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caffeine (kăfēnˈ), odorless, slightly bitter alkaloid found in coffee, tea, kola nuts (see cola), ilex plants (the source of the Latin American drink maté), and, in small amounts, in cocoa (see cacao). It can also be prepared synthetically from uric acid. While relatively harmless, it is the most commonly used mind-altering drug in the world. When used in moderation, caffeine acts as a mild stimulant to the nervous system, blocking the neurotransmitter adenosine and resulting in a feeling of well-being and alertness. It increases the heart rate, blood pressure, and urination and stimulates secretion of stomach acids; excessive intake can result in restlessness, insomnia, and heart irregularities. The effects of caffeine vary from person to person, as people excrete it at different rates. Physical dependence and unpleasant symptoms upon withdrawal (headache, fatigue, depression) are common in regular caffeine users.


See B. A Weinberg and B. K. Bealer, The World of Caffeine (2001).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a central nervous system stimulant; trimethylxanthine, an alkaloid found in tea leaves, coffee beans, and kola nuts and obtainable synthetically.

Caffeine is administered in tablet form in cases of central nervous system depression, weak cardiac activity, narcotic intoxication, hypotonia, and migraine. A solution of caffeine and sodium benzoate, containing 38 percent pure caffeine and administered subcutaneously, has similar pharmacological properties and indications.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(organic chemistry)
C8H10O2N4·H2O An alkaloid found in a large number of plants, such as tea, coffee, cola, and mate.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


, caffein
a white crystalline bitter alkaloid responsible for the stimulant action of tea, coffee, and cocoa: a constituent of many tonics and analgesics. Formula: C8H10N4O2
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Children and adolescents can consume large amounts of caffeine in pursuit of a "buzz." Even unwitting over-consumption can produce the signs of caffeine intoxication. Parents should encourage children to carefully read the labels and avoid consuming excess amounts of caffeine.13 Only petroleum exceeds coffee as a globally traded commodity, and commerce and history of the United States are closely linked to tea consumption.
Caffeine intoxication, a recognized clinical syndrome included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases, is marked by nervousness, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, gastrointestinal upset, tremors, rapid heartbeats (tachycardia), psychomotor agitation (restlessness and pacing) and in rare cases, death.
The Senate (Domenici-Wellstone) parity bill pushes the outer limits of federal "compassion." It would require coverage of every vague disorder in the 941-page Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health -- including jet lag, spiritual crises, academic problems, and even caffeine intoxication. But even this won't be able to rein in the insanity on Capitol Hill.
The reality is that many symptoms typical of a panic attack can also be caused by caffeine intoxication or an overactive thyroid.
138) warns that manic episodes, panic disorders, and generalized anxiety disorders may resemble caffeine intoxication. Caffeinism's resemblance to panic disorder (National Institute of Mental Health, 1985, as cited in Ray & Ksir, 1990, p.
Church, an assistant professor in emergency medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, is a toxicologist and an expert in caffeine intoxication. He said that mixing the energy drink Red Bull with alcohol has been popular for years, but the marketing of Joose, Tilt, Four Loko and others poses some risks, especially with younger users who do not recognize the signs of intoxication.