We talk about how we can’t “live without coffee.” We share cute meme’s about our coffee “addiction,” and chortle along with others as we read the latest joke about our collective obsession with coffee.
Yet is the fact that we “can’t” go a day without coffee really an addiction? The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as:
….a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
So can someone really be addicted to coffee?
The Experts Weigh In
WebMD.com says that that caffeine as an addiction is a myth: while it does stimulate the brain’s central nervous system and drinking it regularly does “cause mild physical dependence,” the caffeine in coffee doesn’t affect a drinker’s social, physical or “economic health the way addictive drugs do.”
Wikipedia also says that those who drink coffee/caffeine regularly can show “mild physical dependence,” but goes on to add – and emphatically so – that “addiction…, has not been documented in humans.”
Johns Hopkins Medicine calls caffeine “the most commonly used mood-altering drug in the world,” and adds that while caffeine doesn’t produce “life-threatening health risks commonly associated with the use of classic drugs of addiction,…some caffeine users report becoming ‘addicted’ to caffeine [in that] they continue to use caffeine despite having a medical or psychological proble[m] made worse by caffeine.”
Johns Hopkins says “more research is needed” to see if the criteria used to diagnose addiction fits for caffeine.
LiveScience.com reported in 2013 that at least one study (published in the Journal for Nurse Practitioners in 2010) showed that caffeine met the “requirements for being an addictive substance.” However, the LiveScience.com article also mentioned that a 2006 review in American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse out and out denied caffeine addiction.
So Is Caffeine Addictive?
Probably not. However – as many people will attest – stopping caffeine consumption can lead to some withdrawal symptoms such as headache, irritability, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, etc., with these symptoms sometimes great enough to disrupt a person’s ability to function at work or in social settings. Still, these withdrawal symptoms tend to occur in those who drink several cups of coffee a day (more than five).
Most of us don’t drink that much coffee: we’re not addicted; it’s more of a delicious habit that we miss as part of our morning, or daily routine.
Image courtesy The Coffee Wiki.