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Jess Maier from
Georgian College,
Barrie wrote at
November 21, 2006
Send Link: http://studentsmetro.com/blg/blogDetails.php?blogID=218

Caffeine - socially acceptable drug

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My brother is in the ninth grade. Last week, the high school had a speaker come in to talk to the students about smoking and drugs. One of the things my little brother learned was that if he knows someone who is taking drugs or is smoking he should advise them to seek professional help. The other day, he came to me to discuss my “problem.” He was concerned about my caffeine use and advised me to seek professional help. My first response was to laugh, but I realized that he was serious. That got me thinking about the real deal behind caffeine.
Caffeine is a stimulant drug that has been around for as long as there has been recorded history. It comes from the leaves, beans, or nuts of different plants. Caffeine is commonly known to be in coffee, tea, cola and energy drinks, and chocolate. It is also in prescription and non-prescription medications, such as diuretics, painkillers, and cold remedies. Caffeine is recognized by Health Canada to be safe for healthy adults in doses of no more than 300-500mg daily, or about three to four small cups of Tim Horton’s coffee. Haw many people buy a small coffee? Considering the most popular Timmy’s cup size is a large, I think that the average coffee drinker may be consuming more than 300-500mg of caffeine.
So what side effects come with the use of caffeine? Caffeine works by stimulating the adrenal gland to release adrenalin for an instant pick-up. This creates the most desired effect of caffeine: increased alertness. It also helps in the ability to concentrate. Some negative effects are restlessness, a shaky feeling, headache, hand tremors, increased need to go to the toilet, mood changes, stomach ache, inability to concentrate, increased sweating, and nervousness, among many other effects. Caffeine may worsen the conditions of people with stress-related illnesses. The effects of caffeine, good or bad, only remain in the system for up to an hour, roughly.
What about the addictiveness of caffeine? Medically, there is no evidence to support that caffeine is as addictive as a “hard-core drug.” Some of the reasons for this conclusion are that caffeine only causes temporary symptoms and that it does not carry the same severity of physical consequence. Though this may be true, I believe that caffeine may be more harmful than people realize. Caffeine produces some of the same side-effects and withdrawal symptoms as other hard drugs. In this case, withdrawal symptoms are caused when the body adapts to a certain quantity of the artificial stimulation from caffeine and suddenly receives less than normal or none of that stimulation. This creates an imbalance of adrenaline because the body has become accustomed to the increased levels of stimulation and has compensated by lowering its own natural adrenaline. This decrease or lack of artificial stimulation can cause sweating, shaking, mood swings, severe headaches, fatigue, and inability to concentrate or sleep.
Long term caffeine use causes a person to require higher amounts of the stimulant to receive the same desired effects or to avoid withdrawal symptoms. This is because the body gets used to the constant stimulation and compensates by decreasing sensitivity to the drug. Increasing doses of caffeine over long periods of time may lead to persistent fatigue and exhaustion of the adrenal glands. It is not natural to constantly create adrenaline rushes. The body is designed to use these adrenaline rushes for “fight or flight” responses and extreme situations. It is not designed to make up for the sleep you lost because you stayed up late to watch Survivor.
So maybe caffeine is not as highly addictive and damaging as a “hard-core drug,” but it still is addictive and damaging, however long the effects may last. Over half of North Americans can tell you that caffeine is addictive and habit-forming. Though the severity of damaging effects is negotiable, the effects do exist. This is especially true in people who have an illness or those whose body is under stress in some form. Anxiety, high blood pressure, insomnia, and other stress-related illnesses affect a large portion of the population. Caffeine can aggravate these conditions. Even if the effects are temporary, it can’t be healthy to purposely put this kind of stress on the body. Perhaps caffeine is more harmful than most people realize.

So the biggest question: why do I consider caffeine to be a “socially acceptable drug?”

First of all, think about the most commonly admitted and addressed addictions. It is not big deal to tell a smoker to stop smoking. It’s common to be concerned about an alcoholic. The same goes for the person addicted to cocaine or heroin. Nobody thinks twice about shaking their head at the smoker, drug addict, or alcoholic who won’t give up their habit. Now what about caffeine? How many times have you questioned the three-times-a-day tall-Starbucks latte with an extra shot of espresso that your friend insists on?
Secondly, consider the action taken with commonly admitted and addressed addictions. There are so many things to help a tobacco addict quit smoking: gum, patches, medication options, counselling, fake cigarettes, and even lolly-pops. An alcoholic can go to AA meetings. A drug addict gets checked into a “detox-centre.” Does nobody see the problem with the dependence and addiction to caffeine? It is like saying that a papercut isn’t a wound. Yes, a papercut is a wound, though not a big one. The thing is that if you aren’t careful, a papercut could get infected. It can especially be a problem if you have a pre-existing condition such as diabetes. That little papercut can, in the extreme scenario, result in the loss of a body part. The same idea can be used with caffeine. Coffee and tea seem so harmless because the effects are not as obvious or severe. People forget that it still does have negative effects on the body especially in combination with certain illnesses. And because most people aren’t aware of the effects of overuse, caffeine can create unpleasant problems.
It is so acceptable to be addicted to coffee or tea. People even brag about needing their “daily fix.” You can buy tee-shirts and mugs that joke about this addiction. I don’t think that this is a joke: headaches, chronic fatigue, and inability to concentrate without caffeine in your system. I think there is something wrong with this picture. An addiction is an addiction regardless of the severity of effects.
Michael P. from
Seneca College,
Seneca@York wrote on
November 22, 2006
I have coffee few times a week, and it doesn’t look like a drug to me. But I think that it is for some people, same as alcohol. If you have a beer now and than you are fine, but if you are doing it everyday for some time… All depends :-)
Jess Maier from
Georgian College,
Barrie wrote on
November 26, 2006
Yes. Its not like a hard drug that is bad for you no matter if you do it once or 100 times. Caffeine, like alcohol, is really bad only when it becomes an addiction. I just hate how people do not recognize that caffeine can be bad for you.
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