The Most Addictive Drug in the World

People all over the world use caffeine. More than 60 plants, including the kola nut and cacao pod along with coffee and tea, contain the drug. Globally, the coffee industry alone is worth $100 billion. Companies that manufacture and sell coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, and chocolate profit enormously from the chemical.

Benefits of Caffeine

As with many substances, there are pros and cons associated with caffeine. Ingesting small amounts of caffeine — whether it’s through chocolate, coffee, tea, soft drinks, or some medications — may be beneficial for some people. It can boost memory and improve concentration.

The National Coffee Association surveyed 3,000 Americans about their coffee-drinking habits. They found that more than 64% of Americans drink at least one cup of coffee each day. Many of them enjoy the surge of energy coffee provides in the morning. They may continue to drink it throughout the day for the additional boost of energy it delivers, because it’s a habit, or as a way to relieve boredom.

In addition, some students and others use energy drinks that contain large amounts of caffeine to improve their test scores or job performance. Studies have suggested that caffeine also may have other potential health benefits such as lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s or liver cancer, although research has provided conflicting conclusions about this.

Risk of Addiction

On the other hand, a combination of genes and environmental factors may put some people at risk of developing a caffeine addiction. The fact that it’s “only” caffeine or that it’s legal to buy caffeine doesn’t mitigate the dangers of using excessive amounts of it. You can be addicted to caffeine if you drink as little as one cup of coffee a day, according to LiveStrong. On average, Americans limit their intake of caffeine to 200 mg daily.

If you are a Starbucks patron, you may be interested in the amount of caffeine each of their drinks contains whether you order it inside their shop, or brew Starbucks’ K-cups or consume their bottled beverages at home.

For most people, drinking a moderate amount of caffeine may produce enjoyable effects, and it may also be safe. However, drinking coffee potentially can become more than a pleasurable habit. For some people, it may become an addiction, although not precisely the same type of addiction as alcohol and some other drugs can cause. The key difference between caffeine addiction, and addiction that alcohol and other drugs can trigger, is that the adverse effects of caffeine are not as severe as with a drug that stops a person from breathing or destroys the liver.

Still, people inarguably can become dependent on caffeine because of the chemical changes it can cause in the brain. People who consistently consume caffeine will quickly develop a tolerance, and need more and more of it to produce the same positive effects.

Addiction to caffeine may cause an increased heart rate, sleeplessness, agitation, twitching, an upset stomach, and other unpleasant symptoms.

Other Health Problems Associated With Caffeine

Harvard Men’s Health Watch warns that most people “should consume no more [caffeine] than 400 mg per day, which is the amount found in (depending on the bean and the roast) about four cups of coffee or up to 10 cups of black tea. However, those who have had a heart attack or have been diagnosed with heart problems should restrict their caffeine intake to half of that.

Taking 400 mg of caffeine 30 minutes before bedtime can cause “both severe sleep disruption as well as important cardiovascular effects during sleep likely related to increased sympathetic activity,” according to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Some people may underestimate the amount of time they need to allow between consuming caffeine and their bedtime. However, the article points out that ingesting caffeine even 6 hours before you go to sleep can have “important disruptive effects on sleep.”

Withdrawal from caffeine, too, can cause difficulty. Its symptoms — “headaches, fatigue, decreased alertness, drowsiness, anxiety, feelings of nervousness and difficulty concentrating” — may be confused with withdrawal from amphetamines, cocaine, and other substances of addiction.

If you find that caffeine is interfering with your ability to work or sleep, or causing other undesirable symptoms, you should seek help from your primary care physician or call the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) national hotline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357).




  1. David Acevedo on January 14, 2020 at 10:39 pm

    Well I ain’t got THAT addiction either! We just have to NEVER, NEVER, EVER HATE a substance, any substance, except maybe uranium, EVER.

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