Caffeine is the world’s most widely used drug. Approximately 90 percent of Americans consume caffeine in some form every day.
Is a caffeine habit harmless, or can it constitute an addiction to a potent drug? Janice Keller Phelps, MD, shares how at an addictions conference where she guest-lectured, juice and fruit were provided instead of the usual fare of coffee and tea:
“The doctors were furious. Some of the most virulent reactions came from three of the speakers scheduled to deliver addresses. They flatly refused to start the program until they had their morning cup of coffee. The sponsors had to order a special urn of coffee on the double, and we all had to sit around and wait until it was made and brought out before we could get on with the meeting. I was supposed to talk about addictions that day, but the scene we had just witnessed said more about it than I could have if I had talked all day.”
A large proportion of caffeine users exhibit dependence-like behaviors. Just one cup of coffee a day can create dependency and cause withdrawal symptoms. Caffeine has been called “bad habit glue” because it can make other drugs like nicotine more addictive.
“Grounds” for Concern. Americans consume 587 million cups of coffee per day or about 3 cups per person. The daily intake of more than half of Americans is 300 milligrams (mg) of caffeine; 30 percent consume above 500 mg.
Major dietary sources of caffeine are from coffee, tea, caffeinated soda and energy drinks. It also is found in varying amounts in chocolate, cocoa, and caffeinated juice drinks. Caffeine-spiked water, alcoholic beverages—even gum—are now available. Many drugs, especially weight-control aids, alertness tablets, pain relief medications, diuretics, and cold/allergy remedies also contain caffeine. While caffeine can serve as a rescue medicine for an occasional headache or migraine, repeated usage can cause “rebound” headaches when stopped or over-used.
Metabolic Mayhem. Caffeine causes metabolic mayhem by injecting stress hormones into the system. It manipulates dopamine for a quick lift, but it also can cause an increased risk for depressed mood and mental “fog” later on. How? Caffeine increases cortisol, a stress hormone, which at persistent high levels impairs a key memory and stress-regulating center in the brain, the hippocampus.
Caffeine uses chemical trickery to induce a state of alertness and wakefulness that finally results in fatigue and depression, much like a “plastic millionaire” uses credit cards to borrow large amounts of money that must be paid back at greatly inflated interest rates.
And interest comes due quickly with drug-induced energy and alertness. Symptoms of repeated caffeine stimulation and withdrawal are headache, fatigue, insomnia, decreased energy, decreased alertness, drowsiness, depression, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and mental “fog.” Flu-like aches, nausea/vomiting, and muscle pain/stiffness can also occur, leaving you craving more caffeine and creating a vicious cycle of dependence. The poor sleep induced by caffeine fuels weight gain, poor blood sugar control, stress, and worsening of fibromyalgia and musculoskeletal pain.
Most people find that a good way to wean from caffeine is a gradual reduction over time. If you are a heavy caffeine user, work with your health care provider and implement change gradually.
God designed you for energy, cheerfulness, and strength. He has provided spiritual and lifestyle principles to optimize your health. He will provide the strength you need to face life’s challenges: “He gives power to the weary; and to him with no vigor; He increases strength.” Isaiah 40:29
(Submitted by Betty Dean. Used by Permission from www.lifestylematters.com. Courtesy of LifeSpring – Resources for Hope and Healing, Stuart, VA.)