A psychoactive drug is something that changes how the brain functions, resulting in alterations in perception, mood and consciousness. So…coffee or general caffeine does exactly this! It is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug, and a legal one for that matter!

The way caffeine works is quite simple… Adenosine regulates cycles of sleeping and waking; while you’re awake, it accumulates in the brain, eventually causing you to feel tired again, preparing your body for sleep. Caffeine blocks these adenosine receptors from communicating with the brain, inevitably acting as a mild stimulant, so the body and mind are ready for action.

So, a morning cup of coffee can start you off on the right foot, but be warned, coffee quickly becomes addictive. The body rapidly adapts to the level of caffeine being consumed on a daily basis, thus reducing the impact of caffeine on the brain and body, making you feel like you need another cup of caffeine. Imagine if you never drank caffeine and then had a strong espresso – it’s likely that the strong espresso will have a much bigger impact on you than the third cup of coffee drunk by a 4 cup a day person.

If someone were to suddenly stop drinking caffeine, they would probably experience symptoms of withdrawal – headaches, nausea, dizziness, reduced alertness, irritability and sleepiness, while the body adjusts without its normal caffeine ‘fix’.

There is really no advisable amount of caffeine one person should have daily, but the recommended maximum intake is 3-4 drinks. This can be done pretty easily – one cup of coffee, one cup of tea, a can of coke and a chocolate bar has enough caffeine to keep you going for the day. Bear in mind that it takes 3-5 hours for the body to break caffeine down, which is why you should be careful not to drink it close to bedtime.

The thing to remember is, caffeine is essentially a drug - and that’s the way to treat it. It’s okay to have your usual ‘fix’, as long as it’s within limit. If you find yourself over-dosing on caffeine, you should try and slowly decrease the amount each day to avoid withdrawal symptoms, and get yourself to the level that’s just right for you. You can always save that extra cup of coffee for that one tedious project you’re working on!

It’s easy to lose count of how much caffeine you’re drinking at work. Every time you get up from your chair, it’s to get a coffee or tea. Try and make sure you’re drinking more water than caffeine, so every time you do go to make yourself a caffeinated drink, grab a glass of water too. Remember to pay attention to your body. If something isn’t right, your body will be the first to tell you – and it will also tell you when you’ve had enough caffeine, some people will become hyperactive, get the shakes or have trouble sleeping. That’s when you know it’s time to cut down your daily dose!

Coffee beans: Coffee Lovers
Coffee and Tea mugs: Diversified Health Clinic