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Essay on Schizophrenia and Caffeine

Schizophrenia is a problem for scientists to understand. Schizophrenia has many causes and can vary greatly in terms of the impact it can have from person to person. Moreover, schizophrenia can be difficult to objectively diagnose, which presents another problem for sufferers of the disorder. Despite this, it is argued by many that caffeine and other drugs can negatively impact people who have schizophrenia. This overview of this debilitating disease represents only a sample of the top quality work and essay writing help provided by Ultius.

Schizophrenia and Caffeine

Schizophrenia, like PTDS in war veterans, has been one of the most puzzling mental illnesses that has ever been documented in humanity. This disorder is still not entirely understood and experts only have theories about the factors that cause schizophrenia to effect some people and not others. Either way, the Nation Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) classifies this disorder as the following:

“schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder,” and states, “people with the disorder may hear voices other people don’t,” and “believe other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts or plotting to harm them,” (NIMH).  

Though scientists do not entirely understand this disorder, they do believe that certain chemicals, such as caffeine can be the cause to exacerbate certain symptoms and behaviors of schizophrenia of those that suffer from this disorder. Studies have shown a link between the intake of caffeine and the persistence of certain symptoms as well as the frequency of the onset of those symptoms. Therefore, it is necessary for those that are living with schizophrenia to be extremely cautious before ingesting caffeine into their systems with its potential side effects. It is also necessary for further research to be performed in order to fully comprehend to effects of certain chemicals on patients suffering from this disorder.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

First, it is important to understand a basic idea of the symptoms commonly seen from those suffering from schizophrenia. Schizophrenia symptoms can be largely classified into three distinct groups:

  • Positive – Positive symptoms are defined as, “psychotic behaviors not seen in healthy people,” (NIMH).  According to NIMH’s classification of schizophrenia, these symptoms can include thought and movement disorders, hallucinations, and delusions of the patient.  These types of symptoms can vary in both severity and prevalence depending on the patient.  For example, a particular patient may for a time suffer from “hearing voices,” which is a common type of hallucination, for a limited time during which they feel the voices dominate the majority of their thoughts and senses and then, suddenly, have the “voices” subside.
  • Negative – Negative symptoms are defined as being, “associated with disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors,” (NIMH).  These types of symptoms are harder to recognize and distinguish because they can appear to be other mental conditions such as depression or even general laziness.  Some of the common negative symptoms include:

“Flat affect, lack of pleasure in everyday life, lack of ability to begin and sustain planned activities, and speaking little, even when forced to interact,” (NIMH).

  • Cognitive – Cognitive symptoms are the most subtle, difficult ones to detect in patients suffering from schizophrenia. They are usually only revealed in findings when other tests are performed upon patients. These symptoms can include such as having difficulty paying attention or focusing on a specified task, exhibiting poor executive functioning, or basic decision making, and having a poor immediate, working memory (NIHM). Schizophrenia sufferers displaying these characteristics are often treated with cognitive behavioral therapy.

Improper diagnoses

One of the most puzzling and difficult aspects of understanding schizophrenia is in both its cause and its diagnosis in early stages. For many that suffer from it, the symptoms can be wrongly categorized. This is especially true for a person that displays only negative and cognitive symptoms. It is more likely for a clinician to not want to attribute lack of attention to a disorder as extreme as schizophrenia; rather that individual would more likely state the patient has a form of ADHD. Another problem is in defining what actually causes this disorder. Currently, experts have two major areas that are being researched to understand the cause of the disorder: genetics and the environment and brain chemistry and structure.

Genetic basis

Scientists have looked into if a specific gene or group of genes is responsible for triggering symptoms of this particular disorder and other forms of mental illness. It has been well documented that this particular disorder seems to occur the most frequently to patients that have had a history of it in their family. In fact, although this disorder only affects 1% of the general population, it has been seen that number of patients with the disorder with a direct relative that also suffers from the disorder jumps by a factor of ten (NIHM). This would suggest that there could be a passing on of genetic material that would make an individual more susceptible to developing this particular disorder. However, as it currently stands, the research in this field is still inconclusive. Scientists will not discredit the idea of genetics being responsible for the disorder, but they do recognize

“it probably takes more than genes to cause the disorder,” (NIHM).

They also feel that there may be a connection between genetic material and the exposure to certain scenarios in the environment, however this too is very vague and highly difficult to create in a testable environment.

Chemical imbalance

The other prevalent theory in the cause of schizophrenia comes from the idea behind brain chemistry and structure. The theory is that an imbalance between neurotransmitters, especially dopamine and glutamate, may be responsible for the onset and symptom prevalence of those that suffer from the disorder. With addition to this, scientists have noticed that the brain structure, as a whole, is slightly different for those that have the disorder. One theory as to why these different structures exist is:

“problems during brain development before birth may lead to faulty connections. The problem may not show up in a person until puberty.  The brain undergoes major changes during puberty, and these changes could trigger psychotics symptoms,” (NIHM).

As with the theories on genetics and the environment, more research is needed to fully understand the cause of this particular disorder.

For those that live with schizophrenia, it would appear that certain types of behavior can have a physical effect on the manifestation of their symptoms. One such chemical that is seen and used by a large percent of the population (both those that suffer from the disorder and those that do not) is caffeine. Recent studies have looked at what effect caffeine can have on those that suffer from the disorder and especially to what effect it has on the symptom manifestation to the patient. The findings of the studies seem to state a reoccurring story.

American caffeine Intake

Within the U.S., caffeine intake is higher than that of many other geographic areas of the world. It is not unfair to say that caffeine is one of the drugs of choice for the United States in particular and one of the few legal substances contained in the American drug culture. The daily intake of caffeine is over double what it is for other geographic locations in the world. The average user of caffeine in America takes some 500 mg daily compared to the just 200 mg daily of the rest of the world. The effects of such a high intake of caffeine can have a pronounced effect on those that suffer from schizophrenia. Dr. Paul TC Lam found that there exists evidence that links increases in positive symptoms of schizophrenia to the amount of caffeine taken daily. This is largely due to the fact that caffeine works by acting on the adenosine receptors within the central nervous system that are directly responsible for controlling dopamine neurotransmitters (Lam).

Adenosine receptors and dopamine

The relationship between adenosine receptors and dopamine is quite important to the relation between caffeine and schizophrenia symptoms. As noted by Winston et al:

“as adenosine inhibits dopaminergic neurotransmission, blockade of A2A receptors by caffeine may increase dopaminergic activity and exacerbate psychotic symptoms,” (Winston et al).

In a study, thirteen patients all diagnosed with schizophrenia were given high doses of caffeine after not taking any for 6 weeks preceding the study. The results of this test showed that the patients exhibited an increase in:

“the unusual thoughts sub-scale score on the BPRS (Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale),” (Winston et al).

This would suggest the patients that had a high amount of caffeine, in this case 10 mg/kg of body weight (Winston et al), are more likely to exhibit positive symptoms.

Side effects of caffeine

Some of the side effects that caffeine can have on an individual can be just as important to examine with regards to the persistence of positive, as well as other, symptoms of schizophrenia. Caffeine can cause:

These effects are not necessarily the most detrimental to a normal, mentally stable individual, but they can have a different effect on a person that is suffering from schizophrenia. These types of secondary symptoms that caffeine can have on a person can be seen as a means to exacerbate the symptoms that a schizophrenic patient may exhibit. For example, the agitation that can be caused by extended caffeine use could cause a patient that suffers from the disorder to become more hostile and exhibit some of the positive symptoms that accompanies their disorder. IT is not necessarily the primary effects of caffeine that can have an overall effect on the patient (Griffiths & Mumford).

Caffeine in conjunction with other factors

There have also been studies that look at the link that caffeine has on other substances that will affect patients that suffer from schizophrenia, especially with regards to their positive symptoms. A study by Gurpegui et al looked at the intake of caffeine and compared that to the prevalence of both drinking and smoking of individuals that suffer from the disorder.  Their findings were quite interesting. The study found that:

“heavy smokers appear to consume more caffeine than non-heavy smokers; non heavy smokers consume more caffeine than nonsmokers,” (Gurpegui et al).  The study goes on to state that “neither current caffeine intake nor the amount of caffeine intake was significantly associate with the severity of schizophrenia symptomatology,” (Gurpegui et al).

What this study really brings into light is just how much is still left to be determined in the scientific community as to what causes the onset and prevalence of symptoms of the disorder. It also represents an opportunity to curb some of the behaviors of avid smokers.

Conclusion

Though current research is somewhat conflicted, it would appear that there is a correlation to the amount of caffeine one takes in and the display of their schizophrenic symptoms. Though other factors, such as tobacco intake, may also play a role in the prevalence of certain positive symptoms, the reoccurring data makes a strong case that in some way the caffeine is having a perverse effect on the brain of the patient. The current scientific community needs to delve into further research to truly understand and comprehend the nature of this particular disorder exploring it to the genetic level. By continuing to perform research, scientists will move closer and closer to having a clear way of identifying the symptoms that are present and correctly identifying them as being part of a patient that is suffering from schizophrenia. In addition to this, it is important that the community tries to understand and decide on what sort of substances will exacerbate the current symptoms of those that currently are suffering from this disorder. Substances such as caffeine need to be further studied as to understand their full effect on the schizophrenia community as a whole. With the continuing endeavors of the scientific community, humanity moves one step closer to understanding what has been one of the most confusing mental disorders to ever effect humans.

Works Cited

Griffiths, Roland R., and Geoffrey K. Mumford. “Caffeine: A Drug of Abuse?” Neuropsychopharmacology: The Fifth Generation of Progress. 2000: n. page. Web. 5 Dec. 2012. .

Gurpegui, Manuel, Carmen Aguilar, Jose Martinez-Ortega, Francisco Diaz, and Jose de Leon. “Caffeine Intake in Outpatients with Schizophrenia.” Schizophrenia Bulletin. 30.4 (2004): 935-945. Web. 5 Dec. 2012. .

NIMH. “National Institute of Mental Health.” National Institute of Mental Health. (2009): n. page. Web. 5 Dec. 2012. .

Tam, Paul TC. “Medical Bulletin.” Medical Bulletin. 13.2 (2008): 16-18. Web. 5 Dec. 2012. .

Winston, Anthony P., Elizabeth Hardwick, and Neema Jaberi. “Neuropsychiatric effects of caffeine.” Advances in Psychiatric Treatment. 2005: n. page. Web. 5 Dec. 2012. .

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