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I've been reading about homeostatic nature of a lot of neurobiological processes - the brain is trying to maintain a balance by desensitizing receptors, re-uptaking and breaking down neurotransmitters.

With this in mind, I'm interested in what happens to the receptors in the brain with chronic use of caffeinated beverages. Let's say an occasional caffeine drinker likes the cognitive boost of caffeine and starts to consume it habitually/chronically - every day. Will the caffeine drinker experience the same effects day after day, or will the effect change over time?

If there is a change in how the body responds to caffeine, are there any time frames that can be used to estimate when the change takes place - is it X days/weeks of habitual use?

Thank you for your input!

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Related CogSci question: cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/111/… –  jonsca Nov 13 '12 at 12:44

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

I don't have any references off hand (though if you like, I will find them). The body acclimates to caffeine intake, becoming desensitized to chronic caffeine use, analogous to chronic narcotic use. Habitual coffee drinkers, soda drinkers, and so forth must achieve the same level of daily caffeine intake to maintain a normal state of being. Taking in less caffeine leads to withdrawal symptoms, and taking in more caffeine leads to the familiar stimulatory effects. As for time frame of addiction, this likely varies, but I hazard a guess it's on the order of a few days to a week. Fortunately, caffeine is not nearly as strong and addictive as narcotics, however it is the most widespread.

Edit: Caffeine exerts high-affinity and low-specificity for adenosine receptors. This was a review article I fould that may help you out.

  1. Dunwiddie TV, Masino SA. The role and regulation of adenosine in the central nervous system. Annu Rev Neurosci. 2001;24:31-55.
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While not an opioid, caffeine IS most certainly a drug (not sure what you mean by narcotic). It is also quite addictive as I can state from personal experience, but if that is no enough see, for example, here. In any case, it is certainly more addictive than many narcotics. –  terdon Nov 13 '12 at 13:05
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Just illustrating that like opiods (which are known to be highly addictive, and change neural receptor regulation), caffeine (an alkaloid) has similar pharmacological effects and similar addictive qualities. –  leonardo Nov 13 '12 at 23:02
    
It is the receptor regulation that I'm most interested in. –  Alex Stone Nov 14 '12 at 21:54
    
@AlexStone I've added a review article for you. –  leonardo Nov 14 '12 at 23:05

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