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Caffeine is a drug that is a central nervous system stimulant. It’s found naturally in plants that produce coffee beans, tea leaves, and kola nuts.

Some caffeine pills are supplements made from caffeine extracted during the brewing process. Others contain synthetic or artificial caffeine.

Caffeine pills aren’t the same thing as pure caffeine powder. This is a loose substance sold in bulk. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed pure caffeine powder as potentially dangerous (1).

When taken as directed and in moderation, caffeine pills are safe for most people; high doses can be harmful to your health. Certain people may also need to watch and limit their caffeine intake. These include:

Caffeine pills average between 100 and 200 milligrams of caffeine per serving. A typical cup of brewed coffee contains 96 milligrams (2).

A serving can consist of one or more pills, based on package directions. Some caffeine pills are time-released. Others affect your central nervous system all at once. It’s essential to read and follow the package directions carefully to not accidentally exceed the recommended daily dosage. If misused, it’s possible to overdose on caffeine pills (3).

Caffeine consumption of up to 400 milligrams daily is considered safe for most people. Keep in mind that this amount represents your entire caffeine intake for the day. Beverages other than coffee and some foods that contain added caffeine can add to your daily caffeine intake (4).

These commonly consumed items include:

  • energy drinks
  • tea
  • hot chocolate
  • cola
  • protein bars
  • chocolate bars

Some medications and supplements include caffeine as an ingredient. Make sure to check labels on items you ingest regularly (5, 6).

The caffeine jolt provided by coffee has fueled many predawn mornings and all-night working sessions since it first came to America in the mid-1600s (7).

There are many reasons why some people choose to take a supplement instead of drinking a daily cup of joe. There are also many reasons that someone would choose to take caffeine pills. For example:

  • Some people simply don’t like the taste of coffee unless it is served with tons of sugar and fat from added cream. This may make caffeine pills preferable by providing an energy boost without adding calories.
  • Coffee is acidic and can be irritating to the gastrointestinal tract. This could cause heartburn, especially if you drink it black. Caffeine pills eliminate the acid, but caffeine itself may still increase reflux symptoms in some people.
  • In addition to caffeine, coffee contains other naturally occurring components. These include coffee oils, such as cafestol and kahweol. They can raise cholesterol levels in some people. The effects may be more pronounced in individuals who drink large amounts of unfiltered coffee, such as boiled brews or espresso. Caffeine pills don’t contain coffee oils, and don’t appear to have this same effect (7).
  • Caffeine is a diuretic. Both coffee and caffeine pills may increase urine output. However, some people may need to use the bathroom more frequently if they drink fluids containing caffeine. This may make pills a better choice for those in certain professions, such as long-haul truckers, train conductors, and bus drivers.
  • It can be easier to overdo it with caffeine pills than to drink cup after coffee cup. This may lead more quickly to a caffeine overdose.

Caffeine may reduce your risk for certain diseases, including liver disease, but it’s not clear if this is due in part to the antioxidants found in coffee (7, 8, 9, 10, 11).

The central nervous system, including the brain, feels the impact of caffeine shortly after consumption. This provides temporary benefits, such as:

Caffeine in moderation can provide benefits. But if you overdo it, the reverse can become true. Too much caffeine can overstimulate, or irritate, your system. Side effects and risks of taking too much caffeine include:

  • headache
  • acid reflux and gastric distress
  • diarrhea
  • may reduce calcium absorption, which could cause weakened bones
  • rapid heartbeat
  • high blood pressure
  • dizziness
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • muscle tremors, or jitters
  • pregnancy loss
  • reduced fertility in men and women

If you have too much caffeine, an overdose can occur. Extremely high, toxic doses — such as those associated with caffeine powder — may be fatal (8).

Other serious side effects associated with toxic caffeine overdose include (12):

When used correctly, caffeine pills can help you stay awake, remain alert, and provide increased energy. It’s vital to use caffeine pills according to the package directions and not overdo it. Caffeine is a drug best used in moderation. If you experience any adverse effects, contact your healthcare provider immediately.