An Experiment with Caffeine Addiction

An Experiment with Caffeine Addiction


Believe it or not, your trusted Spiritual River author is experimenting with controlled using.

Now before you get all bent out of shape, I’m talking about caffeine.

Just coffee and Mountain Dew. Maybe a few Starbucks Lattes or whatever.  Or even those ridiculously delicious Carmel or Mocha Frappes that you can get at McDonald’s.

Photo by kubina

Now if you think that caffeine falls into the same category as other drugs of abuse, you are mistaken. Caffeine and nicotine are both addictive drugs, but they do not produce the phenomenon of craving that leads people back to their drug of choice. In other words, caffeine does not “set off” an alcoholic to go out and suddenly drink more beer. Nor does it “set off” an opiate addict, or a crack addict, or any other kind of addict.

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This is not a rationalization but a hard fact. Just look at your typical 12 step meeting: it is like a coffee tasting extravaganza. Nearly every single person at a 12 step meeting has some form of caffeine in front of them. So caffeine addiction–or even just caffeine use–is really common among recovering drug addicts and alcoholics, and does not seem to affect their recovery in any way.

And while it is possible to abuse caffeine, it does not lead people back into active addiction. It remains separate from other drugs of abuse.

But before we get into this too far, let me give you the back story.

My history with caffeine addiction

I have been using caffeine ever since I was a kid. About 7 years ago I took a full time position working the over night shift at a job, and I used caffeine in order to help me get through the long nights. I only worked 3rd shift 3 nights each week, then I would switch back to a “normal” schedule. So I was using caffeine pretty heavily, but I never exceeded toxic levels or anything.

Somewhere around April of 2008 I decided to try and get off of caffeine completely, simply because I was spending a chunk of change on it every day and I was also working a normal, first shift schedule. I figured I no longer needed the boost and could probably get by without any caffeine at all.

In addition to this, the doctor that I work under at our drug rehab is an addictionologist and he is very much opposed to caffeine. He does not allow it in the rehab for the clients and he also encourages staff to cut down or cut it out entirely. I have not spoke with him at length about this but I can assure you that he is getting his opinions based on medical journals and studies that he has read.

So anyway, in April of 2008 I quit caffeine cold turkey. I had a headache for maybe 2 days and then I was fine. It was the easiest drug I ever put down.

Caffeine relapse

Within the last week or two I have slowly started experimenting with using caffeine again. This started due to an emergency at my place of work when they needed me to cover a 3rd shift without any notice given. So I drank 2 Mountain Dews that night and since then I have dabbled with a small coffee drink here and there. I definitely feel a difference when I drink the stuff and there is no getting around the fact that caffeine gives me a noticeable boost.

So now I am at a crossroads and I think I might just allow myself to start using caffeine without restriction. I am not sure if I will become heavily dependent on it again or even if that would be a bad thing, because it seems like the research out there is supporting the idea that there are long term benefits to caffeine use.

Benefits to drinking caffeine? This sounds like rationalization!

So I hit up Google and tried to find both the good and the bad about using caffeine. To be honest it was a bit harder to find the negatives at this point. The biggest negative seems to be from abuse, when people are consuming ridiculously high levels of caffeine all at once.

So what kind of sources are we looking at here? Web MD, the U.S. government, and Harvard Health all say that the benefits of long term caffeine use outweigh the negatives.  The government websites in particular seem to emphasize problems only when people abuse it, and thus stress the importance of moderation.

So the question is, can this recovering addict moderate his caffeine consumption?

Tell you what: I will let you know. I will try to give you an update on this in about 3 months to see where I am at with everything. I would like to use caffeine casually without turning into a caffeine junkie who has to spend 5 dollars plus every single day on it.

Perhaps I am being foolish, but this is a fairly low risk experiment because it is only caffeine. I would never, ever, ever do anything like this regarding any other drugs, including both alcohol and/or cigarettes. Caffeine is the only drug that is “innocent” enough for me to experiment with, period. The only reason I am doing so is because the medical research seems to be recommending it now for the long term health benefits.

So what does everyone think?  Is caffeine an innocent drug with real health benefits?  Or is there potential for harm here?  Let me know in the comments what you think….


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