Study: Drinking too much coffee can spur drug-like hallucinations

Thursday, June 16, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: drinking coffee, hallucinations, health news

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(NaturalNews) Most people have probably either heard, or even made, various tongue-in-cheek references to coffee being a type of drug, but a new study out of La Trobe University in Australia has determined that the popular beverage basically is one. Drinking coffee can actually cause people to experience hallucinations where they either hear or see things that are not really there, the team found.

Prof. Simon Crowe and his team from La Trobe tested the effects of coffee on 92 participants, all of whom were under varying amounts of stress, and who were consuming differing levels of caffeine on a daily basis. Researchers subjected participants to several minutes of the famous song White Christmas by Bing Crosby, followed by several minutes of random white noise and static.

Participants were instructed to push a buzzer every time they thought they heard bits or pieces of White Christmas playing in the background of the noise and static, even though it never actually was. At the conclusion of the test, the research team found that people under lots of stress who consume coffee regularly were up to three times more likely to hit the buzzer than other participants.

"If you are stressed and have a high level of caffeine, you are more likely to notice things that aren't there, see things that aren't there," said Crowe. A follow-up study showed that even a moderate 400 milliliters (ml), or about 13.5 ounces of caffeinated coffee, produced the same hallucinogenic effects when consumed under the right conditions.

Hearing songs that were not actually playing, however, is not the only side effect of consuming too much caffeine. Prof. Crowe added that roughly 15 percent of people on caffeine report hearing voices, seeing ghosts, and even "sensing telepathy."

"It's a drug like anything else," said one man to Australia's Herald Sun. And another man who works as a coffee barista said, concerning the actions of coffee drinkers, "Some of the stuff they talk about, it's the most warped conversation -- really left-field conversation."

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