Caffeine addiction is a common problem. The most commonly consumed psychoactive substance on earth, caffeine, is used daily by an estimated 90% of Americans.1. We are in love with the mental boost it gives and habitually take it, usually without much thought. The Coffee Statistics Report2 for 2010 reports more than 400 billion cups are consumed worldwide every year. Outside the U.S., tea, with about half as much caffeine is popular.
While coffee drinking accounts for the majority of caffeine intake (75%) in the U.S., caffeine is found in many other foodstuffs (tea, chocolate, cola and other beverages) as well as over the counter medications.
Caffeine's Addictive properties
One of the difficulties with caffeine is that most people don’t think of it as a drug in the same way that they think of nicotine or alcohol. But the morning coffee that “gets us going” has the same effect as any drug – the overnight lack of caffeine creates withdrawal symptoms.
In fact, caffeine consumption can cause a lack of mental alertness. The peaks and sags of attention and energy that are the hallmark of a caffeine addict reduce overall sharpness throughout the day. Without repeated administration of caffeine, energy drops and mental attention flags. Just like other addictive drugs, caffeine addiction creates its own problems and the “cure” is more of the drug.
Good news for Caffeine Addicts
The best news is that a caffeine addiction is easily remedied for most people. Reducing daily intake below recommended levels may be as simple as drinking decaffeinated coffee and switching to a non-caffeinated cola. After just a few days, the need for the caffeine boost diminishes and goes away. The most serious effects of caffeine withdrawal are relatively minor, with headache and a depressed mood topping the list.
The withdrawal symptoms that do appear are manageable for those who understand them to be the result of caffeine addiction. By observing the hold the drug has on you, you can harness a bit of useful anger – and this can carry you through the few days it takes to get the drug out of your system.
Perhaps the real reason caffeine addiction is so prevalent is because society accepts it and it slips under our radar. The remedy is education; knowledge is power.
- New Scientist, Sept 2005
- Coffee Statistics Report