Can too many cups of coffee cause hallucinations?

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According to findings published online in Personality and Individual Differences, too many cups of coffee can increase the likelihood of hallucinations. According to Simon R. Jones, Ph.D., and Charles Fernyhough, Ph.D., both of Duham University and authors of the study, eight or more cups of coffee a day triples the chance of hearing voices. The study, which focused on college students, did not find an association with delusions of persecution, a common symptom of hallucinations. As such, the researchers believe that these hallucinations are solely coffee induced rather than reflective of undiagnosed mental illness. Caffeine increases the release of cortisol when consumed which may explain the psychotic experiences. The following is an excerpt of an article from Medpage Today that reviews the study’s findings:

The pilot study surveyed 219 university students regarding typical caffeine intake over the prior year (including coffee, tea, chocolate, soda, energy drinks, and caffeine tablets), stress level, and psychotic symptoms using a questionnaire scale.

The students averaged 141 mg of caffeine per day, similar to student populations in previous studies, the researchers noted. By comparison, a cup of instant coffee contains 45 mg of caffeine, one Starbucks coffee has 188 mg of caffeine, and Red Bull energy drink contains 80 mg of caffeine.

Not surprisingly, the students reported higher caffeine intake when their stress level increased (P<0.02).

Higher caffeine intake also increased the likelihood of hallucination-like experiences (P<0.02), which included reports of seeing things that were not there, hearing voices, and sensing the presence of dead people.

Although auditory hallucinations are often a symptom of schizophrenia, most healthy people have a brief experience of hearing voices at some point in their lives and about 3% regularly hear voices, Jones and Dr. Fernyhough noted.

Click here to read the rest of this article from Medpage Today

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