Caffeine: A nutrient, a drug or a drug of abuse

Ricardo Pardo Lozano, Yolanda Alvarez García, Diego Barral Tafalla, Magí Farré Albaladejo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Coffee, tea, chocolate and caffeinated drinks are the main sources of caffeine, which is consumed in almost all ages and socioeconomic levels. Caffeine acts as a non-selective adenosine receptor antagonist in the central nervous system. Its main effects are as psychostimulant, acting in addition on the respiratory, muscular and cardiovascular systems. Basically, caffeine is metabolized by the hepatic cytochrome P-450 1A2 enzymes (CYP1A2). Several drugs can interact with its metabolism. The observed interindividual differences of its effects can be explained by variations in its metabolism. The main therapeutic use of caffeine is bronchodilator in respiratory diseases. Other possible uses are under investigation. Acute or chronic consumption of caffeine can induce several adverse effects, including intoxication that can be lethal. Finally, caffeine can be considered a drug of abuse. It has positive reinforcing actions, produces tolerance, and a withdrawal syndrome after stopping its consumption. Caffeine can cause different mental disorders such as dependence, which is not included in the DSM-IV-R, withdrawal syndrome and intoxication. Depending on its use, caffeine can be considered a nutrient, a drug or a drug of abuse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-238
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2007


  • Adverse event
  • Caffeine
  • Drug dependence
  • Drug of abuse
  • Intoxication
  • Pharmacokinetics


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