What Are Nootropics?
Nootropics are a class of drug that is used to improve cognitive function and mental energy.
Sometimes called cognitive enhancers or “smart drugs,” they target executive functions like concentration, creativity, and motivation. Other effects of nootropics use include improvements in:
- focus (i.e., the ability to absorb new information)
Although these effects are characteristic of psychostimulants, most nootropics don’t have very many psychostimulant side effects and are virtually non-toxic. Nootropics come in many forms, but the most popular and widely used one is something that almost everyone uses every day: caffeine.
The Most Popular Nootropic
Caffeine is a nootropic that exists in coffee, tea, soda, and even pills. The pill form has grown in popularity in recent years since it can provide the same mental boost as coffee without the added sugar or calories. In fact, one pill (100-300mg) is roughly equivalent to between two and four cups of coffee, which can provide energy for up to four hours. Plus, many people use caffeine pills to suppress their appetite as well as boost their energy. Today, anyone can get these pills at service stations, drug stores, and other general retailers.
Despite its popularity, however, a few misconceptions surround the consumption of this supplement that many people believe to be true. For example, many people argue that frequent caffeine use can become an addictive habit.
Is Caffeine Addictive?
While it is true that it affects the central nervous system and can incite mild physical dependence, it is technically not an addictive substance. Like most other nootropics, caffeine is relatively harmless in low doses or when used in moderation. The reason for this is because it does not have the same drastic effects on physical, mental, emotional and social health as other drugs do. The same can be said for most other nootropics. Additionally, unlike with drugs or alcohol, abstaining from things like coffee does not cause severe withdrawal or induce any harmful behaviors. The pills are no different— they have more or less the same effects as other forms of caffeine and do not carry any more of a risk of addiction development.
Common Side Effects
Although most medical professionals agree that caffeine is not an addictive substance and is considered safe to use, it does still have some side effects that affect everyone differently. The side effects vary from mild to severe, depending on how much the person has consumed. The most common side effects usually include:
- Bursts of energy followed by fatigue
- Increased heart and breathing rates
- Disruption in sleep patterns
Although caffeine is not addictive by medical standards, people who abruptly stop using it may still experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms. After all, this naturally-occurring stimulant affects the central nervous system; so, regular use can result in very mild physical dependence. The only difference is that, in this case, withdrawal isn’t very severe. Symptoms of caffeine withdrawal typically include:
- low mood
- muscle aches
- difficulty concentrating
Unlike with drug or alcohol withdrawal, caffeine withdrawal symptoms aren’t a threat to physical or mental health. Additionally, it doesn’t last more than a day or two. For these reasons, most medical professionals and addiction treatment experts agree that caffeine dependence does not qualify as an addiction.
Things to Remember
More People Consume It Than You Might Think
According to an article published by the Huffington Post, the United States is the leading consumer of coffee in the world. In fact, Americans consume a total of about 400 million cups of coffee per day— and coffee represents roughly 75% of all the caffeine consumed in the United States. However, even those who don’t drink coffee may have more caffeine in their diet than they realize. After all, it comes from the leaves and seeds of various plant life, and coffee beans are only one of several sources. Other natural sources of caffeine include:
- cocoa beans
- yerba mate
- tea leaves
- kola nuts
This means that most sodas, teas, and weight loss supplements contain caffeine. Even dark chocolate contains it. With this in mind, almost 90% of Americans consume caffeine in some form or another practically every day.
It Isn’t Healthy, But It’s Not Unhealthy Either
Caffeine may be used to help with energy and concentration, but that doesn’t mean that consuming it frequently or in large amounts is healthy. As previously mentioned, one consequence of too much caffeine is its interference with sleeping patterns. This may impact other areas of health over time if caffeine consumption isn’t kept in check. So, the best way to avoid any adverse effects is to use caffeine in moderation.
The Recommended Limit Per Day is Pretty High
Studies have shown that a consumption limit of 400mg of caffeine per day is safe for healthy adults. This equals four cups of coffee, two energy shot drinks, or ten cans of soda a day. However, the recommended limit for children is significantly lower. In fact, it’s generally recommended that children avoid consuming caffeine altogether until their mid to late teens. Otherwise, caffeine may interfere with sleep, appetite, and other essential factors of physical development.
The Pills May Contain More Than Just Caffeine
Like any other source of caffeine, the pills are typically not dangerous. However, some brands may include additional ingredients. This can be dangerous for consumers with preexisting health conditions since combining caffeine with other substances is generally ill-advised. For example, the caffeine pills that also contain ephedrine and aspirin can be hazardous to people with heart conditions. To navigate these risks, check the label for the list of ingredients and any disclaimers or health warnings.
Caffeine Dependence Help at The Treatment Center
While caffeine may not be classified as addictive, using it too frequently can be just as habit-forming as any other central nervous system stimulant. If you find yourself unable to moderate or stop your caffeine consumption, The Treatment Center can help. Call us at 855-899-5065 to speak with one of our councilors if you have any questions or concerns about your caffeine use.