Do caffeine pills really work and are they dangerous?
When you consider that pretty much every soft drink on the market has caffeine; that coffee shops can be found in nearly every neighborhood in America, and chocolate is the number one selling candy in the world you might just find yourself asking this question: Who exactly is taking caffeine pills and why are they taking them?
To which you might also want to add these questions: Do they really do any good and is there any real danger in taking them?
First off, we’ll look at who is taking caffeine pills. The answer, as you might expect, includes college students and shift workers who need to be alert through the night. Most college students could probably get by without the need for energy boosting medication if they would just get their schoolwork done before partying, but, well, priorities are priorities, after all. Seriously, though, many students are carrying heavy class loads along with jobs to help them pay for their education. Those all-night cram sessions and last-minute research papers can be very tiring, so it’s probably not surprising they turn to caffeine. Better caffeine than other amphetamines. And those working graveyard shifts and other long hours use pills to keep them going.
So why get caffeine in pill form instead of drinking some coffee or a soda? That’s a more difficult question and the answer can vary. When it comes to late shift workers, often they don’t have access to beverages except during breaks. For college students working desperately to beat a deadline, even that few minute it takes to make a cup of coffee or go down the hall to the vending machine may be too much of a risk. Far more likely as an explanation for the popularity of caffeine pills is that they are easily accessible, relatively cheap and don’t require brewing time or refrigeration. It is also possible that users of caffeine tablets think they work faster and stronger than caffeine diffused in liquid. There is no evidence to support that belief, however.
Do caffeine pills work? It depends on what you mean. One tablet of a typical caffeine pill is usually the equivalent of anywhere from one to 4 cups of coffee to 6 cups of coffee. If four cups of coffee gives you trouble sleeping, then you would probably benefit if you need to stay up and get something done. On the other hand, if four cups of coffee and they don‘t you, then the pills will probably go in and out of your system hardly even noticed. Yes, they do work. But no more so than their beverage-based equivalent (soda, or the all mighty energy drink).
Are they bad for you? Yes, but only if you overdo it; just as drinking a pot of coffee or a six pack of 20oz soda could be bad for you (you’d be crazy for doing it) . Among the side effects you could possibly experience are nervousness, anxiety, or restlessness; stomach cramps, increased heart rate, or chest pain; headache, light headed, or even seizures.
There is one medical problem specific to caffeine pills that aren’t normally a problem with caffeine consumption through other means. Caffeine overdose can be fatal, but in order for that to happen by drinking coffee, a person would literally have to drink over 150 cups within a short period of time. While that is technically feasible, it’s almost impossible to actually do. On the other hand, swallowing the equivalent amount in pill form is very possible and has, unfortunately, has been done.
Caffeine is not a good substitute for sleep, no matter what form it comes in. While using caffeine pills to grant you a few extra hours of alertness is certainly not a major problem, depending on these pills for energy can be. Like any other drug, caffeine’s positive effects work best when used in moderation. The temptation with caffeine pills is to pop them at the first sign of tiredness. That route will only lead to an increased need. An you might over do it.