Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

High Caffeine Intake Linked To Hallucination Proneness

Date:
January 14, 2009
Source:
Durham University
Summary:
High caffeine consumption could be linked to a greater tendency to hallucinate, a new research study suggests.

People with a higher caffeine intake, from sources such as coffee, tea and caffeinated energy drinks, are more likely to report hallucinatory experiences such as hearing voices and seeing things that are not there.
Credit: iStockphoto/Ong Kok Keat

High caffeine consumption could be linked to a greater tendency to hallucinate, a new research study suggests.

People with a higher caffeine intake, from sources such as coffee, tea and caffeinated energy drinks, are more likely to report hallucinatory experiences such as hearing voices and seeing things that are not there, according to the Durham University study.

‘High caffeine users’ – those who consumed more than the equivalent of seven cups of instant coffee a day - were three times more likely to have heard a person’s voice when there was no one there compared with ‘low caffeine users’ who consumed less than the equivalent of one cup of instant coffee a day. With ninety per cent of North Americans consuming some of form caffeine every day, it is the world's most widely used drug.

The researchers say the findings will contribute to the beginnings of a better understanding of the effect of nutrition on hallucinations. Changes in food and drink consumption, including caffeine intake, could place people in a better position to cope with hallucinations or possibly impact on how frequently they occur, say the scientists.

In the study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Medical Research Council, 200 students were asked about their typical intake of caffeine containing products, such as coffee, tea and energy drinks as well as chocolate bars and caffeine tablets. Their proneness to hallucinatory experiences, and their stress levels, were also assessed. Seeing things that were not there, hearing voices, and sensing the presence of dead people were amongst the experiences reported by some of the participants.

The researchers, whose paper is published in the academic journal Personality and Individual Differences, say their finding could be down to the fact that caffeine has been found to exacerbate the physiological effects of stress. When under stress, the body releases a stress hormone called cortisol. More of this stress hormone is released in response to stress when people have recently had caffeine. It is this extra boost of cortisol which may link caffeine intake with an increased tendency to hallucinate, say the scientists.

Lead author, Simon Jones, a PhD student at Durham University’s Psychology Department, said: “This is a first step towards looking at the wider factors associated with hallucinations. Previous research has highlighted a number of important factors, such as childhood trauma, which may lead to clinically relevant hallucinations. Many such factors are thought to be linked to hallucinations in part because of their impact on the body’s reaction to stress. Given the link between food and mood, and particularly between caffeine and the body’s response to stress, it seems sensible to examine what a nutritional perspective may add.”

Co–author Dr Charles Fernyhough, also from Durham University’s Psychology Department, noted “Our study shows an association between caffeine intake and hallucination-proneness in students. However, one interpretation may be that those students who were more prone to hallucinations used caffeine to help cope with their experiences. More work is needed to establish whether caffeine consumption, and nutrition in general, has an impact on those kinds of hallucination that cause distress.”

Mr Jones added: “Hallucinations are not necessarily a sign of mental illness. Most people will have had brief experiences of hearing voices when there is no one there, and around three per cent of people regularly hear such voices. Many of these people cope well with this and live normal lives. There are, however, a number of organisations, such as the Hearing Voices Network, who can offer support and advice to those distressed by these experiences.”

Caffeine use can lead to a condition called caffeine intoxication. Symptoms include nervousness, irritability, anxiety, muscle twitching, insomnia, headaches, and heart palpitations. This is not commonly seen when daily caffeine intake is less than 250mg.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Durham University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Durham University. "High Caffeine Intake Linked To Hallucination Proneness." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 January 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090113203901.htm>.
Durham University. (2009, January 14). High Caffeine Intake Linked To Hallucination Proneness. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090113203901.htm
Durham University. "High Caffeine Intake Linked To Hallucination Proneness." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090113203901.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Is your child ready? Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.S. Issues Ebola Travel Restrictions, Are Visa Bans Next?

U.S. Issues Ebola Travel Restrictions, Are Visa Bans Next?

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) Now that the U.S. is restricting travel from West Africa, some are dropping questions about a travel ban and instead asking about visa bans. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
US to Track Everyone Coming from Ebola Nations

US to Track Everyone Coming from Ebola Nations

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) Stepping up their vigilance against Ebola, federal authorities said Wednesday that everyone traveling into the US from Ebola-stricken nations will be monitored for symptoms for 21 days. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctors Help Paralysed Man Walk Again, Patient in Disbelief

Doctors Help Paralysed Man Walk Again, Patient in Disbelief

AFP (Oct. 22, 2014) Polish doctors describe how they helped a paralysed man walk again, with the patient in disbelief at the return of sensation to his legs. Duration: 1:04 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins