, Volume 98, Issue 1, pp 81–88 | Cite as

Reinforcing and subjective effects of caffeine in normal human volunteers

  • K. N. Stern
  • L. D. Chait
  • C. E. Johanson
Original Investigations


The reinforcing and subjective effects of caffeine (100 and 300 mg, PO) were determined in a group of 18 normal, healthy adults. Subjects (eight females, ten males) were light to moderate users of caffeine, and had no history of drug abuse. A discrete-trial choice procedure was used in which subjects were allowed to choose between the self-administration of color-coded capsules containing either placebo or caffeine. The number of times caffeine was chosen over placebo was used as the primary index of reinforcing efficacy. Subjective effects were measured before and several times after capsule ingestion. The low dose of caffeine was chosen on 42.6% of occasions, not significantly different from chance (50%). The high dose of caffeine was chosen on 38.9% of occasions, significantly less than expected by chance, indicating that this dose served as a punisher. Both doses of caffeine produced stimulant-like subjective effects, with aversive effects such as increased anxiety predominating after the high dose. When subjects were divided into groups of caffeine-sensitive choosers and nonchoosers, a consistent relationship emerged between caffeine choice and subjective effects; nonchoosers reported primarily aversive effects after caffeine (increased anxiety and dysphoria), whereas choosers reported stimulant and “positive” mood effects. When compared with previous findings, these results demonstrate that caffeine is less reinforcing than amphetamine and related psychomotor stimulants.

Key words

Humans Subjective effects Mood Selfadministration Caffeine 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. N. Stern
    • 1
  • L. D. Chait
    • 1
  • C. E. Johanson
    • 1
  1. 1.Drug Abuse Research Center, Department of Psychiatry, The Pritzker School of MedicineThe University of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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