and causes withdrawal symptoms when people try and come off it.

I remember seeing an interview on Panorama with a spokesman for GlaxoSmithKline when he was challenged that Seroxat should be labelled as addictive because so many people were having problems stopping using it, causing depression and suicide (a member of my family experienced this and thought that, because the drug was marked as "non-addictive", there must have been something wrong with her because she had a hard time trying to stop using it).

The spokesman quite calmly told the interviewer that Seroxat was habit forming and did cause withdrawal symptoms but, because it didn't require ever increasing doses to achieve the same effect as the initial dose, it wasn't clinically defined as "addictive" and therefore they were quite right not to put any addiction warnings on their packaging.

Now, I'm not a violent man, but I've never before wished quite so much that someone would die horribly in a belt-sander accident.

Sorry, I seem to have gone off on a bit of tangent there. As you were.

155458.  Sat Mar 10, 2007 6:09 am Reply with quote

I touched on this in 'C' for coffee, with the slightly rubbish format:

Q: What's just as good as coffee at keeping you alert?
A: No coffee.


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