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  1. Phungushead
    Coffee does not make you "superhuman." The truth is that you become addicted to caffeine quickly, and soon you are drinking coffee to cure withdrawal more than for stimulation.
    The Misconception: Coffee stimulates you.

    The Truth: You become addicted to caffeine quickly, and soon you are drinking coffee to cure withdrawal more than for stimulation.

    Mmmm, a warm cup of coffee with delicious cream, topped with a frothy head.

    You smell it brewing and feel cozy inside as you browse cakes and brownies, scones and biscotti.

    You get some of it in you, and you feel alive again – you feel superhuman.

    Suddenly, you feel like John Nash, you can’t keep up with your own mind as geometric symbols float over the magazine articles in your lap. Someone strikes up a conversation about health care, and suddenly everything you’ve ever heard about the topic is at the tip of your tongue.

    Damn, coffee is awesome.

    Except, of course, much of this is an illusion.

    The truth is, once you’ve been drinking coffee for a while, the feeling you are getting after a cup isn’t the difference between the normal you and the super you, it’s the difference between the addict before and after a fix.

    Ok, this is a very simplified explanation:

    Caffeine is an adenosine antagonist. This means it prevents adenosine from doing its job.

    Your brain is filled with keys which fit specific keyholes. Adenosine is one of those keys, but caffeine can fit in the same keyhole.

    When caffeine gets in there, it keeps adenosine from getting in.

    Adenosine does a lot of stuff all throughout your body, but the most noticeable job it has is to suppress your nervous system. With caffeine stuck in the keyhole, adenosine can’t calm you down. It can’t make you drowsy. It can’t get you to shut up.

    That crazy wired feeling you get when you drink a lot of coffee is what it feels like when your brain can’t turn itself off.

    To compensate, your brain creates a ton of new receptor sites. The plan is to have more keyholes than false keys.

    The result is you become very sensitive to adenosine, and without coffee you get overwhelmed by its effects.

    After eight hours of sleep, you wake up with a head swimming with adenosine. You feel like shit until you get that black gold in you to clean out those receptor sites.

    That perk you feel isn’t adding anything substantial to you – it’s bringing you back to just above zero.

    In addition, coffee stimulates your adrenal glands, which makes you feel like you could take a bullet and eat glass. When the adrenaline runs dry, you feel like you’ve been running a marathon, which leads you to look for more coffee to get those glands pumping again.

    After a few rides on the adrenal roller-coaster, you crash.

    You might think all of this probably takes a while, but it takes about seven days to become addicted to caffeine.

    Once addicted, you need more and more coffee to get buzzed as your brain gets covered in receptor sites. Neurologists report seeing patients regularly who drink two or three pots of coffee in one sitting before starting their day.

    Coffee also releases dopamine, the feel-good chemical in the brain which is released when you have an orgasm, win the lottery and shoot heroin. A similar addiction cycle with dopamine leads to depression and fatigue when you aren’t hitting the beans.

    Finally, caffeine takes about six hours to leave your system. So if you drink coffee six hours or less before going to bed, you won’t reach deep sleep as often. This means you wake up less rested, and need more coffee.

    If you’ve been drinking coffee for a while, you aren’t getting nearly as much out of it as you did in the beginning. You are just curing an addiction.
    “The take home is that regular use of caffeine produces no benefit to alertness, energy, or function. Regular caffeine users are simply staving off caffeine withdrawal with every dose – using caffeine just to return them to their baseline. This makes caffeine a net negative for alertness, or neutral at best if use is regular enough to avoid any withdrawal.”

    - Neurologist Stephen Novella from his blog, Neurologica

    Mind you, this is not a dependency. You will experience withdrawal symptoms upon cessation, but not like with amphetamines and cocaine.

    Coffee doesn’t seem to affect the dopaminergic structures related to reward, but before you breathe a sigh of relief, ask yourself how long you’ve been drinking it. Try and stop for two weeks and see how hard it is.

    A cup or three will still give you pep, but as with all stimulants, over time you need more and more to reach that golden hum.

    Don’t freak out, 90 percent of Americans are just like you, and you are not so smart.

    September 5, 2011

    By David McRaney
    Photo Credit: Ian Sane on Flickr


  1. coolhandluke
    this article seems to be a little sensational if you ask me. ive been drinking coffee for years, and when i dont have time for it in the morning, its doesn't wreak my day and make it so i can function at work. other than coffee i drink no other caffeine, occasionally ill have a soda with food but thats about it. i think your caffeine intakes would have to be pretty substantial for you to be an addict getting a fix.

    the author is just trying to tell us what we all ready all know, but doing in a way that make it sound like caffeine if effecting out brain function similarly to heroin. like he said orgasms release dopamine, so does that mean we are addicted to sex?

    idk just doesnt all add up to me, anyone else have thoughts.

    i drink about 3 cups of coffee on a regular day usually a cup or two of home brewed, and then a 24 ounce coffee from a coffee shop, or should we start call coffee shops the dope spot/trap house?lol on my days off sometimes i will drink a lot more, 5-7 cup, or sometimes less, or none at all.
  2. rawbeer
    I agree with ^^^...I drink two cups of coffee most mornings. Sometimes I don't have time and I'm okay. I usually don't drink it on weekend mornings because I don't have to get up at 6am.

    Sometimes I drink another cup at work if someone offers, because generally when someone offers me something I like I accept. Sometimes I regret that extra cup and feel wired. My coffee dosage hasn't changed - accepting perhaps for the fact that I do switch brands and styles often because I'm just that kind of guy - for years.

    A lot of people do abuse caffeine, and I get the point of this article, but it is a bit overboard. Without coffee I'm fine. With it I'm supercharged. I've had plenty of experience with stronger, equally addictive drugs; I know what addiction, habituation, even dependence feel like and I really don't think I am anything but habituated to coffee, the same way I am to my banana and granola bar I have with it. The smell and taste in the morning is almost as enjoyable as the effect.

    Presenting drugs like this can be a "sobering" way to look at them but I always find it a bit goofy and puritanical. Every drug basically follows this same pattern - they create an imbalance by either stimulating or supressing one system in favor of another. Remove the drug and you have a teeter-totter with only one kid on it. It's the same story every time with any drug you can get addicted to.

    But drugs work. This method of presenting them seems to suggest that somehow they actually don't work and that you're fooling yourself. Or that it's wrong to be dependent on a chemical, which isn't necessarily the case. Why is it okay to be dependent on technology, on cultural institutions, on civilization itself, and not okay to be dependent on a drug you can buy anywhere, anytime, legally, for loose change? People would be a lot more screwed without cars, cell phones, AC/heating, processed foods, stoves, all the "mod cons" as the Brits say, than caffeine addicts would be without caffeine. (Or why is it okay to be dependent on a drug a doctor chooses for you and not one you choose for yourself? Why is "self medicating" not a valid practice?)

    Funny how if you say "people can do just fine without drugs" you're regarded as a fine, healthy, moral, possibly boring person, but if you say "people can do just fine without modern technology" you're a crack-pot luddite unabomber. They're both just technology, very useful, very (potentially) dangerous.

    Sorry for the rant, but, well, I felt like ranting there...
  3. coolhandluke
    yea i work with a guy who takes tons of caffeine pills every day and drinks energy drinks like they are water. ive had him get me the monster green energy drink sometimes whens he says hes stopping at the gas station. he aslo takes tons of caffeine pills and ive told him how much it is fucking him up, and he would probably be better using low doses of aderall.

    ill drink monster energy drinks some times if i dont have the time to get coffee and i can get a delivery driver to grab me one when he stops to get gas or ect. or if they cant there is a coffee shop up the street from us and ill get me and my boss coffee from there ( they are a rip off and give you weak cups of it, but its better than nothing).

    i just feel like this article has good intentions by making addiction more of a normal thing all people deal with, in my opinion addiction is that, peoples kids use drugs and it can seriously effect their own life's by using drugs, but none the less they do.
  4. LordeV
    Unless this article is a satire, it does a terrible job at pointing out the downsides of caffeine. It is oversimple, trite, reference-free, and feeds directly on media anti-drug propaganda.

    One can resume the author's thesis like that: caffeine is a drug. Caffeine will kill you by messing your brain chemicals up. Drugs are bad, see heroin. If you take caffeine daily you will get addicted. Man, you will get so addicted you will totally experience withdrawal. Drugs are bad. Some guy says everything positive about caffeine is a lie, ergo caffeine is bad. Caffeine is making your life miserable. In time, you will need to drink the whole volume of the Niagara Falls in coffee to supply your increasing addiction. QED.
  5. Herbal Healer 019
    I LOLed at that comment.

    Otherwise it was a good article with very few inaccuracies...
  6. straycat312
    When SWIM was in rehab, one of the counselors told the group that drinking a glass of water actually does a better job of waking you up than a cup of coffee. This was after a debate about the 'no-caffeine' rule was debated following a violation. I personally think that if someone truly thinks that a glass of water will wake you up, it will have a better chance of working.
  7. alienesseINspace
    I was a barista at a well known coffee chain for about 4 years. I was the opening manager and had to be at work at 4:30 am. I have insomnia and usually wouldn't get to sleep until midnight or after.

    Caffeine was a part of being able to be awake enough to work. I do not doubt the fact that people become used to it and just need it to reach an above zero type state, but those people are the ones I serves double shot lattes to every day.

    I woke up tired almost every day and did my x number of espresso shots to wake up and it worked. I felt energetic and was able to drink as much as I wanted throughout my shifts.

    Some days I drank just tea... and decaf or herbal tea and was still functional but not super energetic.

    I think it depends on the amount, frequency, and level of psychological comfort a person has for a daily routine.

    No doubt, I had grumpy customers who acted like I was slingin' something hard and not fast enough... but personally, I don't need caffeine or other stimulants daily but enjoy them when I want a little kick or boost.
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