Do Caffeine People Understand Addiction? Maybe a Latte.
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Do Caffeine People Understand Addiction? Maybe a Latte.


how do i know if I'm addicted to coffee

This post was originally published on May 6, 2015.

There are a few of reasons why I love the this piece on Salon about caffeine. Public interest level in the article is surely high since I would guesstimate that most people I know consume between one and seven caffeinated products a day—myself included (and much closer to the seven number at that). And as Caffeinated author Murray Carpenter points out, caffeine addicts spend more time ingesting the drug than they do thinking about the possible health effects of it. Which brings me to my love for this piece: the same can be said for anyone addicted to any drug.

Of course, if you happen to be attached to your morning macchiato, I’m sure you’d argue that there’s no comparison to be made between coffee and say, crack cocaine—that while coffee is definitely addictive, it’s not that harmful to you or other people so it’s okay not to have to know much about it or quit. And you’d be right. According to Carpenter, if people don’t struggle with sleep or anxiety issues and aren’t expecting or expecting to be expecting, then caffeine probably isn’t a concern. In fact, there’s even a suggestion that coffee—which, of course, is different from caffeine—may have certain health benefits.

Which brings me to the second reason this piece is so great. By using this portrait of caffeine addiction as a jumping off point, perhaps it can help those who don’t struggle with more serious addictions to try to understand the hurdles addicts of all kinds go through. Because, just like with any addictive drug, coffee addicts may decide that they want to moderate or eliminate their intake for various reasons and discover that they have a hard time doing so. Even the author of this piece and Carpenter himself admit to not being able to quit. The truth is that they’d have an easier time if their lives had become unmanageable and their health and family were suffering as a result of their addiction.

Despite the fact that coffee meets much of the addictive criteria in spades, some don’t even consider caffeine anything more than “mildly addictive”; after all, its users don’t hold up banks when they’re jonesing for a hit. But it’s hard to tell what the world would be like if caffeine in any form wasn’t easily accessible to everyone. Much like the argument made by Dr. Carl Hart, an associate professor at Columbia University who believes that the issue isn’t so much drugs as it is the social stigma, the problem people have with addiction is created by environment and a lack of accessibility.

The pink elephant in the room here is that we don’t want to know. People who rely on caffeine to get their days started or to keep them going have a habit that so reflexive that they just drink it and think, basically, that unless there’s some breaking news about a possible link to brain cancer, don’t bother us. Even if that theory were out there, it probably wouldn’t make a noticeable difference. I mean, what impact has that news had on cell phones users?

The third amazing element that this article brings to our attention is something I’d never really thought about before: how caffeine is marketed to non-coffee drinkers and children. Like the pimp who wines and dines you before turning you out on the streets, fun products like Wrigley gum and body spray are now coming out with caffeine-based products. The body spray Sprayable is especially interesting because its caffeine content is too low to affect average users and no adult in their right mind would ever use body spray (I said “in their right mind”).

So if your only addiction is caffeine, consider yourself lucky. You might be addicted to the only drug on the market that has no known consequences worth mentioning. But I implore you to use your dependence on it to try to empathize with the drug addict who may have never had a sip of coffee or Red Bull but foolishly experimented with crystal meth in college or blindly trusted a doctor who prescribed them Vicodin and found themselves spiraling out of control. These people have the same story in their head that you do about your morning coffee—that without it, life is unmanageable.

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About Author

Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.