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Wales Drug and Alcohol Helpline

Freephone: 0808 808 2234
Or text DAN to: 81066


Coffee, Tea, Cocoa, Soft Drinks and Energy Drinks, Pro Plus, Slimming Tablets

What does Caffeine look like?

In its pure natural form it is a bitter, white crystalline Alkaloid that acts as a Stimulant drug and mild diuretic. It is found in coffee, tea, cocoa, soft drinks like cola, and energy drinks.

Caffeine Drinks

Scientific Names


Generic Name


Effects Of Caffeine

Desired Effects:

Mild stimulation, alertness, reduces feelings of tiredness.


Sleeplessness, tension, palpitations, anxiousness.



Insomnia, Tolerance, overdose - an acute overdose of caffeine, usually in excess of about 300 milligrams, dependent on body weight and level of caffeine tolerance, can result in a state of central nervous system over-stimulation called caffeine intoxication ("caffeine jitters"). The symptoms of caffeine intoxication are similar to Overdoses of other Stimulants and may include restlessness, nervousness, excitement, insomnia, flushing of the face, increased urination, gastrointestinal disturbances, muscle twitching, irritability, irregular or rapid heartbeat. In cases of much larger overdoses mania, disorientation, hallucinations and Psychosis can occur. In cases of extreme overdose, death can result. Achieving a lethal dose with caffeine would be difficult with regular coffee, but there have been reported deaths from overdosing on caffeine pills.


Restlessness, acute anxiety, Dependence, Withdrawal symptoms if stopped abruptly, irritability, headaches, anxiety. Aggravation of the digestive system and heart problems. In large amounts, and especially over extended periods of time, caffeine can lead to a condition known as caffeinism. Caffeinism usually combines caffeine dependency with a range of physical and mental symptoms including nervousness, irritability, anxiety, muscle twitches, Insomnia, headaches, heart palpitations, and high usage over time can lead to peptic ulcers and other gastrointestinal problems as caffeine increases the production of stomach acid. There are four caffeine-induced psychiatric disorders: caffeine intoxication, caffeine-induced anxiety disorder, caffeine-induced sleep disorder, and caffeine-related disorder not otherwise specified (NOS).

Reducing Harm

Please view our Reducing Harm page for more information.

How does Caffeine work?

Central nervous system Stimulant, diuretic.

Legal status of Caffeine

Legal to grow, produce, supply, possess and use.

How Is Caffeine Taken?

In caffeine beverages like the wide varieties of tea and coffee drinks, cold soft fizzy drinks like colas, eaten in chocolate products, or as a flavouring in various foods. It is also used in over the counter medicines like Pro Plus as an aid the relieving tiredness and fatigue, and also in some types of slimming Tablets.


Coffeepot for brewing coffee, teapot for brewing tea, sweeteners, milk

Medical uses of Caffeine

In over the counter medicines like Pro Plus to help relieve feelings of tiredness and fatigue, and may also be found in some slimming Tablets.

Where does it come from?

Caffeine is most commonly consumed by humans in infusions extracted from the cherries (seeds) of the coffee plant, leaves of the tea bush as well as from various foods and drinks containing products derived from the kola nut (cola). Tea refers to the agricultural products of the Camellia Sinensis plant, and evergreen that grows mainly in tropical and sub-tropical climates (some varieties can tolerate cooler climates), and is an aromatic beverage prepared from the leaves with hot or boiling water. Black tea, oolong tea, green tea and white tea are all made from the same bushes but processed differently. Coffee is a brewed beverage made from the roasted seeds of the coffee plant - the two most commonly grown species are Coffea Robusta and Coffea Arabica. These are cultivated in Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa. Once ripe, coffee berries are picked, processed, and dried. The seeds are then roasted, undergoing several physical and chemical changes. They are roasted to varying degrees, depending on the desired flavour, they are then ground and brewed to create coffee. Coffee can be prepared and presented in a variety of ways. Cola is a cold soft drink containing caffeine and originates from the word 'kola' which is a nut containing a natural source of caffeine which was originally used in the making of these types of drinks. The kola nut is chewed in many West African cultures for its mild stimulant effect.

Helping services

Some people do have serious problems with caffeine. Heavy coffee drinkers often report headaches and other withdrawal symptoms if they switch to decaffeinated versions. These are temporary and it is very rare, though not unknown, for coffee addicts suffering symptoms of 'caffeinism' to present at drug agencies. GPs may be able to support people who are suffering with headaches and other symptoms related to caffeine withdrawal, a refer to further support if required. Counselling agencies may be appropriate and have had clients reporting drinking large quantities - many litres daily - of cola drinks containing caffeine. Most areas of the UK have ‘street agencies’ or projects (sometimes called community drug services or community drug teams) which offer a range of services including information and advice, counselling, and sometimes support groups and complementary therapies such as acupuncture. Some services have extended working hours and may offer weekend support. If use of this substance becomes a problem you can seek help, advice and counselling from a service in your area. GPs can make referrals to specialist drug services.

You can view a list of National Drug Agencies.

If you would like to talk about Caffeine problems then please call the DAN 24/7 Helpline on:

0808 808 2234
Last updated: 31 December 2012