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Is Caffeine Addictive? A Scientific Review

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Caffeine is found in numerous foods and drinks. For most people, the idea of going through a day without a bit of caffeine may be considered madness. Coffee enthusiasts, soda and tea drinkers, and even chocolate lovers get daily doses of caffeine without thinking much about it. But have you ever sat down and wondered if the caffeine we consume daily is addictive? Could you go through life without it?

While many try to say caffeine addiction is a real thing, others don’t agree. Can caffeine be grouped with dangerously addictive street drugs and narcotics? While the answer to that question is no, that doesn’t mean caffeine isn’t addictive for some. Even though the American Psychiatric Association doesn’t recognize caffeine addiction as a disorder, they do believe more research on the subject should be conducted. Let’s take a deeper look at this controversial topic so you can decide where you stand on the subject.

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What is Addiction?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, Substance Use Disorder, or SUD, is when a person has an uncontrollable need to use a substance despite the harmful consequences. The more severe SUDs are called addictions. People who suffer from addiction can, unfortunately, have changes in their brain function. When this happens they may experience personality changes, cravings, and in some cases, lapses in judgment.

People who suffer from addiction will also build up a tolerance to the substances they crave. When this takes place, more and more of the substance is required to get the same feeling. During this phase of addiction, people may find themselves doing things that are harmful to themselves to get more of their drug of choice. These addictions are known to affect people’s social, physical, or economic health adversely. These effects and the dangerous withdrawals people often face are some of the reasons addiction can be so deadly and dangerous.

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Image Credit: Izz R, Unsplash

Caffeine and Addiction

Now, where does caffeine addiction fall in the Substance Use Disorder discussion? That’s where things get a bit tricky. Caffeine is a stimulant that when consumed affects the brain, much like illegal drugs. Where the differences come in is the other ways it affects us. Yes, the more used to caffeine you become, the more you need to achieve the same feeling. However, it doesn’t affect you socially or economically, only physically. This is why the American Psychiatric Association doesn’t label caffeine addiction as a SUD. However, they do recognize caffeine withdrawal as a clinical condition. Currently, only the World Health Organization views caffeine addiction as a condition.

The Dangers of Caffeine

While experts may decide to follow the World Health Organization’s classification of caffeine addiction, for now, that’s not the case. What they will admit to, however, is certain dangers that caffeine use poses. According to WebMD, moderate use of caffeine by adults isn’t dangerous. When consumed at high levels, however, caffeine can raise blood pressure which is often linked to cardiovascular disease. According to research though, this normally only happens to adults who have caffeine sensitivities.

The other danger of caffeine is the withdrawal symptoms people suffer from when they try to eliminate caffeine from their diet. While these withdrawal symptoms don’t linger, they can be intense in the beginning. Here are a few of the things you can expect to experience if you find yourself suffering from the condition of caffeine withdrawal.

  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Tremors
  • Depression
  • Low energy
  • Concentration issues
woman in red shirt holding her head while looking at her laptop
Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Is Treatment Available for Caffeine Addiction?

While some experts don’t believe caffeine is addictive, it is possible to receive treatment if you feel you suffer from this condition. Often, this condition goes hand in hand with other mental health issues. If you or someone you know feels they are suffering from caffeine addiction, reaching out for counseling and treatment can help you kick your habit, whether it’s considered addictive or not.

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Final Thoughts on Caffeine Addiction

While the jury is still out on whether caffeine is addictive or not, it’s clear that many people love this stimulant and what it does for them each time they consume it. Whether you feel you’re addicted to caffeine or are just a loyal fan, keeping tabs on your caffeine consumption is a smart idea. If you feel you’re teetering into addictive territory, reach out for help. No matter what the experts say, if you feel caffeine is becoming dangerous in your life, it’s best to let the professionals assist you through the ordeal.


Featured Image Credit: subarasikiai, Pixabay

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Melissa Gunter

Melissa has been a fan of coffee since the first sip she stole from her Granny's cup when she was just a girl. Now, she spends each morning writing with a hot cup of coffee at her side. With a love of sweet and creamy bliss, Melissa and her daughter, Amber, stop by and try out every local coffee shop they see. Neither are afraid to try something new and have a long list of favorite coffee beverages they simply can't do without. When she's not freelance writing about her 2 passions, coffee, and pets, Melissa spends her time with her husband, 2 kids, and 5 fur babies. She also loves diving into the fiction world under her pen name, Rena Marin. If she isn't at the laptop or with the family, Melissa is out enjoying the mountains of East Tennessee she calls home.

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