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If caffeine were treated like cannabis

If all drugs were treated like cannabis it would sound like this:

Millions of Americans wake up every day to the overwhelming urge to consume caffeine, but have no idea what’s going on inside their brains when they take that first sip. The caffeine molecule binds to their brain’s adenosine receptors. With the natural calming effect of adenosine out of the picture, caffeine takes over. Neurotransmitters like glutamate and dopamine appear in abundance, further stimulating cells that should be relaxing.

Caffeiners repeat this process over and over, looking for that brief burst of energy, hoping to stave off the inevitable crash.

Because of caffeine’s historic legal status, it is not surprising that there’s been no push for public education regarding the drug’s potential dangers. I think it’s time we talk very seriously about a problem endemic to our society – caffeine use disorder.

Let’s face it – caffeine use is not harmless. Symptoms of caffeine use include restlessness, nervousness, stomach irritation, nausea, and vomiting. Overuse can cause a rapid heart rate, hyperventilation, and sleep disorders. Symptoms of caffeine use disorder include cravings, the development of a tolerance, and the appearance of abrupt withdrawal symptoms.

The need to consume caffeine is a form of drug dependence. But that’s not the worst news. Since many “caffeiners” consume other harmful substances along with their drug of choice (nicotine and alcohol chief among them), we need to conduct more research to understand the effects of using caffeine in combination with other dangerous drugs.

Of course, the main culprit is coffee, coffea Arabica, what we like to call “the gateway alkaloid.” According to the National Coffee Association, 54% of Americans drink coffee every single day. Each of those cups contains about 95 milligrams of caffeine. But that’s not America’s only source of this insipid CNS depressant – according to the Mayo Clinic, the average American consumed close to 400 milligrams of caffeine every day.

Caffeine dependence is strongly linked with mental health issues, such as excitability and sleeplessness, and there’s a strong link between consuming caffeine and consuming other dangerous and addictive substances. The addition of sugar and fattening dairy products to beverages already heavily-dosed with caffeine is so common as to be a household trend.

Addiction is a chronic disease. We can’t attempt to cure our nation’s dependence on caffine by simply taking away everyone’s alkaloids. Most caffeiners will require long-term intensive care and therapy to totally remove the substance from their lives. If you or someone you know is suffering from caffeine dependence disorder, consider having a talk with them about their caffeine intake. It’s important to present the information above in a caring and non-judgmental way.

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Will Roby

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