Is Coffee an Addictive Drink?

Steve GOctober 9th, 2007
By: Steve G

(Page 3 of 4)

Addictive Drink

No one will argue with the fact that caffeine is a mood altering drug. The real question is this: Is it addictive? After many years of expensive research studies, the answer is still inconclusive. However, there are studies that show coffee drinkers dealing with withdrawal pains from a sudden decrease in their caffeine intake.

As stated before, coffee acts as an inhibitor for the chemical adenosine, which dampens mood and regulates bowel movements. In the presence of caffeine, the body is fooled into thinking it has already produced enough adenosine. When a person stops drinking coffee, their body goes into high alert and then goes into hyper-production of adenosine to balance out the brain. As a result, the body becomes severely depressed which is often accompanied with a severe headache. Other withdrawal symptoms include drowsiness, lack of concentration, decreased self confidence, increased irritability and nausea.

Since coffee has some withdrawal symptoms, many people argue that caffeine should be classified as addictive. In reality, it’s up to people individually to decide whether they think coffee is addictive, because it depends upon their own definition of “addictive.” Kenneth Hirsh, author of Methylxantine Beverages and Foods, wrote “All definitions of addiction eventually boil down to a compulsion with and for a drug. It simply does not support such behavior.” By that definition, Hirsh believes that for caffeine to be addictive, people have to have an overwhelming and compelling need to get caffeine in any and all forms. Therefore, by his definition, caffeine is not addictive.

But the main problem isn’t with its addictive nature, but rather with its reinforcing quality. Other researchers believe that coffee has a reinforcing effect that causes a dependency on it. We have all heard of people who live by the maxim “that early cup of coffee to start the day.” Doesn’t that qualify as a dependency for the drug? Roland Griffiths, long time researcher of coffee at John Hopkins University, believes it’s this characteristic that qualifies it as a drug.

While caffeine may be added to the American Psychiatric Association diagnostics manual, unlike many other addictive drugs it does not make people find higher concentrations of it. Even those people who do drink large amount of caffeine taper off after they hit a certain level. Most people usually find a certain amount of caffeine that they are comfortable with and stay around that range.

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