Java Jive

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According to The Washington Times, a recent study concludes that "a single cup of coffee a day can produce 'caffeine addiction,'" featuring withdrawal symptoms such as headache, drownsiness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, depression, nausea, and muscle aches. In response, the National Coffee Association argues that caffeine is not truly addictive because its users do not develop tolerance, the withdrawal symtoms are not severe enough, and the drug is "still considered safe."

But neither tolerance nor withdrawal is required for addiction–a point the American Psychiatric Association's current definition of "substance dependence" concedes. And the issue of health effects is distinct from the question of how hard a drug is to give up: A person may be very strongly attached to a substance that has a negligible effect on his health.

Such is the case for many regular coffee drinkers, who might have a hard time giving up their habit but don't really want to, since it is not hurting them and does not disrupt their lives. (To the contrary, it probably enhances their productivity and their enjoyment of social situations.) As the lead author of the study notes, caffeine, the world's most popular recreational drug, is "cheap and readily available, so people can maintain their use of caffeine quite easily." If caffeine were illegal, its aficionados would more closely resemble the popular image of drug addicts as desperate, twitchy outlaws.

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  1. Fucking eh. Not so long ago I looked at this sort of news as encouraging, in the sense of ‘maybe more people will think of pot and coke in the same way they think of coffee’. But ever since the tobacco settlement, things like this make me genuinely worry that Starbucks will need to be replaced with boarded up ‘Joe houses’.

  2. Such is the case for many regular coffee drinkers, who might have a hard time giving up their habit but don’t really want to, since it is not hurting them and does not disrupt their lives. (To the contrary, it probably enhances their productivity and their enjoyment of social situations.)

    All I can say to this is “bullshit!” I can’t count the number of coffee addicts I’ve known that act like minor speed freaks. They get edgy and assholish. They are not more productive! Maybe for an hour or two, but then they crash or drink more and get scatter-brained. They waste vast sums of money at Starbuck’s. Like any drug, the occasional use of caffeine is pleasurable and fairly benign, but addicts are LESS than they would be without the stuff.

    Don’t get me wrong: All drugs should be legal (although, maybe, regulated), but whitewashing the negative effects of drugs is stupid.

    No offense, Jacob, but you sound like a coffee addict in denial. Did you know that it’s easy to get out of bed without coffee when you’re not addicted? When you hear, “How do you wake up without it?”, you know you’re dealing with an addict.

  3. I’m trying to keep an open mind, Bill, but, without java, wouldn’t Hit and Run, be more like Harrumph and Shuffle?

  4. OK, when my mother quit her two- to three-pot a day coffee habit some years back, she said she had the worst headache of her life for about two weeks straight. No severe withdrawal?

    She was drinking two to three pots a day and really just felt like she was maintaining (except for her stomach, which is why she quit). No tolerance?

    I mean, do these researchers drink coffee?

  5. Ruthless,

    You may be right. I don’t like being around coffee freaks, but reading their stuff can be quite entertaining.

  6. You haven’t been in a coffee shop recently, have you?

  7. featuring withdrawal symptoms such as headache, drownsiness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, depression, nausea, and muscle aches

    Well shit, guess I better go get some more coffee before it’s too late.

  8. Addiction is a personal choice, Bill. Whether coffee “addicts” are all that they can be or not… what possible concern is it of yours?

  9. I actually like coffee for the taste, the stronger the better. Funny though, that uncaffienated shit tastes gawd awful!

  10. I think the press is addicted to bullshit studies. They must be stopped.

  11. Jose,

    I was simply objecting to the comment that coffee makes people more productive. There may be a short-run increase in productivity, but in the long run, productivity is reduced (I think).

    What possible concern? Really fucking annoying coffee addicts are a pain in the ass! Working with them sucks. Traveling with them sucks–“I need more coffee; I’ve got to pee!” Nonetheless, my concern is not any more unreasonable than your concern with my post.

    Addiction is a personal choice, and so are any number of activities. That doesn’t make them immune to criticism.

  12. I prefer to get my morning fix with a Double Gulp of Diet Coke myself. I’ve had some withdrawl symptoms, so I’m willing to believe it’s addictive. Nevertheless, they’ll get my Double Gulp when they pry it from my cold dead hands!

  13. I don’t want to imply that coffee is bad. I love coffee, but I hate caffeine. I can’t wait for a genetically-engineered no-caffeine bean. The decaffeinating process makes coffee taste like shit. (Non-alcoholic beer ain’t too great either.)

  14. Scott Adams of ‘Dilbert’ fame once wrote that his coffee maker was broken one morning and he didn’t get his morning coffee fix. He called in sick later that morning because he was so listless that he thought he had come down with mono. He realized later that it was the lack of caffeine that was the cause.

    I read a study some years ago that indicated that the body reduces it’s production of adrenaline to compensate for the over-stimulation caused by caffeine. That’s why coffee drinkers feel dead, especially in the morning. Their body has grown dependent on caffeine for it’s stimulus.

  15. Jacob, Jacob, Jacob…

    You know better.

    It’s not about whether filthy “drug” addicts such as we coffee-drinkers are “desperate, twitchy outlaws.” It’s a matter of public health! It’s about protecting we the masses of possessed coffee fiends from ourselves! Just think how much money this country pisses away on such an uneccessary substance! Just think of the millions of man-hours wasted brewing, pouring, and stirring coffee! America’s employers have to bear that burden!! And we in the public health community, as you may know, have America’s employer’s interests nearest and dearest to our hearts.

    Schedule I!! Schedule I!! For the children, who should NEVER have to feel the debilitating pain of a headache induced by the confluence of a coffee addiction and a lack of coffee!!

  16. quit caffeine about a decade ago and do not miss it

  17. I myself seem to have developed an addiction to dihydrogen monoxide. When I try to go without it for more than a few hours, I suffer from headaches, dry mouth, sore throat, and fatigue. Even a couple of days without it brings painful urination and total listlessness.

    Please, ban dihydrogen monoxide now!

  18. I know what you mean, H2O Addict. And don’t get me started on people’s addiction to dioxide in a 21% gaseous solution!

    Brian

  19. This is PR BS, caffeine has significant withdrawal symptoms (although only at doses > 600mg/day). It’s clearly an addictive drug.

    As the first commenter mentions, however, our societal views on drugs are so screwed up that pointing this out is more likely to make people ban coffee than realize that illegal drugs ain’t so bad.

  20. Dihydrogen monoxide is the main component of acid rain.

    The Navy is conducting top secret experiments on using dihydrogen monoxide during wartime.

    And you know that addictive coffee stuff? The main ingredient in every cup of coffee is not caffeine. It’s dihydrogen monoxide!

    Clearly we must ban dihydrogen monoxide…for the children!

  21. Bill wrote, “Did you know that it’s easy to get out of bed without coffee when you’re not addicted?”

    Speak for yourself.

    And if you use it correctly, it can increase productivity. From what I’ve noticed, for every one two-pot-a-day coffee addict there are ten who use it effectively.

  22. I guess I might qualify as a caffine junkie because I drink it to feel a lot better and sharper in the morning. I usually feel pretty shitty if I don’t have coffee. But guess what? Before I ever drank coffee at all, I’d wake up in the morning and feel just as shitty!

    No one ever thought fast food would end up getting the same treatment as tobacco. But of course that’s now coming to pass. So I’m not holding my breath that coffee is going to be safe from public health crusaders for long. Actually, I’m not holding my breath that anything that gives us pleasure is going to be safe from them for long.

  23. Caffeine is definately addictive, I’m on my third attempt at giving up and it’s hard work. The benefits of caffeine are great, my productivity goes through the roof (I drink Coke rather than coffee), but the side effects are rather embarassing.

    Still, now the doc gave me the all clear on my liver and kidneys I just fancy another can…

  24. Hey guys, aren’t you forgetting the most important factor in this whole debate? Caffiene manufacturers have loads more money than the Tobacco companies! (Especially now that Big Tobacco has been squeezed) Think about it: Coke, Pepsi, Starbucks, McDonalds, Colombian Coffee Lords, chocolate manufacturers, even your favorite local mom-and-pop have been profiting from this! Finally we have a target that might just let us take down the entire capitalist system… whoops, just kindly ignore that last bit, okay?

    We all need to join together in support of the many hard-working, honest lawyers who didn’t jump on the fast-food lawsuit bandwagon fast enough to order their Nieman Marcus Zeppelins for Christmas.

    And that national coffee association quote about no tolerance is an obvious, self serving lie. Look, Big coffee is willing to defend itself with questionable claims, just like Big Tobacco was willing to defend itself with questionable claims. That proves that they’re evil!

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