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PSA: Caffeine is a Drug

May 28, 2013

Are you a coffee drinker? Even if you aren’t, you might have noticed that everywhere you go, there’s coffee or other forms of caffeine. At the office, at the corner store, in restaurants, on airplanes, at social gatherings, in bars and quite probably in your own home: society is arranged so you never have to run out of it. Why is this so? Maybe it’s because caffeine is a drug and a large proportion of our society is addicted to it. Caffeine is the most socially acceptable of all drugs.

Now of course, caffeine isn’t bad. In practical terms, it’s very affordable and it’s not even as addictive as cigarettes or alcohol. It’s actually extracted from plants, and therefore must be good for your health. It’s nothing like cocaine, or those other addictive things we refer to as “drugs”. We let minors drink coffee. It isn’t really a drug, even though, like most drugs out there, caffeine causes a “high”, an eventual tolerance, addiction, and even withdrawal. Could our society be in denial?

caffeineHighly pure anhydrous caffeine

There’s been a recent flood of articles claiming that coffee is a healthy thing to drink, because it contains antioxidants, and therefore supposedly has anti-anging properties. I get it, as a society, we love coffee so much that we build temples celebrating it all over the world, but claims about the health benefits of coffee make me cringe. Do these supposed antioxidant properties make up for the fact that coffee causes the stress hormone cortisol to be released into your bloodstream, seemingly impairing short-term memory? Do you really think that chronic use of a stimulant will have anti-aging effects?

starbucks_one_of_270_in_nyc

Plants produce caffeine, but that does’t necessarily make it healthy. Plants produce it because of its insecticide properties. Like the prohibited chemical weapon Sarin, it is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Small amounts of caffeine interfere with the insect nervous system to the point it kills them. Clearly, humans are different creatures, but caffeine doesn’t have exclusively beneficial effects on us. Caffeine can cause an elevated heartbeat, putting you at risk of cardiovascular problems, and because of cortisol release, can cause intense anxiety, potentially leading to paranoia or panic attacks. Women probably shouldn’t consume it while pregnant.

Cup-of-coffee-coffee-17731301-1680-1050Aren’t you just craving that bitter taste?

Maybe when you think of coffee, you think of coffee beans, of refined brews, and great taste (coffee has great PR). Maybe you drink coffee every morning (or a few times during the day) and you tell yourself this is a healthy habit. If you’re a coffee drinker, I think you ought to ask yourself if you could stand to go two weeks without coffee. If you believe the answer is yes, have you ever tried doing so? Coffee probably won’t kill you today, or this year, or even this decade, but what is it really doing to your body and brain? That anxiety you feel, is it really caused by your environment, or by the coffee you drank?

Disclaimer: this post was written by a caffeine addict.

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