Too much coffee can make you hallucinate

Too much coffee can make you hallucinate

By Liz Lockhart

Have you been hearing things that are not there?  Could be that you have been drinking too much coffee!

Researchers from La Trobe University, Australia have reported in the journal ‘Personality and Individual Differences, that high coffee intake can cause auditory hallucinations.

They measured the effect of caffeine and stress with 92 non-clinical participants and found that as few as five cups of coffee per day can trigger this type of hallucination.

Professor Simon Crowe, from the School of Psychological Sciences, said ‘High caffeine levels in association with high levels of stressful life events interacted to produce higher levels of hallucination in non-clinical participants, indication that further caution needs to be exercised with the use of this overtly ‘safe’ drug.’

The 92 participants were placed in either a low or high stress condition, and a low or high caffeine condition.  They then had to listen to white noise’ and report whenever they heard the song ‘White Christmas’ by Bing Crosby during the white noise.

White noise is a background sound that humans hear as a constant fuzzy sound although it actually contains every frequency within the range of human hearing.

Those individuals who had been subjected to either high stress or high caffeine levels were more likely to self-report hearing the song, the researchers found.

‘There is a link between high levels of stress and psychosis, and caffeine was found to correlate with hallucination proneness.  The combination of caffeine and stress affect the likelihood of an individual experiencing a psychosis-like symptom,’ said Professor Crowe.

 ‘The results also support both the diathesis-stress model and the continuum theory of schizophrenia in that stress plays a role in the symptoms of schizophrenia and that everyone, to some degree, can experience these symptoms.  This was demonstrated y a significant effect of stress on the occurrence of hallucinatory experiences, or hearing the song.’ added Professor Crowe.

‘It is apparent that the health risks of excessive caffeine use muse be addressed and caution should be raised with regards to the exacerbating use of this stimulant’ he concluded.

The caffeine content in coffee depends on several different factors.  The type of bean used in the coffee varies considerably and how the coffee is brewed also has an effect on the caffeine level.

Caffeine has an effect on the human central nervous system and can perk you up when feeling drowsy and restore alertness.  It is the most commonly used psychoactive substance in the world.  Caffeine is legal and virtually completely unregulated unlike other psychoactive substances.

It is worth bearing a couple of major factors in mind before you rush off to throw your coffee down the drain.  Firstly remember that both stress and caffeine together, were seen to cause the effect of auditory hallucination.  Also consider that similar tests have been carried out over the years where auto-suggestion has caused similar reaction and these tests did not include the use of caffeine or stress. 

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