Psychological Effects of Caffeine


Caffeine is a widely used drug due to its omnipresence in beverageslike cola, coffee and tea. Additionally, most drugs, which are easilyaccessible, contain caffeine. The drug has a psychological effect onconsumers. This is because caffeine is a habit-forming drug.

Caffeine causes a stimulating activity to the central nervous systemand body organs, which results in specific psychological effects thatare behavior oriented. When a user consumes the drug, they experiencecertain behaviors. The user gets fast, clear flow of thinking, itdispels drowsiness as well as fatigue, in addition to enhancing theability of more sustained intellectual effort (Bolton &amp Null,1981). It as well results in keen appreciation of sensory stimuliwhile at the same time reducing reaction time. Motor activityenhances, for instance, typists are able to work at a faster rate andmake fewer typing errors. The fast and clear flow of thinking isbecause the drug “blocks adenosine receptor action” (Nehlig, 2004p. 40). The effect of caffeine on alertness is more likely to happenafter consuming the drug in the morning, during the night or aftersleep deprivation. Generally, caffeine might result in more alertingeffects on individuals that are fatigued.

There are both positive and negative effects of caffeine on the moodof consumers. When consumed in minimum and moderate doses, the drugcauses positive moods. This is because the users experiences afeeling of well-being, is able to feel calm, content and experiencesan energetic stimulation (Nehlig, 2004). The drug causes stimulationto the nervous system that creates a calming and energetic feeling.On the contrary, when consumed in high doses caffeine’s effect onmood is negative. It enhances anxiety, as the consumer feels tense.The high drug intake causes stimulation to the nervous system, whichresults in an immediate contractile impact on striated muscle (Bolton&amp Null, 1981). The contractile effect becomes apparent throughanxiousness. Other consumers may also exhibit depression. However, itis important to note that the effect of caffeine on mood might beinfluenced by the consumer’s arousal state during caffeine intake.

Caffeine has substantial prospective for dependence. Dependencecriteria involve withdrawal, tolerance, immense desire or failedendeavor to stop using the drug and use of more than the supposedamount of caffeine (Striley, Griffiths &amp Cottler, 2011). Mostpeople that are used to taking caffeine find that they have to take acup of coffee in the morning to be able to wake up, which is anindication of mild dependence on the drug. In extreme cases ofdependence, consumers experience withdrawal symptoms that range fromlosing self-control, experience on and off agitation as well asdepression (Bolton &amp Null, 1981). The withdrawal symptoms causeusers to develop dependence. This is better illustrated in a studywhere coffee drinkers consumed more coffee when the caffeine contentwas reduced, which is a result of the psychological dependence on thedrug (Bolton &amp Null, 1981).

Caffeine results in reinforcing effects on users. Drug reinforcementis the capability of a drug to maintain habitual self-administration.Research shows that caffeine is more effective as a reinforcer whenconsumed in coffee, tea, capsules and soft drinks (Juliano,Ferre &amp Griffiths, 2009). For frequent users of the drug,avoiding low grade withdrawal signs like tiredness followingovernight self-restraint, has been determined as a major mechanism,which acts as the basis of caffeine’s reinforcing effects (Juliano,Ferre &amp Griffiths, 2009). As a result, any endeavor toalleviate withdrawal signs enhances reinforcement. Reinforcement canalso happen in the form of habituated flavor preferences (Striley,Griffiths &amp Cottler, 2011). This means that consumers unknowinglydevelop a strong liking for particular kinds of beverages thatcontain caffeine.

The drug has a psychological effect on sleep. Caffeine causesinsomnia owing to its stimulating activity. Research has shown thatthe drug disrupts sleep when taken all through the day or prior tosleeping (Juliano, Ferre &ampGriffiths, 2009). The effects on sleep range from delayedsleep, reduced sleeping time, alteration to habitual sleep patternsand a reduced quality of sleep. Due to the ability to result ininsomnia, researchers have employed the drug as a challenge agentwhen studying insomnia (Juliano,Ferre &amp Griffiths, 2009). Various aspects determine theimpact of caffeine on sleep. These are amount of caffeine consumed,interval between ingestion and trying to sleep, and personaldisparities in tolerance and sensitivity. When consumed in highdoses, caffeine results in more loss of sleep. When consumed prior totime to sleep or frequently during the day, it delays sleep andminimizes sleeping time. Sleep disturbance is more evident inindividuals that are not regular caffeine users.

There are psychological effects on the memory of caffeine users.Following consumption, there is the possibility that users’experience “enhanced performance on delayed recall, recognitionmemory, and verbal memory tasks” (Nehlig, 2004, p.39). In addition,caffeine causes enhanced performance on memory retrieval. However,the effects on memory are dependent on intake levels. When taken inlow levels, individuals are more likely to experience positive memoryrelated effects. Higher doses have the capability of reducing theability to recall. This implies that caffeine may either result inadvantageous or negative effects on consumers.


Bolton, S &amp Null, G. (1981). Caffeine psychological effects, useand abuse. Orthomolecular Psychiatry, 10(3), 202-211.

Juliano, L. M., Ferre, S., &ampGriffiths, R. R. (2009). Caffeine:pharmacology and clinical effects.&nbspPrinciplesof Addiction Medicine 4th ed. ChevyChase, MD: American Society of Addiciton Medicine.

Nehlig, A. (2004). Coffee, tea, chocolate and the brain. NewYork: CRC Press.

Striley, C. L. W., Griffiths, R &amp Cottler, L. B. (2011).Evaluating dependence criteria for caffeine. Journal of CaffeineResearch, 1(4), 219-225.