Modern society is fast paced. Everything has to be done yesterday. Human beings find it next to impossible to function properly for extended periods on very little sleep in stressful environments, so most everyone finds themselves reaching for caffeine to cope. In fact, caffeine is so popular that it's available in every workplace, vending machine, restaurant, and cafe in North America. But what is caffeine really?
Caffeine the Drug
Caffeine is an addictive but unregulated drug. It is popular among university students and the middle class because of its powers as a stimulant. It acts upon the central nervous system to temporarily increase alertness while also acting as a diuretic (what is that?), stimulating the bladder to more frequent urination. The effects of caffeine decrease with prolonged use, so some people find themselves drinking increasing amounts to function. Acclimatized people stopping use of the drug suffer temporarily from headaches, irritability, drowsiness, and nausea for about five days.
Caffeine was discovered in nature rather than created in a laboratory. In its purest form it is a white powder, which can be distilled from certain beans and plants in nature, including coffee beans, tea leaves, kola nuts, and yaupon holly. Discovered and given its name in 1819 by a German chemist, caffeine's function in the plant world is as an insecticide, as it kills many types of insects when ingested and inhibits the growth of competing seedlings.
Sources of Caffeine
Caffeine is found in a large number of commonly available beverages. Coffee, made from water strained through ground coffee beans is among the most popular and potent sources. Tea, made from water strained through tea leaves, is also very popular but has about half the caffeine content. Colas and certain other sodas, which have divided the world into power distribution blocks according to brand, contain caffeine as an additive - slightly less of it than in tea. Caffeine is also naturally present in chocolate, especially dark chocolate. The most potent sources are energy drinks like Red Bull and Jolt, and pure caffeine pills, which are sold under trade names like "Wake Ups."
Misuse of Caffeine
As a drug, there are certain dangers associated with the prolonged use or overdose which could make it very dangerous to operate machinery. Long time overuse is called "Caffeinism" and results in nervousness, anxiety, irritability, muscle tremors and twitches, insomnia, lung problems, ulcers, acid reflux disease, and heart palpitations. Acute overdoses, which occur at around 300mg (1 Jolt Cola plus a cup of tea, or 3 espressos) depending on the size and tolerance level of the person, causes restlessness, jitters, insomnia, rambling speech, frequent urination, and even in extreme cases hallucinations, breakdown of muscle tissue, and cardiac arrest.