Addiction Recovery and the Problem with Caffeine

Addiction recovery and the oversized coffee cup go hand-in-hand.  For most people, drinking a cup of coffee in the morning is somewhat of a necessity. Having a soft drink or some iced tea at lunch is typical, and popping into your local coffee shop later in the day for a latte is just what we do. Without thinking we’ve already consumed as much as 220 to 230 mg of caffeine, according to an article written by The Mayo Clinic appears to be safe for most adults. That story wasn’t so different from mine not too long ago, but today even the thought of a cup of coffee makes me cringe.

I never once gave it a second thought. Since the young age of 6 or 7, coffee and soda’s were just another option when deciding on what to drink instead of a dreadful glass of water. I liked the crisp and refreshing taste of soda, and the warm aroma of a big cup of coffee. In high school I can remember drinking at least 2 or 3 bottles of cola a day, and when iced coffee became popular I would have at least one of those as well.

“Caffeine is probably the most widely used drug” according to VMS Laboratory, a project funded at Carnegie Mellon University. Whether anyone cares to see the reality of this is the real question. In an article written by NPR’s David Greene he writes, “Caffeine is a drug. Treat it as such.”  That may sound a little absurd and embellished at first, but it might just give you the jitters when you take into account the number of side effects regular caffeine consumption is attributed to like: insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, upset stomach, and muscle tremors to name a few.

According to the VMSL, “100-200 mg of caffeine can result in increased alertness and wakefulness, faster and clearer flow of thought, increased focus, and better general body coordination.” At the same time however, “It also results in restlessness, a loss of fine motor control, headaches, and dizziness.” The article also states that “In greater quantities (greater than 2 grams), insomnia, agitation, tremors, and rapid breathing begin to appear” and that ”Caffeine also fits the definition of an addictive substance, with withdrawal symptoms, an increase in tolerance over time, and physical cravings.”

It’s been over a year since I’ve had any caffeine (well, minus the once or twice I absolutely NEEDED a vanilla coke or a Thai iced tea). Originally, what prompted me to decrease my caffeine intake were my work environment and being around it constantly, and drinking it consistently. I used to never feel tired at night, and a lot of the time at work I would lose my focus. When I decided to cut down on how much I was taking in, I found out how much easier it was for me to remember things while I was at work or at home. It was tough for me to quit the coffee at first. I found that after I cut caffeine out completely, I could fall asleep when I wanted to and wake up when I needed to, which was more than enough reason for me to say goodbye Coca-Cola.

Cutting out caffeine completely may sound extreme, but I think moderation can be something that most people can agree upon, especially where addiction recovery is at play. Maybe your body can handle the occasional Frappuccino or Dr. Pepper without having to deal with a night of tossing and turning. You might just possibly live after drinking a Redbull one crazy night. For those people who consistently consume caffeine as much as I would though, it may not be such a bad idea to give your delicious drink a second look, and realize the effects it may have on your day-to-day life. Maybe try some controlled Starbucks-ing. You may be surprised at what a few days of being caffeine free can do for you. But hey, it’s whatever helps you sleep at night.

 

Sources:

Caffeine: How much is too much? – Mayo Clinic Staff

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20045678

Caffeine Effects: The Effects of Caffeine in the Body – Virtual Mass Spectrometry Laboratory

http://svmsl.chem.cmu.edu/vmsl/Caffeine/Caffeine_effects.htm

Wake Up And Smell The Caffeine. It’s A Powerful Drug. – NPR Staff

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/03/13/289750754/wake-up-and-smell-the-caffeine-its-a-powerful-drug

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