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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Does Coffee Lead to Hallucinations?

Research suggests those who drink too much coffee are more likely to hallucinate, however no "causal relationship" was proven by the study.

Durham University polled 200 students on their caffeine intake and found that those who drank seven cups of instant coffee or more daily were three times more likely to "start seeing ghosts or hearing strange voices," according to a BBC article. Again, no causal link was established by the findings and experts note that such "hallucinations" do not necessarily indicate mental illness and - more startlingly - that 3% of people regularly hear voices!

Previous research indicates such hallucinations could be the result of childhood trauma and extreme duress is also a factor. When under extreme conditions, the body releases a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is also released after drinking caffeine. Cortisol levels may prove to be the triggering mechanism, as well. Of course, another expert pointed out that "stressed people may simply drink more caffeine."

Dr. Euan Paul of the British Coffee Association noted "[of] literally thousands of well-conducted, published studies... the overall conclusion clearly demonstrates that moderate caffeine intake - 400-500mg per day - is safe for the general population..." While it can be argued that Dr. Paul has a vested interest in saying this, it seems reasonable and is borne out by personal experience the world over.

My beef is with the idea that all such phenomena are necessarily "hallucinogenic" in nature.

© C Harris Lynn, 2008

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