Adult smokers with mental illness, particularly those with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, drink more caffeine and are at a higher risk of health problems, a new study at Rutgers finds.
While caffeine is generally considered safe, it is not fully understood how it affects cognitive and psychiatric effects, especially among smokers with mental illness.
Caffeine is one of the most widely used psychoactive drugs in the US, with effects including increased alertness, attention, and vigilance.
While it is considered safe for most healthy adults to consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, consuming more than 600 milligrams is not recommended and can lead to anxiety, insomnia, excess stomach acid, and heartburn.
In the study, researchers analyzed data from 248 adult smokers recruited during a previous study.
Participants were either outpatient smokers with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder or from a control group with no psychiatric diagnoses. All participants were pack-a-day smokers.
Participants completed surveys on smoking history, caffeine use, physical health, and psychological symptoms. The researchers also collected blood samples to measure serum caffeine levels.
They found that caffeine intake was highest among participants with bipolar disorder, followed by adults with schizophrenia. The control group consumed the least amount of caffeine.
There are several theories to explain the link between caffeine intake and mental illness.
One theory is the well-established association between caffeine and smoking:
People with mental illnesses smoke at rates two to three times higher than the general population, and because the tars in cigarette smoke increase the metabolism of caffeine, it takes more caffeine to achieve stimulating effects.
Another theory links high caffeine intake to adenosine receptors and supports a possible self-medication effect among people with mental illness.
People with mental illnesses also seem to have vulnerabilities to all types of addictive substances, putting them at higher risk for excess intake and more negative consequences.
Additionally, the researchers found evidence that mood is linked to caffeine intake, especially bad mood.
Williams says that each of these explanations warrants further investigation. The effects of high caffeine intake remain understudied, particularly among people with mental illness.
Today, people consume huge amounts of caffeine in more concentrated forms like energy drinks or double shots of espresso, far more than when the participants were surveyed.
Managing mental illness can be a complex process that varies depending on the type and severity of the condition. However, there are some general strategies that may help individuals manage their mental health:
Seek professional help: It is important to seek professional help from a mental health provider such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. These professionals can provide diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing support to help individuals manage their mental illness.
Medication: For some mental illnesses, medication may be necessary to manage symptoms. Medications may include antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and others. It is important to work closely with a healthcare provider to find the right medication and dosage.
Therapy: Therapy can help individuals manage their mental illness by providing a safe and supportive environment to talk about their feelings, behaviors, and thoughts. Different types of therapy include cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and psychodynamic therapy.
Self-care: Self-care is an important part of managing a mental illness. This includes getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding drugs and alcohol.
Support: A support system can be helpful for managing mental illness. This may include family members, friends, support groups, or online communities.
Education: Learning about mental illness can help individuals better understand their condition and manage their symptoms. Education can include reading books, attending workshops or support groups, or talking to mental health professionals.
It is important to remember that managing mental illness is an ongoing process that may require a combination of these strategies. With the right support and treatment, many individuals with mental illness are able to manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives.
If you care about mental health, please read studies about vegetarianism linked to higher risk of depression, and Vitamin D could help reduce depression symptoms.
For more information about mental health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce the risk of dementia, and eating more nuts may help lower the depression risk.
The study was conducted by Jill M. Williams et al and published in Psychiatry Research.
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