“As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move… Similes arise, the paper is covered. Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle,” said 19th-century French novelist and coffee enthusiast Honoré de Balzac.
Few things in life are as civilized as a good cup of coffee. Any time of day is the right time for a steaming mug of that glorious black liquid that awakens the senses, revitalizes the soul, and gives 80% of American adults just what they need to make it through the day.
It is no exaggeration to say that millions of people in this country can’t start their day without their morning coffee. But when does a healthy appreciation for coffee turn into something else? Can a love for one of mankind’s greatest achievements actually present a problem for you in your life?
Is It Possible to Become Addicted to Coffee?
Yes, it is possible to become addicted to coffee. Caffeine is a stimulant that can cause physical and psychological dependence. When someone stops drinking coffee, they may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and irritability.
Coffee contains caffeine, a stimulant that can cause physical and psychological dependence. When someone stops drinking coffee, they may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and irritability.
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that blocks the action of adenosine, a chemical that promotes sleepiness. It increases heart rate and blood pressure, and it can make people feel more alert and energetic. Caffeine is addictive because it causes changes in the brain that lead to dependence. These changes include an increase in dopamine levels and a decrease in serotonin levels.
Am I Addicted to Coffee or Caffeine?
What people become addicted to is not the coffee, per se. However, there are some social, ritualistic aspects to the addictive behaviors displayed by serious coffee aficionados. No, clearly what coffee addicts are really seeking is caffeine, which the central nervous system stimulant found in coffee. Because of the beverage’s popularity—and that of tea and sodas—caffeine is known as the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug.
What Are the Symptoms of Caffeine/Coffee Addiction?
This results in the first major qualification for dependence/addiction: tolerance. In order to continue receiving the same benefits and effects of their coffee, drinkers must ingest more and more caffeine. Too much caffeine can have adverse effects on a person’s physiology, including:
- Increased heartbeat
- Heartburn/acid reflux due to an over-relaxed esophagus
- Restlessness/”coffee jitters” due to an overstimulation of the adrenal glands
- Heart palpitations
- Diuresis, because of an increased blood flow to the kidneys
- Gastrointestinal disturbance/diarrhea due to coffee’s laxative effect
- Dehydration due to increased urination and diarrhea
- Increased blood pressure
- Stomach ulcers
- Chronic headaches
- Cardiac arrest
- Caffeine intoxication, possibly leading to coma
Many people with heart problems, high blood pressure, or digestive problems are advised by their doctors to reduce or completely cut out their coffee consumption. Then, when the person abruptly gives up their coffee/caffeine, another qualification for dependence/addiction manifests itself— withdrawal.
With the cessation of coffee consumption, the person is left with more receptors that create tiredness, fewer receptors acting as stimulators, and no caffeine to make up the difference. This creates a marked feeling of depression and lethargy. Constant, nagging headaches are also a real possibility. This unaccustomed malaise can temporarily disrupt the person’s ability to function normally, and rather than deal with the unpleasantness, they resume their regular coffee intake.
This sequence of events demonstrates the last two criteria needed to qualify as an actual addiction —repeated, unsuccessful attempts at quitting and the continuation of the habit even in the face of medical problems. If you’re wondering about your own habit of coffee consumption, just apply those four criteria to yourself.
So What Do I Do If It Turns out That I DO Have an Addiction to Coffee?
As with any addiction, the key to breaking your dependence on coffee/caffeine lies in accepting the fact that you have a problem and then changing your mindset and behaviors to achieve a healthier lifestyle. The first thing you should do is contact a professional addiction specialist, who can then meet with you to discuss the treatment plan that will help you restore balance to your life. Any professional who deals every day with other addictions—drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, etc.—will be able to give you the tools you need to overcome your problem.
While it may seem a trivial addiction compared to alcohol or drugs, an addiction to coffee can have significant effects on your body. If you keep asking the question, “Am I addicted to coffee?” it’s a good idea to find out by calling us today at 208.486.0130.