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Neuropsychiatric effects of caffeine

Author(s): Winston AP, Hardwick E, Jaberi N

Abstract

Psychiatrists rarely enquire about caffeine intake when assessing patients. This may lead to a failure to identify caffeine-related problems and offer appropriate interventions. Excessive caffeine ingestion leads to symptoms that overlap with those of many psychiatric disorders. Caffeine is implicated in the exacerbation of anxiety and sleep disorders, and people with eating disorders often misuse it. It antagonises adenosine receptors, which may potentiate dopaminergic activity and exacerbate psychosis. In psychiatric in-patients, caffeine has been found to increase anxiety, hostility and psychotic symptoms. Assessment of caffeine intake should form part of routine psychiatric assessment and should be carried out before prescribing hypnotics. Gradual reduction in intake or gradual substitution with caffeine-free alternatives is probably preferable to abrupt cessation. Decaffeinated beverages should be provided on psychiatric wards.

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