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Hallucinations and Coffee

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 Hallucinations and Coffee

It has been suggested in a BBC report (14 01 09) that people who drink in-excess of seven cups of coffee per day could start seeing ghosts or hearing strange noises according to UK research.

Indeed it has also been implied that they are also three times more likely to hallucinate as opposed to their counterparts that only drunk one cup.

The study carried out by Durham University questioned over 200 students with reference to their daily coffee intake.

It has to be noted that the findings did not establish a “causal link”.

Of equal importance was the fact that having experienced hallucinations, this was not a definite sign of mental illness. Moreover, it was claimed that 3% of the people regularly hear voices.

Simon James who led the study stated, “This is the first step toward looking at the wider factors associated with hallucinations”.

What was relevant in the research was that it had been established that factors such as childhood trauma could be linked to hallucinations.

Notably, the body will release a hormone called cortisol when under stress. However after consuming greater levels of caffeine, cortisol is produced in greater quantities.

Indeed it is this extra boost of cortisol that produces the hallucination. For this reason it was deemed necessary to scrutinise the link between caffeine and mood.

In relation to intake the students were then assessed in term of their capacity to be affected to hallucinatory experiences and stress levels.

According to the report, among the experiences reported were seeing things that were not there, hearing voices, and sensing the presence of dead people. The emphasis however was to carry out more research in order to clarify the link. One argument put forward by James was simply that “Stressed people may simply drink more caffeine.”

In addition he states, “Even if caffeine were responsible for hallucinations in some way, the part it plays would be small compared to other factors in life.”

Further research is required in order to establish whether other aspects such as diet, sugar and fat consumption contribute in relation to hallucinations.

The British Coffee Associations Dr Euan Paul, has stressed that the study has only focused on people who have a very high intake of caffeine.

Significantly, research needs to be conducted with reference to other products that may cause hallucinations.

Paul argues, “There are literally thousands of well conducted published studies looking at all aspects of the coffee, caffeine and health debate and the overall conclusion clearly demonstrates that moderate caffeine intake, 400-500mg per day, is safe for the general population and may even confer health benefits.”

Importantly, research has indicated that the high caffeine intake among pregnant women puts them at increased risk of both miscarriage or low birth-weight babies.

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