If you’re prone to pain, beware of caffeine
Commentary written for the Carmel Current paper, Carmel, IN
I want to make a case against caffeine. I don’t want to anger all the Starbucks lovers, but everybody needs to know that caffeine is one of the major offenders associated with pain, anxiety, depression and other unwanted problems.
Caffeine actively causes pain by decreasing pain threshold and making the nervous system more alert to pain. This is why just stopping caffeine may bring some relief in pain.
The same works for anxiety and panic attacks. Multiple patients come to me with huge jars of caffeinated soft drinks, trembling, and complaining of anxiety and not understanding that their drink is what makes them sick.
Caffeine causes muscle spasms and muscle twitching. It causes headaches and actively promotes chronic headaches. Caffeine causes palpitations and increases the frequency of urination. Caffeine causes tremors and cold hands and feet. Caffeine causes ringing in the ears and insomnia.
All these symptoms happen not to an innocent extent, but rather robustly, frequently making lives of people who consume caffeine miserable. No patient with chronic pain or anxiety of any sort should use caffeinated beverages.
You may be surprised, but caffeine also is associated with depression, because it exhausts the central nervous system and causes rebound depression as it causes rebound headaches and rebound pain.
Some medications increase the blood level of caffeine, prolonging its unwanted effects. One the biggest offenders is the medication fluvoxamine, or Luvox.
On the contrary, smoking decreases the caffeine level. This is why, not infrequently, people who smoke like to drink coffee, because it produces a euphoric effect without physical unwanted symptoms.
Beware of caffeine, my friends, and abstain from it whenever possible.
Dmitry M. Arbuck, M.D., is a psychiatrist and pain management specialist at Meridian Health Group. He is board certified by the American Academy of Pain Management and the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He practices Psychiatry and Pain Management as dual specialties, helping patients with the most complicated conditions that may have become resistant to treatment. For more information, visit
Caffeine— Has the Church Changed Its Stand? B y A l l a n R . H a n d y s i d e s a n d P e t e r N . L a n d l e s s We do not drink or serve caffeinated beverages in our home. My children question the stance of the Adventist Church on this issue because many of their church friends drink these beverages in their homes and even at church functions. Has the church changed its stand on caffeine?
No, the church has not changed its stand on the issue of tea, coffee, and other caffeinated beverages. In the 2007–2008 General Conference Working Policy, page 293, we read the following: “The use of coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages and all harmful substances are discouraged.” Also, at the Annual Council in the fall of 2007, the church administration confirmed that “Adventist health care and ministries are to promote only those practices based upon the Bible or Spirit of Prophecy, or evidence-based methods of disease prevention, treatment, and health maintenance” (Ibid., p. 297).
We have firm counsel on caffeinated beverages from the Spirit of Prophecy advising avoidance. Ellen White never talked about caffeine per se, but because her description of the effects of tea and coffee reflect the actions of caffeine, we can presume she is speaking against caffeine.
Some mixed messages are coming from scientific literature regarding studies that show apparent benefits of caffeine on health. The pro-caffeine lobby ensures these reports find their way into our mailboxes with rapidity and purpose! However, the basic pharmacologic characteristics of caffeine have not changed. Caffeine is the world’s most popular psychoactive (mood-changing) drug and is used more widely than alcohol and tobacco. It can lead to physical dependence, which by definition results in a withdrawal syndrome when habitual intake is stopped abruptly. When the intake of caffeine is stopped suddenly, many and varied symptoms may result, including headaches, tiredness, irritability, lack of concentration, and nausea.
Although death from caffeine overdose is not common, it does occur and may be intentional; this situation is more likely with the ingestion of caffeine tablets. With the increasing popularity of caffeinated soft drinks and energy drinks, however, emergency room physicians and toxicologists are noting an increase in caffeine-related problems and symptoms, especially among young adults.
In 2006 almost $4 billion was spent on energy drinks in the United States alone, and this is indicative of a worldwide trend. In addition, 500 new brands of energy drinks were introduced around the world in the same year. So-called energy drinks have significantly higher levels of caffeine than the average caffeinated soft drink. Analysis of this scenario reveals the formula being used to hook children and youth: kids are exposed first to sugary soft drinks; caffeine is then added, and energy drinks are introduced. The next step is the addition of alcohol to energy drinks, which are presented and marketed in a very similar fashion. Brand confusion can easily result, aided by the strategy of pricing alcoholic energy drinks lower than nonalcoholic energy drinks. In addition, the marketing and product design targets and promotes youth consumption, aiming for the “wide-awake drunk”! What a travesty! One in 3 teens is likely to use energy drinks compared to 1 in 10 adults. We have a duty to inform our youth, set the appropriate example in our own habits, and lobby against this evil attack on our society.
Caffeine is useful as a component of certain analgesics used in the treatment of migraine as well as some other pain conditions. It will be comforting to those who find it necessary to use such medications that Ellen White alludes to her own use of coffee (presumably referring to the caffeine) on occasion as a medication. (See Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 302.)
We do well to prayerfully and consistently apply the temperance principle: “True temperance teaches us to dispense entirely with everything hurtful and to use judiciously that which is healthful” (Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 562).
A l l a n R . H a n d y s i d e s , M . B . , C h . B . , F R C P C , F R C S C , F A C O G , i s d i r e c t o r o f t h e P e t e r N . L a n d l e s s , M . B . , B . C h . , M . M e d . , F . C . P . ( S A ) , F . A . C . C . , i s I C P A e x e c u t i v e d i r e c t o r a n d a s s o c i a t e d i r e c t o r o f t h e H e a l t h M i n i s t r i e s D e p a r t m e n t .
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