Ask anyone who has ever missed that cup of coffee in the morning and they’ll say that caffeine addiction is real. When it goes beyond thinking you need a cup of coffee as an afternoon pick-me-up to causing physical symptoms when you don’t have it, it can seem real. But can something as seemingly harmless as caffeine really be addictive? And can it be as hard to kick as a drug?
Here at Legacy of Wilmington, we want to cut through the myths to see if caffeine addiction is real, and if it’s something you need to address. Addiction can go beyond drugs or alcohol, and one addiction can go hand-in-hand with another.
Let’s learn more about caffeine addiction in today's post. If you, or a loved one, need help with drinking or drugs, reach out to Legacy Freedom. You'll love our outpatient Wilmington NC alcohol rehab and drug treatment programs.
Caffeine is a naturally occurring compound found in coffee beans and tea leaves. It’s also found in cacao pods, which are used for chocolate, and in kola nuts. Even if you don’t drink coffee, you’re still consuming it if you drink tea or soda, or if you eat chocolate. It’s also added to some over the counter drugs, such as acetaminophen, in order to enhance the effects of the pain reliever.
It’s a stimulant that affects the central nervous system as quickly as 15 minutes after ingesting it, but reaches its highest levels within an hour or two. It can help someone “perk up” and feel more awake and energetic. It can increase your blood pressure for a short period of time, but it doesn’t have a long-term effect on it. If you have an irregular heartbeat, it can make your heart work harder and beat faster.
If you drink too much, you may get a headache, but if you drink it regularly and don’t have enough of it, it can make your head hurt, too. It’s a diuretic, which means it triggers your body to get rid of extra water, so that means it’s not good for quenching your thirst. If you have too much, especially in combination with exercise, it can cause you to lose too much water. However, it is not known to cause dehydration.
Caffeine can increase the acid in your stomach, so if you have problems with heartburn, acid reflux or ulcers, it can trigger a reaction.
If you are pregnant, the caffeine will get to the baby via the bloodstream and cause his or her heartbeat and metabolism to increase. Too much caffeine could cause problems with the baby’s growth, so many doctors recommend cutting back while pregnant.
If your beverage of choice contains alcohol, and you feel as if you can’t go a day without it, you may have a drinking problem. Call us at Legacy Freedom Treatment Centers today to talk with an admissions counselor. We can help you break free from addiction through one of our customized Wilmington NC alcohol rehab programs.
Even though withdrawal symptoms can be harsh if you quit caffeine, it is not considered a harmful addiction in the same category as drugs or alcohol dependency. A study published in the Journal of Caffeine Research did show that there are people so dependent on caffeine that if they try to quit it, they suffer from serious withdrawal symptoms.
Researcher Laura Juliano, Ph.D., a psychology professor at American University in Washington, D.C. calls the condition “Caffeine Use Disorder.”
“While many people can consume caffeine without harm,” she said. “For some it produces negative effects, physical dependence, interferes with daily functioning, and can be difficult to give up, which are signs of problematic use.”
Based on her findings, she said that people should limit themselves to less than 400 mg per day. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended the same amount. How does that equate in cups of coffee? It would be two or three 8 oz. cups, or one 20 oz. Venti at Starbucks.
If you drink more than 600 mg a day, it can cause side effects such as jitteriness, muscle spasms or twitches, nervousness, heartburn or upset stomach. Long-term excessive caffeine can exacerbate pre-existing conditions such as depression, heart problems, ulcers or acid reflux and kidney diseases.
If you decide to skip your coffee in the morning, you may feel the withdrawal symptoms later in the day, especially if you’ve been drinking coffee regularly and typically consume more than one cup. Here is what you can expect:
- Muscle aches
- Trouble concentrating
You may also feel somewhat depressed or down. These symptoms can last for a day or up to a week. If you want to reduce caffeine withdrawal, it is best to reduce it gradually rather than go cold turkey. You can start with drinking coffee that contains half the caffeine, or cutting back from 2-3 cups. If you drink soda, just cut back to one can a day, then ease your way into caffeine free versions. You may still experience some side effects, but they may be more manageable.
The study done by Dr. Juliano found that there were some people who were unable to do it on their own, so they may need assistance or a formal treatment plan in order to conquer their caffeine habit.
“Through our research, we have observed that people who have been unable to quit or cut back on caffeine on their own would be interested in receiving formal treatment—similar to the outside assistance people can turn to if they want to quit smoking or tobacco use,” she said.
Caffeine withdrawal is very real, but an addiction to it is not the same as an addiction to drugs or alcohol. However, getting help with a problem that’s interfering with your life isn’t something to be ashamed of or put off. If it can make you a better, happier person, then it is worth looking into.
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Don’t put off getting help if you think you have a problem with drugs or alcohol. Call Legacy Freedom Treatment Center to get the help you need. We can help you make a change for the new year by offering alternative Wilmington NC alcohol rehab and drug treatment programs. We believe that with our customized plans, you can get the best, most personalized help. We take into account your needs because we know that everyone is different and may need a different approach. Call us today to to start working towards that New Year’s resolution so that 2016 can be your best year yet.