Coffee makes you hallucinate. (Yeah, right….) Well, it says so in a piece of research reported in lots of today’s UK papers.
The NHS Choices website says that
This bizarre claim is based on research into 219 students who answered questionnaires on caffeine intake, hallucinations and feelings of persecution. Various other news sources have reported the study, including the Daily Mail, which says that “drinking cup after cup of coffee dramatically increases the risk of hallucinating”.
Hmm, what percentage of 219 students reporting that they hallucinate after drinking coffee isn’t taking the piss? (~0% is my rough guess.)
This hallucinogenic coffee must be the best-kept secret on the planet. After centuries of coffee drinking, noone else has ever reported a caffeine -induced hallucination but these researchers found enough coffee-trippers in of a sample of 219 students to generate comparative results.
The NHS website demolishes the “coffee makes you hallucinate” claims quite comprehensively. This is reassuring in terms of the quality of NHS advice, after spuriously precise numbers of fruit-and-vegetables to eat or steps to take every day had made me a tad sceptical.
It’s obvious why the press excitedly report such nonsense (Ben Goldacre has pretty well said everything that needs to be said on that subject). But why do research projects that a 10 year-old could find gaping flaws in get done at all?
(sparing their blushes, no names) …of the Department of Psychology, Durham University carried out this research. No sources of funding were reported. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Personality and Individual Differences.
Oh yes, publication targets for academics and universities. Publish or be damned.