Nov 17, 2012 | By Tim Stoddart
The Health Effects of Coffee AddictionAddiction Resources
What is the most commonly-used psychoactive drug in the world? Caffeine. When it comes to coffee, there’s no middle ground. You either drink it or you don’t. And for those that do, chances are you’re pretty excessive about it. Coffee is like a slow drug, in fact, it’s main ingredient caffeine, is! Many people don’t consider caffeine to be a drug, and they don’t think of it as addictive. But what do you do as soon as you wake up? Grab that cup of joe! If you don’t have a cup before noon, do you get a headache? Do you turn into an intolerant half baby, half monster when you go without it? Once coffee comes into your life it can quickly take over.
History Of Coffee
However, there are early reports that it can be traced back to as early as the 10th century and originating in Ethiopia. Though, nobody knows exactly how coffee was discovered, there are multiple myths about it’s origin.
One account has said that the stimulant was first discovered by goat herder, Kaldi. Legend says that he noticed his flock eating berries from a certain tree and they became so energetic that they did not want to sleep at night.
From there, he reported his findings to the abbot of the local monastery, who made an elixir with the berries and found it kept him alert through the long hours of evening prayer. Soon after, the abbot shared his discovery with multiple monks and knowledge of the beloved berries began to spread.
As word moved east and coffee reached the Arabian peninsula, it began a journey which would travel across the globe to what we commonly know today.
A Bit About Coffee Addiction
Caffeine is the most used psychoactive substance on the planet, so it should be no surprise that coffee addiction is common. Because coffee addiction doesn’t have the same negative and life-threatening consequences as other drug addictions, most people don’t consider it to be a huge problem. (Although after seeing your monthly spending at the coffee shop, you might disagree!) But long-term coffee addiction can have some surprisingly serious effects on a person’s health.
Coffee produces a mild, positive effect, including a feeling of well-being and alertness. Higher doses can produce anxiety and nervousness, but those negative effects do not in themselves constitute serious health risks.
In the United States, more than 90% of adults use coffee regularly, and, among them, average consumption is more than 200 mg of caffeine per day. Although consumption of low to moderate doses of caffeine is generally safe, consumption of higher doses by vulnerable individuals can lead to increased risk for negative health consequences, including cardiovascular problems and perinatal complications.
Signs of Coffee Addiction
Does your head throb the minute you get out of bed until you reach for that cup of coffee? When your body is waiting for it’s caffeine fix, your blood vessels dilate. That results in nerve endings becoming irritated and triggering pain centers in your brain. Hence, the head pounding. Headaches can occur 12 to 24 hours after your last cup of coffee.
Excessive coffee consumption can dehydrate your body, leading to muscle spams. This generally happens in the calf, hamstrings, or thighs.
Do you get unusually grumpy when you’ve skipped your morning cup? This could be a sign that you’re more dependent than you think. If you’re in a bad mood when you go without, it’s a sign your brain is relying on the drug to feel good.
Your Blood Pressure Is Lowered When You Skip Your Cup
Drinking coffee can spike your blood pressure, so when you go without it, adverse reactions can happen. When this happens you may feel lightheadedness, imbalance, weakness or fatigue.
Your Body Temperature Fluctuates Without It
Since caffeine increases your heart rate and blood flow, it can also raise your body temperature. If you take the habit away, your temperature may swing the other way. You may experience feeling chilly at home, even if your thermostat remains the same temperature.
You Don’t Sleep Well
Overall caffeine intake can alter your sleep schedule. Caffeine can ultimately decrease your neurotransmitter levels including serotonin, making sleep harder to obtain. Coffee additionally blocks the adenosine receptors, which help fatigue and sleep. Cutting your coffee in the morning can help with a more soundful sleep as well as ditching the second or third cup in the afternoon.
Effects Of Coffee
- Stress-Related Effects – Caffeine raise level of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, and excessive caffeine use can lead to many health problems associated with high stress. High levels of cortisol can lead to clogged arteries and many types of heart disease. It also lowers your immune system.
- Blood Sugar Instability – Caffeine causes a sudden increase in blood sugar, which stimulates your body to produce too much insulin, which leading to blood sugar crashes. People who suffer from both diabetes and coffee addiction will have a more difficult time controlling their blood sugar.
- Sleeping Difficulties – Coffee addiction can also cause insomnia and other sleep disturbances. Too much caffeine too close to bed can make it difficult to fall asleep. A lack of sleep can also lead to greater coffee consumption in the morning, which just continues the cycle.
- Effects on Bone Health – Caffeine decreases the body’s ability to absorb calcium, so coffee addiction can lead to a loss of bone density. Osteoporosis is a particular concern for older people, especially women.
- Indigestion – Those who consume coffee have reported an upset stomach or indigestion. This commonly occurs when the beverage is consumed on an empty stomach.
- Headaches – While occasional doses of caffeine can relieve headache symptoms, the overuse of caffeine can cause headaches and lead to migraines.
- Collagen in the skin – This effect is dependent on the volume of coffee one ingests, however heavy caffeine consumers should be aware that it inhibits collagen production in the skin.
- Caffeine could reduce fertility in women – A study from The University of Nevada School of Medicine showed that caffeine can reduce a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant by about 27%.
- Breast Tissue Cysts In Women. One study showed that “Women who consumed 31–250 mg of caffeine/day had a 1.5-fold increase in the odds of developing fibrocystic breast disease and women who drank over 500 mg/day had a 2.3-fold increase in the odds of developing cysts.
Why Is Coffee Addictive?
Why is this amazing morning drink so addictive? One of the reasons is the way that it affects the human brain.
After one drinks coffee, it is absorbed through the small intestine and dissolved into the bloodstream. The caffeine in coffee is able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain due to the chemical being both water and fat-soluble.
Caffeine closely resembles a molecule in our brain called “adenosine.” Caffeine can fit exactly onto our brain receptors mimicking the molecule and block us off from it. Naturally, the adenosine produced over time locks into these receptors and produces a feeling of tiredness. Once caffeine molecules block the adenosine receptors, one can gain a sense of alertness and energy for a duration of time. When adenosine is blocked by caffeine, the brain’s own stimulants such as dopamine works more effectively and adversely, the extra adenosine that floats around cues us to secrete adrenaline, an additional stimulant.
Much like other substance’s have the ability to change the brain over time, coffee can do this as well. Once a coffee drinker builds up a tolerance, brain cells can grow more adenosine receptors, which is the brains attempt to maintain equilibrium due to the constant caffeine. Such an example can explain why coffee drinkers build up a tolerance. The more adenosine receptors one has, the more caffeine it takes to block a significant portion of them and achieved the same desired effect.
While there is still ongoing debate as to how caffeine should be classified substance wise, anyone that has ever tried to quit caffeine can attest that the withdrawal symptoms can be quite uncomfortable.If you missed your daily dose of coffee, you may be feeling irritable and fatigue.
While some withdrawal symptoms are mild, some can be serious. Caffeine withdrawal has now been recognized as a disorder. Typically, the more caffeine one consumes, the higher the risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Around 50 percent of people experience withdrawal symptoms when they cut back or eliminate caffeine and an additional study has shown that around 13 percent of individuals experience severe withdrawal symptoms, enough so they they are unable to work.
Symptoms often begin around 12 to 14 hours after stopping coffee intake. They are typically at their worst after 24 to 48 hours and can last for up to nine days.
Withdrawal effects can vary from person to person and the severity depends on how much coffee an individual was consuming. Some of the felt symptoms can include:
- Depressed mood
- Chills or hot spells
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle stifness
- Sinus problems
- Loss of appetite
- Severe premenstrual symptoms in women
If you missed your morning cup of joe, of course, the easiest way to reduce coffee withdrawal symptoms is to drink more coffee. If you are intentionally reducing or eliminating coffee or caffeine in your diet for health reasons, you can avoid some withdrawal symptoms by cutting back slowly.
There are those who prefer to quit suddenly, however it is not recommended for coffee elimination. Quitting coffee “cold-turkey” can lead to worsen withdrawal symptoms substantially. Instead, try cutting back and “taper” yourself off. Instead of two cups a day, drink one. If you currently drink regular coffee, blend regular and decaf together, gradually switching to decaf.
How Much Is Too Much?
If you’re anything like me, I can consume coffee like water after a marathon. In general, about 300 mg of coffee (or 3 cups) a day is a healthy level of consumption. However, caffeine overdose is real. Several types of symptoms occur with this condition. Some symptoms may not immediately alert you that you have had too much caffeine because they may not seem serious. For example, you may experience:
- increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Accelerated heartbeat
Other symptoms are more severe and call for immediate medical treatment. These more serious symptoms of caffeine overdose include:
- Flushed face
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Hallucinations and other nervous system symptoms
- Irregular heartbeat
- Muscle twitching/spasms or convulsions
- Respiratory problems
- Trouble breathing
Death by caffeine, is typically caused by ventricular fibrillation — a rapid and irregular heart beat that disturbs the blood flow, leading to low blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and death.
Additionally, infants can suffer from caffeine overdose. This can happen when breast milk contains excessive amounts of caffeine. Most symptoms for adults are similar to those of infants, however because infants weight much less than adults, the amount of caffeine that will cause them to overdose is much lower. Accompanying overdose symptoms for infants can include low blood pressure, vomiting, rapid breathing, and shock.
Benefits of Quitting
Although for some, a life without coffee is unimaginable, but there are some positive health and financial benefits to quitting coffee for good.
- Healthier teeth – Coffee stains teeth. Eliminating it can result in healthier and whiter teeth and give you an even better smile.
- Better sleep – Since the half-life of caffeine lasts 4-6 hours, drinking coffee too late in the day can interfere with sleep. Quitting can award you a more restful night.
- Better Mood – Have you ever felt grumpy in the morning until you’ve had your cup of coffee? Feel lethargic when the caffeine begins to wear off? Quitting can help re-balance levels in your system and ultimately put you in a better mood.
- Lower blood pressure – Coffee can raise your blood pressure. Quitting can lower it and keep your heart from working as hard.
- Save money – A Grande Latte at Starbucks is $3.65. That’s $26 a week and $1,332 each year! The cost of your coffee addiction can add up and thousands of dollars a year could be saved if you quit.
- Fewer restroom trips – Coffee cause us to urinate more often. Quitting can reduce the need to use the bathroom as often, especially in the mornings.
- Weight loss – Unless you drink your coffee black, sweetened and beverages with added ingredients can add empty calories to our diets that we don’t need.
- Caffeine works again – When consuming coffee, we usually build up a tolerance. Once you eliminate coffee, it will reset your tolerance, allowing it to work well on the occasions you really need it.
- Reduced risk of cardiac events – While consuming coffee or other caffeinated drinks, the heart muscle beats with more forceful contractions. While this isn’t problematic for most people, those with underlying heart conditions can be at a greater risk. Some people can be unaware they have a disorder until they begin to consume caffeine.
Methods For Quitting
Weaning Yourself Off
It is wise to step down the dose of your coffee intake about 10-30 mg less every three days until a zero daily caffeine amount is achieved.
- Less severe withdrawal symptoms
- Still function and be productive
- Mild to no headaches
- Less shocking to your system
- Longer detox required
- You must track your caffeine intake.
During this process, an individual ultimately stops consuming caffeine all together. Although this is the fastest way to detox, it can cause some severe symptoms like those mentioned above.
- The fastest way to detox from caffeine.
- A realization of caffeine’s influence on body functioning.
- Can produce severe symptoms
- Depending on the severity, symptoms can persist from 1 to 7 days.
- Loss of productivity can occur
- Invokes more of a tendency to resort back to caffeine due to the side effects.
There are a couple of tips and tricks to help lower your dependence while going through the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal:
- Increase your water intake.
- Replace one caffeine drink a day with a caffeine-free option. For example, if you normally drink three cups of coffee in the morning, try swapping one of those for an herbal tea or hot water with lemon.
- Incorporate exercise into your daily routine. It’s a natural stimulant for your body and central nervous system.
The experienced staff at Sober Nation are ready to talk you through what is happening in your body and explain the symptoms and sensations that you are experiencing. Medical personnel can also keep your loved ones informed of your status as you go through this process while treating you or your loved one with the compassion and respect they deserve. Some of the expert staff of Sober Nation are recovering from addictions themselves and are an active part of the recovery community around you, so they understand the pain and frustration that you experience. Turn your goal of recovery into reality and call Sober Nation today.
If you feel you or a loved one need help with an addiction, SoberNation provides tools and resources as well as a 24/7 hotline. (866) 207-7436