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The answer to the question on whether you can get addicted to coffee will depend on who you ask.
Uncle Phil, your best friend, or coworkers atwork hanging around the coffee machine will all hold wildly varying answers to the question. Researchers and medical authorities give a more consistent answer.
We all know that alcohol, heroin, meth and opiates are addictive. But, what about French roast, espresso, Sumatran, or Costa Rican? Hmmmm…
Before we get too far along, we need to make a clarification and a distinction. The active ingredient in coffee they we’re really concerned about is caffeine. For clarification, we need to ask a better question. Can you get addicted to caffeine? The distinction that needs to be made is between addiction and dependence?
Is Caffeine A Drug?
Absolutely. Caffeine is a mood altering substance.
Caffeine is a diuretic that stimulates your nervous system. It feels like a pick me up because it blocks adenoiseine which is a brain chemical that causes sleepiness. Consuming too much coffee in one sitting or throughout the day, can cause jumpiness or jitteriness.
Dopamine is the primary ‘feel good’ chemical in your brain. Dopamine also serves the function of controlling emotions, motivation, and alertness. Drugs of abuse such as opiates and alcohol produce the ‘feel good’ effect by stimulating dopamine production in the brain.
It is been shown that drugs of abuse produced 2 to 10 times the amount of dopamine that can be produced in normal daily activities.
Caffeine increases dopamine production in the brain. But, it does not produce the incredibly large surge of dopamine the drugs of abuse provide.
I love my coffee to drink it in moderation. I learned my lesson when pulling an all nighter trying to complete a term paper for my Masters degree the day before it was due. I was “only” making the little 4 cup pots of coffee. The problem was I had about four pots of 4 cups. Not only was I jittery and bouncing off the walls but my vision started to vibrate. I could hardly read.
The distinction between addiction and dependency.
You might have heard statements such as “I’m addicted to having a messiness”, “I’m addicted to French fries”, or “I’m addicted to working out”. As retired substance abuse therapist I cringe a little bit at those uses of the word addiction.
I was used to hearing “I’m addicted to heroin”, I’m addicted to alcohol”. I think a distinction needs to be made between addiction and dependence.
When we consider the idea of being “addicted” to coffee, it is almost a trick question. The trick is that the vast majority of people are not really clear on what addiction is. Addiction is a term that has come to be used very loosely.
When it comes to drugs, addiction is defined as a brain disease. Here is the ‘short version’ of addiction as defined by ASAM the American Society of Addiction Medicine
“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations.
This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission.
Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”
The primary markers for a person with dependency are mostly physiological. They are marked by two things – tolerance and withdrawal.
Tolerance: This occurs when, over time, a person’s body adapts to what they are taking and it does not produce the effect it once did. Your body gets used to it. So it takes more of the substance to get whatever effect you’re working for. For instance, if you’re looking to stay awake in your consistent heavy coffee drinker 1 cup just won’t do it. You’ll need a pot of coffee.
Withdrawal: This is simply the body’s reaction to suddenly stopping or taking less of the drug than usual. Your body and brain is saying “Whoa what happened, I need my fix. “Common withdrawal symptoms are characteristic for specific drugs.
For coffee drinkers, these effects could be headaches, being tired or insomnia, among others. We have often heard statements such as “I can’t function in the morning until I have my coffee” or “1 cup is never enough”. You may have experienced withdrawal.
So, what’s the conclusion?
If we go back to our definition of addiction, we can see pretty clearly that there is a difference between addiction to drugs like heroin and meth and a person who simply loves to drink coffee. The coffee drinker does not suffer “devastating consequences”such as overdoses and death, or have uncontrolled use even when it causes negative consequences.
While having a stimulating effect on the brain, there is no evidence of the pervasive and sometimes permanent changes in the structure, function, and chemistry of the brain that occur in addiction to drugs.
Copious coffee drinkers of the substance itself do not meet the criteria of addiction.
People can be “dependent” on coffee, however.
They rely on it and can suffer from mild withdrawal or tolerance. An article published by Harvard Medical School in the Harvard Women’s Health Watch states:
“The latest research has not only confirmed that moderate coffee consumption doesn’t cause harm, it’s also uncovered possible benefits. Studies show that the risk for type 2 diabetes is lower among regular coffee drinkers than among those who don’t drink it.
Also, coffee may reduce the risk of developing gallstones, discourage the development of colon cancer, improve cognitive function, reduce the risk of liver damage in people at high risk for liver disease, and reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Coffee has also been shown to improve endurance performance in long-duration physical activities.”
The key here is moderation, and by that we mean a few cups per day. As with any substance, excessive use can cause some problems. Since coffee is a mild stimulant, it does have some effect on the cardiovascular system.
There may be a slightly increase in blood pressure, increased heart rate, and irregular heartbeat. If you have any of these known problems, common sense says not to aggravate them with excessive uses of coffee.
Despite the warnings and information in this post there are lots of health benefits of moderate coffee drinking.
I, for one will continue to explore my hobby and passion – coffee and love every cup.
Coffee Lover’s Accessories:
Here are some gift ideas to help make your coffee experiences richer. We selected these gifts based on practicality and usefulness any coffee lover would appreciate.
1. Ground Coffee Dispenser. No need to measure every time.Designed to measure one tablespoon at a time, the dispenser can be used to place ground coffee directly into coffee makers or espresso machines. It is constructed to keep ground coffee fresh for maximum flavor, and the included base keeps counter tops clean of ground coffee spills. Holds up to half a pound of ground coffee. Click & Check it out here. Image below.
2. Digital Multifunction Kitchen and Food Scale An accurate scale is a must for precision coffee making and coffee bean roasting. This is a top seller. Precision Tare Button calculates the net weight of your ingredients by automatically subtracting the weight of any bowl or container.Runs on 2 AAA batteries (included) that automatically power-off after 2-minutes to preserve battery life. Click & Check it out here. Image below.
3. Grey Iced Coffee Maker – Travel Mug Pour hot coffee in – get iced coffee out. Make chilled iced coffee or tea in as little as 5 minutes, no ice needed and it works with any brewing method, including single cup machines, drip, and pour over methods 4 designer colors to choose from. Click & Check it out here. Image below.
4. Portable Cup Holder With Clamp – Durable, Portable, and Foldable! This is not cheap plastic – it is aluminum with great clamping power. It fits many sizes of cups and appears safe and secure when holding a 32oz filled cup, a mug (up to 3″ in diameter), a thermos, a water bottle, or a soda can. Click & Check it out here. Image below.
Zevro Indispensable Coffee Dispenser, Silver – 1/2 PoundOzeri Pronto Digital Kitchen and Food Scale, Elegant BlackZoku Grey Iced Coffee Maker, Travel Mug – Hot Coffee In – Iced Coffee OutCup Holder Desk Clip Silver – Durable, Portable, and Foldable!
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