If you are anything like me the first thing you consume in the morning is a cup of coffee. Espresso, Caffe Latte, Cappuccino; there are many different types to choose from. Personally, I’ve always been a latte fan but I have found that it really doesn’t matter as long as I consume at least one cup a day. Without that cup of coffee I find it hard to focus and stay awake for the whole day. Even as I write this I’m drinking my second cup for today. It’s just a known fact that Australian’s love their coffee and according to studies we are ranked 42nd in the world for coffee consumption at 3kg per capita (Leigh Campbell, Huffington Post 2015). So why is it that coffee is so important to us?
Coffee is said to be the fuel for people. Many use it as a booster to keep them feeling awake and alert. But how does this work you ask? Well sleepiness occurs because of a chemical in the brain known as adenosine. Adenosine is a waste product and is used to ensure that stress chemicals in the brain do not overload. Most waste products are removed from the body. However, adenosine is a chemical which doesn’t get removed from the body throughout the day, but instead builds up and makes us feel sleepy. Adenosine is only removed from the body when you sleep. Caffeine blocks the effects of adenosine in your brain and hence is used to keep you awake.
Coffee also plays a big part in socialisation. I personally love to catch up with friends and family over a nice cup of coffee, and this seems to be the case for many people these days. With the ever growing number of cafes in Melbourne comes the increasing “coffee catch ups”. These catch ups are beginning to trump lunch and dinner dates as coffee is way cheaper than a whole meal. I mean who wants to spend $20 on food when a cup of coffee on average only costs about $4. However, with the increasing love for coffee comes the increase in debate of whether caffeine is addictive.
There has been much debate over the years on this topic and many are left wondering whether caffeine really is an addictive substance. The definition of the term addiction is ‘the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma’ (dictionary.com). This definition fits the profile of many things like drugs, alcohol, gambling and sex but does it really fit the profile of caffeine? Can you even compare caffeine to drugs?
There is some truth that caffeine can be addictive. Since caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, regular use of caffeine can cause very mild physical dependence. However, the cessation of caffeine does not cause severe trauma as mentioned in the definition of addiction above. Symptoms of withdrawal from caffeine include headaches, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms however only last for about 2-3 days and only occur to those who drink 2 or more cups of coffee a day. A scientific journal reviewed that there is ‘rarely a strong compulsion to “use” caffeine, unlike cocaine, amphetamines and other classic stimulates, denying caffeine addiction’ (American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 2006). Hence, why caffeine is not addictive as it doesn’t fully fit the definition of an addiction.
So, drink on. Caffeine does not compare to cocaine. You don’t have an addiction to coffee, you just love the way it tastes and the pick me up it gives you after a long sleepless night. Rest assured that you won’t end up in rehab from a “caffeine addiction”.