The World’s Favorite Drug

A cup of coffee
By Julius Schorzman, via Wikimedia Commons

Do you drink coffee or tea? Do you get caffeine in other food or drink? Liz Waid and Luke Haley look at the effects of the drug caffeine.


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Luke Haley. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

In 1819, a young German doctor discovered a drug. The doctor’s name was Friedlieb Ferdinand Lunge. A friend had given Lunge some coffee beans to study. They were small and dark brown. As he tested the beans he discovered a chemical inside them: caffeine. Today, caffeine is the most used drug in the world. Many people depend on caffeine to help them start the day. And more and more products contain caffeine. But there are negative results from using too much caffeine. How much is too much? Today’s Spotlight is on caffeine.

Voice 2 

Caffeine is a drug that naturally exists in some foods. It is found in coffee beans, cocoa beans, guarana, yerba maté, tea and other plants. Through history, people from all over the world have grown and used plants for the effect of caffeine. But today, people commonly get caffeine through coffee, tea, or soft drinks like Coca-Cola.

Voice 1 

In a plant, caffeine is a natural pesticide - it makes insects unable to move and then kills them. But in a person’s body caffeine acts very differently. It speeds up a person’s central nervous system, inside the body. It stimulates the brain - that is, it makes a brain act and react faster. Some people feel that they can be more creative when they drink caffeine. It makes people feel more awake. And it can also increase physical performance in sports.

Voice 2 

Caffeine affects a person quickly. Imagine a person who is drinking a cup of coffee. The drug begins to affect him about five minutes after he starts drinking it. In thirty minutes, the caffeine affects the person most strongly. After about four and a half hours, his body has used about half the amount of caffeine. And by the next day, the caffeine is gone. Caffeine does not stay in the body.

Voice 1 

Many people begin their day with caffeine in coffee or tea. Spotlight writer Christy VanArragon drinks coffee every morning. But is it a good thing? She says:

Christy VanArragon

"Coffee makes me feel more awake and it helps me concentrate. But when I forget to drink it, I get painful headaches. And when I drink too much, my hands shake, and I talk really fast! Coffee is great most of the time, but it also causes some problems."

Voice 2 

These effects can be common for people who drink caffeine. In fact, people can come to depend on caffeine. People who try to stop drinking caffeine may be very tired, have muscle pains, or even have stomach pain. But these symptoms usually stop in about a week. Too much caffeine can also cause problems. People who have had too much caffeine may have head pain or stomach pain. They may have a rapid heartbeat. They may feel anxious, worried or nervous. Too much caffeine can make a person unable to sleep. But there are also more serious effects when people take extremely high amounts. These effects include a feeling of not knowing where you are, body movements you cannot control, or even death.

Voice 1

In the United States and the United Kingdom, health experts have set a safe level of caffeine a person can take. They advise that people do not take more than 400 milligrams of caffeine in a day. That is equal to about four to five cups of coffee. Many experts believe this amount is safe for an adult. Murray Carpenter wrote a book about caffeine. He told news organisation NPR:

Voice 4 

“For people who are using caffeine moderately, it is probably perfectly healthy. And we know there are some signs that we may even get some good effects out of long-term coffee drinking.”

Voice 2 

Researchers cannot agree if caffeine is good for people or bad for them. Caffeine does have some bad effects. But, like Carpenter says, caffeine also has some good effects. Research shows that drinking coffee and tea with caffeine may reduce the risks of some kinds of cancer. It can reduce a person’s risk of getting type two diabetes. And even though it increases blood pressure and a person’s heart rate, it does not seem to cause problems with a person’s heart. But these good effects do not come from drinking caffeine in soft drinks - just drinks like coffee and tea.

Voice 1 

All of this information may make a person wonder what to do! But it gets worse. That is because recently, companies have been adding caffeine to more and more drinks and food. People may not know how much caffeine they are taking.

Voice 2 

The FDA is a government agency in the United States. It sets safety rules for food and drugs there. In 2013, the FDA began investigating caffeine. They were looking particularly at caffeine in energy drinks and food. Michael R. Taylor works at the FDA. He told about a new chewing gum containing caffeine. Each stick of gum contains caffeine. He explained how products like these can be harmful for young adults and children.

Voice 5 

“The gum is just one more sad example of the movement to add caffeine to food. Our concern is about caffeine appearing in many new products. This includes products that may look good to children and young adults... One package of this gum is like having four cups of coffee with you... The large number of these products in the marketplace worries us.”

Voice 1 

Companies are putting caffeine in products that young adults and even children may want to try. Many government organizations and health experts are working to regulate caffeine. They want to make rules about what products can contain caffeine, and how much caffeine those products can use. However, it is not an easy job. Stephen Braun wrote a book about caffeine. He told the BBC:

Voice 6 

“One problem with trying to regulate the substance is that it affects everyone differently. People have different bodies and different ways of processing food. It is impossible to say what a “safe” limit is for everyone. Ultimately, you have to be your own scientist. There is no other good method than carefully experimenting on yourself.”

Voice 2 

It is important for a person to know how much caffeine he is getting through drinks and food. But it is also important for him to know how caffeine affects his body. A person should know what his body can manage.

Voice 1 

What about you? Do you use caffeine? Do you think putting caffeine in other foods and drinks is a good idea? Tell us what you think. You can leave your comments on the script page for this program.

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Liz Waid. The producer was Luke Haley. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can find our programs on the internet at This program is called, ‘The World’s Favorite Drug’.

Voice 1 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


Do you drink coffee or tea? Why or why not? If you do, do you drink these drinks because of the caffeine in them?


Avatar Spotlight
said on June 01, 2014

Nice program,Coffee is delicious but I didn’t know that too much coffee   can cause health problems.

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said on June 02, 2014

I often drink coffee before exam. It can help me concentrate and study for a long time than normal

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said on June 02, 2014

Coffee is a popular drink on the world. But beside this one in Vietnam, many peoples like to drink green tea. It is very widespread, especially in countryside. It is easily to drink and good for health. Both these two types of drinks helps you more creative and sound mind if you working under a pressure condition. I usually use coffee when working at office and green tea at home.

hellokitty's avatar
said on June 02, 2014

Do you think putting caffeine in other foods and drinks is a good idea?

Not too much and Proper caffenine can help for healthy body. So I think putting Proper caffeine in foods is good idea.

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said on June 02, 2014

I am a student. But differ from my friend, I don’t hear that don’t drink coffee from my parents. So, I often drink coffee. But I am not affected well by coffee. It is true effects differ from people to people

Luis Piedra's avatar
Luis Piedra
said on June 03, 2014

I think that caffeine is harmful in excessive.
I drink coffe twice a week.

humble71's avatar
said on June 03, 2014

Yes I do. I drink four or five cups a day and I love the variety of coffees like capuccino or mochaccino, then after reading the scripture of this program I think I have to reduce the amount of coffee in my daily life. The coffee attracts me with its smell and I think I am nervous for it , always I am desperate and in a traffic jam I can not be calm or quiet. Then I think the companies need a regulation to use caffeine in beverages for kids and teenagers , it is possible the population is getting stress quickly and is more violent for this cause ,too. Well , I would like to now what is the right amount of caffeine that is benefit for my body.  After this program I will try to take herbal tea with hot water but to beginning the day always is good to start with a cup of coffee to be awake the first hours. Thanks LIz Waid for your clear voice and all the staff of Spotlight production.

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said on June 03, 2014

So interesting!

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said on June 04, 2014

I drink Arabic coffee that is medium roasted been. Do you think the amount of caffeine in coffee is depending of roast level?

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said on June 06, 2014

Use of coffee prevents the absorption of vitamins and minerals in the body, greatly complicates the process of digestion, but also initiated the development of diseases related to lack of vitamins and minerals. Coffee negatively affects the nervous system because caffeine is a powerful psychoactive substance that produces a mild dependence, and may also affect the occurrence of insomnia, cause heartburn, diarrhea ...Coffee is also harmful to the heart and blood vessels.
All the latest research shows that caffeine is very very harmful substance for human health.
So my recommendation: replace coffee with herbal tea - it is more healthier solution.

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said on June 07, 2014

I suppose putting caffeine in other foods and drinks is not a good idea because these products can harm mainly the children’s health. Drinking coffee influences highly our brain’s activity to extend the feeling of psychical brightness. There is an indisputable fact caffeine helps prevent from the many serious diseases as cancer, heart’s insufficiency, low blood’s pressure. Evidently, many kinds of quality tea have the effects similar to coffee even persisting much longer. In my opinion, the positive effects of caffeine certainly overtop the harmfulness of this drug, however, the wise, reasonable using is necessary, in particular the moderation in using caffeine can assure the safeness of taking it.
Thanks for interesting program!

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said on June 11, 2014

I love coffee, but my mom doesn’t let me drink it. Now I understand why. Thank you very much!

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said on April 24, 2015

This is a good article to know the effects of coffe. We must drink every day but with moderation.

Nina Madeira's avatar
Nina Madeira
said on April 24, 2015

The coffee is good. But we have drink with moderation. Thank you!

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said on April 27, 2015

I like coffee! When I wake up the first thing I do is drinking a cup of coffee: it increases my blood pressure that is always too low.  I drink one else after lunch. I hope caffeine will not have bad effects in my body!

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said on May 08, 2015

I get used to drinking coffee every morning, just only one cup of coffee per day. And I think its good for my health with that amount of coffee and frequentcy of drinking. But too much coffee is harmful because i prevent us from sleeping at night. It seems we are awake all night, coffein affects to our neurons and makes them continuing working without relaxing. And also, if we drink 4 or 5 cups per day, we will be addicted. That is why i never drink over 1 cup of coffee one day and rarely drink at night.

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said on June 18, 2015

I’d like to drink coffee. But I can’t, because my physical material can not manage. It make me feel nervous and my body shake. After fifteen minutes when I drink, it cause me sneeze many times. So I reraly drink coffee.

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said on September 11, 2015

Every morning,After getting up I often drink a cup of coffee.I can’t study if without it…It make me feel concentrade.Sometime I feel nervous.If I don’t drink too much in one day I think it won’t affect to my health

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said on May 03, 2016

Starting a new day with caffeine is very important to me. it help me thinking clearly.

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said on May 05, 2016

I usually drink tea, more exactly green tea. In Vietnam, green tea is a favorite drink from countryside to city, but more popular at the countryside. I prefer drinking tea than coffee although both of them make me awake. I think green tea is bettet than coffee because of its chemical substances such as EGCG, tannin… Drinking tea every day makes you heathier and younger. Despite at the first time you drink, you won’t feel asleep but after some times, you’ll get used to enjoying it. If you maintain your routin normally day by day, you will get more and more good effects. Trust me!

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on May 06, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight program
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Friday 06, May 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid and Luke Haley:

First of all, I want to thank you to bring us readers and learners of English more one great issue.
Yes, I do. I drink two cups of coffee every day. The first cup that I drink is in the morning during the breakfast and another one is after lunch. I feel very well with this amount of coffee that I drink. No more a drop of coffee after that because at night I can be unable to sleep. I like coffee so much because I grew up drinking coffee together with my grandparents and family in the countryside in Pernambuco State here in Brazil. Coffee is a traditional drink in Brazil and almost all people drink coffee. Also, here in Brazil, there are several farmers that produce grains of coffee and make coffee in powder to sell for people at the supermarkets, bakeries, and stores. Coffee in Brasil is not expensive and we can find several places to buy a cup of coffee during the day and night.

Yours regards,
Severino Ramos

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Johanna Castillo
said on May 06, 2016

As far as I’m concerned, I’m fully against about using of caffeine a few time ago, I had a terrible experience with energy drinks , one day I drank a bottle 220v supposedly to have more energy after a weary day of work and without sleep but this produced me a terrible feeling of anguish could not breathe and my chest hurt I hope to that people can be more aware of the harmful that these kind of products may produce.

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said on May 07, 2016

My father has been addicted to caffeine, he used to drink too much coffee, he got many heart disease and i think he died of overdosage caffeine . Caffeine is not safe drug ,cuz people who can access your or other articles are less than those who are drinking too much products contains caffeine. Caffeine can cause insomnia, nervousness and restlessness, stomach irritation, nausea and vomiting, increased heart rate and respiration, and other side effects. Caffeine can make sleep disorders in patients with acquired . I wish the regulations of caffeine to be hang in cafes and places where people consume such drinks !

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said on May 18, 2016

i don’t like using coffee

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Comet Heo
said on May 19, 2016

I don’t lile drink Coffee and Tea.  I am stimulated by Coffee. It means that I just smell coffee, I can feel awka. And if I drink a cup of coffee at night, I can’t sleep all night. In necessary situation, I have to drink coffee in order to concentrate to work. But after caffein in coffee is gone, i fell tried. This is bad effect that coffee bring to me. I don’t like that.
I agree that caffein in some drinks as coffee can help people feel awake and concentrate. But if we drink a lot of, it become our routineand unless there were them, we will not can do anything. We are depend on them. It’s very dangerous.

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on May 22, 2016

I,m drinking coffee and tea everyday, twice time, morning, after weaking up dirictly, and afternoon. “I,m begining my day with caffeine in coffee or tea”. I like it. I cant srart a normal day without it.
“Coffee -and tea- make me feel more awake and it help me concentrate but when I -not drink it- I get painful headaches and when I drink too much - I get heartburn chest/ulcers-. Coffee -and tea- are great most of the time but it also causes some probles.” as Christy VanArragon said.

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Đinh Thị Duyên
said on June 07, 2016

i usually drink coffee because it helps me more awake

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said on August 12, 2016

I drink Coffee every morning. It make me feel more awake.
Occiasionally I drink soft drinks like coca cola.  I drink a lot of black tea, because I like it very much.