Is Caffeine Addictive?

Mackenzie Farkus, Editor in Chief

Giant Coffee CupMost drinks around the world these days have some dosage of caffeine. It’s almost ubiquitous and unavoidable; each vending machine has soda or energy drinks. Coffee and tea have become crutches for the new generation who write them off as good ways to get energy. Even more surprising is the fact that even candy, waffles, and gum now contain caffeine. Phrases like “I can’t wake up without coffee” and “I can’t live without soda” beg the much-debated question: is caffeine addictive?

In short, yes, it is. Withdrawal from caffeine includes such effects as insomnia, headaches, depression or irritability, and exhaustion. It’s a common myth that drinking coffee along with alcohol will actually be okay behind the wheel, but college kids that drink both are more likely to get in a car crash. It is also possible to overdose on caffeine if you exceed the limit of 2-4 doses a day.

However bad it may seem and whatever doctors might say, there are some benefits to drinking caffeine. Not only does caffeine provide a quick pick-me-up, Japanese researchers have recently discovered that caffeine boosts both long and short-term memory. Scientists have also found that it may ward off Alzheimer’s disease and cirrhosis of the liver. Caffeine even contains antioxidants, polyphenols, and other chemicals that are beneficial to the body.

Neuroscientists have discovered that there is an effective time to drink coffee, which is between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m.  That’s when a hormone known as cortisol, which provides alertness, decreases in production. Coffee tends to be the least effective at 8-9 a.m., 12-1 p.m., and 5:30-6:30 p.m., since cortisol productions spike. If you drink coffee at those times, you can build up a tolerance to caffeine.

To keep from experiencing the negative effects from caffeinated products, it’s a good idea to drink caffeine in moderation. Decaf coffee is a healthier alternative while still enabling you to wake up each morning, and monitoring your intake of any caffeinated food or beverage, or even dietary supplement, will help. Try and keep track of your caffeine intake and be sure to moderate it.