Can I Become Addicted to Caffeine?

coffee addictionTo answer the question ‘can I become addicted to caffeine’, you have to first definition what ‘addiction’ means. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, that in the early nineties was established as being chemically addictive.

In fact, caffeine withdrawal is now included as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

However, let us not forget that caffeine is consumed in the most ordinary settings like your car, office or the university campus, which is something one can hardly do with the drugs that most of us associate with being addictive.

Caffeine is just not seen that way. Furthermore, caffeine addiction is not detrimental to your social, physical or economic well-being like a typical (drug) addiction.

If caffeine consumption is stopped abruptly, you most probably will experience withdrawal symptoms which can include headaches, anxiety, depression, fatigue, difficulty in concentration and irritability. Despite this, withdrawal symptoms are not as acute as those of harmful drugs, or even alcohol.

The best part is that dependence on caffeine can be kicked in as little as two days, for those mildly dependent on it or roughly two weeks for those who are more dependent. Symptoms of caffeine withdrawal can be minimized by weaning off caffeine slowly instead of doing it abruptly.

Since the symptoms associated with caffeine withdrawal are not anywhere as severe as those associated with street drugs, caffeine addiction is not thought of as a serious addiction.

How Does Caffeine Affect the Human Body

Caffeine affects the body in many ways, some of them are positive while others negative. Positive effects include the blocking of neurotransmitters in the brain. Caffeine resembles the neurotransmitter adenosine, and it takes the place of adenosine in receptors cells in the brain.

This in turn, leads to an increase in the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine which helps to improve various features of brain function like mood, energy levels, overall cognitive function, and vigilance. Studies show that caffeine speeds up fat metabolism by 10% in obese people and 29% in individuals who are lean (1).

This is why nearly all fat burning commercial products contain caffeine. Ingestion of caffeine prompts the brain to signal to the fat cells to break down fat and release fatty acids in the body for fuel and also increase adrenaline levels in the blood.

Together, the effects of caffeine boost physical performance by roughly twelve per cent. A lot of people do not realize that other than caffeine, each cup of coffee contains many important nutrients in reasonable quantities like riboflavin, manganese, niacin, potassium, pantothenic acid and magnesium.

Although caffeine offers a number of health benefits associated with it, it also has some negatives and caffeine can also cause allergies in some people. Roasting of coffee beans at high temperatures produces acrylamide which is a potential carcinogen (2).

Excessive consumption of caffeine can also interfere with mineral absorption. People who consume healthy diets probably do not realise that they are unable to benefit from their healthy choices, because the ability of their kidneys to retain calcium, magnesium and zinc is compromised.

Caffeine also has a negative effect on the digestive system. It can urgently bring on the need to use the bathroom (peristalsis). Peristalsis enhances gastric emptying, which means that the contents of the stomach are rushed into the small intestine before they have had to chance to be broken down fully, this makes absorption of nutrients difficult and raises the risks of inflammation in the intestines.

Other minor problems associated with caffeine consumption include the body becomes accustomed to caffeine, so over a period of time, to get the same benefits of alertness and energy, you have to increase the amount of caffeine you consume.

So, Can You Become Addicted to Caffeine?

Expert psychologists  claim the term should be ‘caffeine dependency’ not an addiction, because you don’t truly lose control of your actions after ingesting even high amounts of caffeine. Caffeine dependency on the other hand can cause withdrawal symptoms which can last quite a while in some people.

Resources:

1 – http://ajpendo.physiology.org/content/269/4/E671
2 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carcinogen

About Andy James

Andy is a coffee aficionado and green tea enthusiast! Healthy living plays a huge part in his life and that of his family. Coffee and caffeine used to be a taboo topic, but after much research into its health benefits and how a good old cup of 'Joe' fits into every day life, Andy now advocates coffee as a wonderful addition to anyone life (in moderation, of course). So you will find subjects on this website relating to health, as well as everything else you need or want to know about coffee. You can find Andy on Twitter and Facebook, and also on Google +.

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