Yes, this deserves 3 exclamation marks. I can’t tell you how excited I was to do this episode. And it wasn’t just the caffeine I was using that made me excited, it really was the topic of caffeine. There are so many crazy things to know about it! Did you know it can be absorbed through the skin? Or that it is associated with smiling? SMILING!! And caffeine is something that is just so common, why wouldn’t anyone want to know more about it?
In this week’s installment of BrainWaves, I opened the show with the story of my exposure to caffeine. First came college, which led to bartending, which led to working at the NIH, and all the while I was still taking a full course of classes and trying to double major in neuroscience and history of medicine. In hindsight, this would have been impossible without caffeine.
Queue, coffee. I didn’t make enough money bartending to afford a Red Bull every morning, and even at Hopkins, I didn’t know the right people to hook me up with Adderall or any other stimulants. So I submitted to this delicious beverage. And not the Starbucks kind. The Costco brand. And boy was this a revolution! I metamorphosed into super Jim.
After a single exposure, I became so productive and energetic that I convinced my mentor to pay me for the work that I was doing. Which by the way, does NOT happen at The Johns Hopkins
University. Caffeine got me out of bed, lifted my spirits, kept me awake on the hour-long commute to Bayview, allowed me to run 24-hour timecourse experiments at the NIH throughout the night. Somehow, I could work 25 hours/week, take a full course load, work the bar a few nights a week, and graduate with 2 degrees! Caffeine was the miracle drug I’d been dreaming of.
But then I noticed it had become a problem. In the mornings after working at the pub, I would be drinking a Nalgene full of iced coffee through my 8am class. WaWa doesn’t even serve coffee in that size. Even more, I would help myself to a sizable serving of soda at lunch, tackle another cup of coffee by early afternoon, and then grab at least another cup or 2 in the evening to study and write papers. In all, 7-8 cups of coffee a day. In milligrams of caffeine, that’s about 6 or 700. I couldn’t stay awake without it. I wouldn’t say I was addicted to it, pshhhht. Ok, maybe just a little… But how did this happen??
How caffeine works, both for you and against you, is the subject of this episode. We cover the mechanism of action, related pharmacologic agents, and of course…the complications. Including the lethal ones. Yes, too much caffeine can kill you. So check out what we’ve got to say about this common chemical. It might just save your life.
As always, the BrainWaves podcast and online content are intended for medical education only, and it should not be used for clinical decision making. Yes, caffeine can be toxic. But so is water. Be smart, do your homework, and remember this is just a podcast–not a guideline for pharmacological management.
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