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Caffeine Addiction: You Better Believe It

Feb 23, 2008
"I used to think coffee wasn't addictive or my one liter bottle of cola wasn't addictive. Then came the day my doctor told me to quit, because my heart rate had been driven sky high from all the caffeine I was drinking. The funny thing is, I didn't feel like I was drinking a lot of caffeine. The day I quit, I knew I was a caffeine addict." --quote from an anonymous caffeine addict.

So How Does Caffeine Affect Us?

Caffeine affects various areas of the body. Its a stimulant and diuretic. Most importantly to the addiction world is how caffeine affects the central nervous system through its psychoactive stimulus. Its important to understand that, caffeine's role in relation to the brain is relatively the same as heroin or cocaine. This might sound extreme, but a closer look at how at how addiction works will reveal that caffeine fits right into a behavior befitting an "addictive substance."

The brain uses what are called neurotransmitters to enable the receptors to affect certain actions in the body. These actions can range from a feeling of hunger to feelings of euphoria to sadness or happiness. When an addictive substance is ingested or introduced to the body, the chemical that is introduced binds to the particular receptor it most naturally fits with. When the chemical from the substance binds to its designated receptor, a "high" occurs. This would be fine, but because the receptor should have received the neurotransmitter instead, the proper instructions for the nervous system become disrupted. Over a period of time the chemical takes the place of the neurotransmitter, which results in the body's reduction or even elimination of the important neurotransmitter. Addiction is ensured well before the total elimination of the neurotransmitter as it takes it's place as an accepted messenger instead of the antagonist it once was.

Caffeine affects the brain the same as any other addiction as it binds to the receptor normally reserved for the neurotransmitter known as Adenosine. In fact, caffeine is the primary antagonist of Adenosine. After a while caffeine ceases to be an antagonist and becomes more accepted by the receptor. This activity is why tolerance occurs to not only caffeine, but other drugs as well. The more tolerance is created between a substance and the body, the more that substance is needed. Caffeine is no different. With Caffeine Tolerance comes Caffeine Addiction.

The World's Most Used Psychoactive Drug

For thousands of years mankind has experimented with caffeine based beverages. From China to Ethiopia to Central America, tea, coffee, and chocolate began their spread outward. At first these substances were seen as medicinal, but slowly various civilizations began to see a positive impact in casual usage. Caffeine's role as a stimulant, providing hours of alertness helped with all kinds of work and religious activity.

In today's world whether its tea, coffee, or chocolate, caffeine plays a dual role between helping people to stay awake and alert to a purely social substance through the medium of the coffee house. Its the latter reason that makes products with caffeine so hard to quit. Society for better or for worse has cemented caffeine products as essential. The social impact of having coffee or tea with friends or a husband buying a box of expensive chocolate for his wife on their anniversary is unparalleled .

Will humanity ever come to grips with the world's largest addiction? The chances are slim at best. The most we can hope for is just a short break as to not completely wipe out our neurotransmitters.
About the Author
David Mark writes for numerous websites with a focus on spreading knowledge that is helpful to humanity. For more information on Caffeine Addiction
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