Why Are People Addicted to Coffee?

Philip Sherwin

Why coffee?

Coffee has become a social norm in today's culture because it helps us wake up and get that early morning energy that we all need for work or school, and let's be honest, it tastes pretty good. But why is it an addiction? Believe it or not, there is science behind our constant need for coffee.

Caffeine: Drink, Drug, or Both?

History of the Caffeine Epidemic

The complete history of the worldwide caffeine addiction dates back to five hundred thousand or more years ago. But let's focus on the immediate American history of coffee. Coffee first became a social norm after the Boston Tea Party when British tea was replaced with less expensive and more energizing American made coffee. Since then it seems that everyone in America has been nonstop consuming some sort of caffeine whether it be coffee with a shot of espresso or even some lip balms. Our endless need for caffeine is not only fueled by the booming business of coffee shops-like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts that have a presence in just about every city and town in the nation-but it is promoted and encouraged by just about every food outlet.

The Science Behind Our Coffee Addictions

Studies show that over 80 percent of adults are addicted to caffeine. You may be thinking that this is crazy talk. I mean, how could anyone be addicted to coffee? It's not a drug right? Well, actually, it is. It is classified as a stimulant (and for good reason). The way people get addicted to caffeine is by drinking coffee or various other caffeinated drinks. Caffeine gives you that boost of energy everyone needs in the morning to get through work or school without falling asleep, but this is part of the problem. When it enters a person's body caffeine stimulates blood flow by increasing someone's heart rate. After this stimulation, it takes about three to five hours for the body to eliminate half of the amount of caffeine consumed. After this, the remaining caffeine will continue to have lasting effects for eight to fourteen hours more, thus causing restlessness and sleep deprivation. When you wake up the next morning feeling tired and sluggish you will crave that next cup of coffee to wake you up and feed the addiction. This only increases the caffeine levels in the bloodstream and will increase the time it takes for the body to eliminate caffeine. This creates an endless cycle between drinking coffee to wake up and not being able to sleep because you drank coffee. Caffeine also has impacts on the body that are strikingly similar to that of drugs. Among this list are: heart disease, high cholesterol, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, insomnia, damaged blood vessels, and anxiety.

Are There Any Treatment Options?

While there is no rehab clinic for caffeine addiction, there are several options for medical treatment. Websites and addiction hot lines that can provide general guidelines for getting rid of caffeine addictions. The best way to stop is to limit consumption day to day. Try to have less and less coffee each morning so that well deserved sleep can be enjoyed. Eventually, you won't even need to have that cup of coffee in the mornings because you feel so well rested from the hours of deep sleep the previous night. This process should be done gradually, not in a weekend, as there are symptoms of withdrawal that include: headaches, sleepiness, low energy levels, and bad moods. But don't be discouraged! It is possible to stop an addiction to caffeine and regain that well rested feeling.