If you asked people what the world’s most popular drug is, what would the most common answer be? Many people will say marijuana, or cannabis if they’re pretentious potheads. There will be some people that get closer by saying tobacco or alcohol. Probably fewer than say weed, because when most of us hear the word drug we think of illegal drugs. However, none of these are correct. The right answer: caffeine. We don’t think of drinking coffee as doing drugs, but that’s what it is. So read on to find out more about the only recreational drug that your parents will encourage you to take with that Starbucks gift card they send you at Christmas.
10. It Makes You Feel Good
The main reason that people take drugs is because they make the user feel good. Drugs can make us feel so good that they’re dangerous. Some people are willing to take them despite the side effects and risks. The lows and highs for coffee aren’t quite as extreme as heroin, but as you’ll see they do exist. Let’s start with the high.
Caffeine consumption stimulates the release of the chemical dopamine, which leads to euphoria. Other drugs that rely on dopamine include cocaine and ecstasy. Recent research has shown that caffeine also acts on the same neurotransmitters that marijuana does. So, that buzz you feel when you have your first cup of joe in the morning is caused by chemicals being released in your brain’s reward system. In addition to the rise in productivity, this is another one of the positive effects of caffeine consumption.
9. It Can Have Side Effects
Like most things in life, caffeine can have some nasty side effects, especially if consumed to excess. Most of us know that it can cause insomnia, nervousness, and anxiety. However, there are other negative possibilities as well. These are much more rare, but they do occur. In some people, caffeine may cause stomach problems, nausea, vomiting, headaches, chest pains, and increased heart rate.
There are also some people who should take extra caution. It can sometimes make anxiety disorders or bipolar disorder worse. It’s also probably good to avoid it if you are pregnant or if you are a child. It also can make certain problems worse, like glaucoma, epilepsy, and high blood pressure. If you have something like that that impacts your life, make sure you talk to your doctor, or more realistically, look it up online. Again, these effects are rare but it’s good to at least keep them in mind.
8. You Build Up a Tolerance
Has this ever happened to you? You do something fun you’ve never done before, and the first time you do it it’s incredibly intense and memorable. The next time you do it, it’s still really, really good, but maybe not quite as intense. But you still really like it, so you do it a lot. And after a while, it’s still kind of fun but it’s not the same. You enjoy it, but not as much. You just built up a tolerance.
That’s what happens when you consume a substance often. And this happens with caffeine as well as with other drugs. In one study, subjects became desensitized to the effects of caffeine in the first four days of consumption. This tolerance building is why you tend to need more over time in order to feel the same effects. The best way to keep your tolerance low is to keep your consumption levels low. And if you feel you’re drinking too much, you can always take a few days off. But, that might be hard because…
7. It Can Cause Withdrawal
When someone tries to quit taking a hard drug, let’s say heroin, there are often withdrawal symptoms. Part of the reason it’s hard to quit is because the drug makes us feel good, but another reason is because stopping feels so bad. This is the case with caffeine for many people.
Attempting to stop consuming caffeine can lead to withdrawal symptoms. Caffeine use releases adrenaline, which causes an energy boost. But this energy boost wears out eventually, and many people decide that means it’s time for more caffeine. But overconsumption can wear down your adrenal gland, making you dependent on the adrenaline boost provided by caffeine. This leads to withdrawal symptoms ranging from headache to constipation to depression. Luckily, these are usually milder than the withdrawals experienced by heroin addicts and will usually go away within a week or so. Whew!
6. You Can Overdose On It
Most things should be enjoyed in moderation, if at all. Caffeine has tons of health benefits, but too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing. According to the Mayo Clinic, up to 400 mg of caffeine per day is safe in healthy adults. But, this amount differs based on your age, weight, and sex. Caffeine overdose usually only leads to unpleasant symptoms that go away once the caffeine is flushed out of your body. So, most of the time, it’s not that bad.
Milder symptoms include dizziness, diarrhea, and fever. But you should go to the doctor if you experience trouble breathing, vomiting, or convulsions. It’s probably best you go to the doctor after that whether you drank any caffeine or not. To avoid all this, keep your daily caffeine level below 400 mg, and even less if you aren’t used to it or are a particularly small person.
5. It Can Kill You
As we said earlier, caffeine overdose usually only leads to mildly unpleasant symptoms. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. In extremely rare cases, it can actually help kill you. Again, this can only happen if large amounts are consumed in a small amount of time. Back in April, a teen in South Carolina died after drinking a McDonald’s latte, a large Mountain Dew, and an energy drink in under 2 hours.
He suffered from a caffeine induced cardiac arrhythmia. Based on estimates, he may have consumed about 470 mg of caffeine, over the daily recommended limit, in under two hours. The energy drink is particularly to blame, as it contains tons of caffeine and sugar. The American Association of Pediatrics has warned against kids and teenagers consuming energy drinks, and they say no one can ensure they are safe. Soda’s not good for you by any means, but energy drinks seem to be even more dangerous.
4. It Can Increase The Chance For Hallucinations
Caffeine is not like LSD. We’re guessing you already knew that. It does not directly cause any kind of hallucination. But, a study has linked caffeine consumption to hallucinations. It doesn’t cause hallucinations, but they are correlated. Those who consume the equivalent of 3 cups of brewed coffee (315 mg caffeine) per day were more likely to hallucinate than those who didn’t.
Caffeine has been shown to increase stress. The researchers of the study say that stress is also related to hallucinations. It’s not common at all, but stress may increase the possibility of hallucinations for those who are prone to them. On the other hand, it may be the other way around. They say it may be that those prone to hallucinations may use caffeine as a coping mechanism. The jury’s still out on this one, as they say.
3. It’s a Social Drug
Sure, a lot of times people drink caffeinated drinks on their own. In fact, that’s probably the most common way to consume it. But there is also a unique social aspect to coffee drinking. The primary locations of these social occasions are coffee shops. In the coffee shop owner’s ideal world, people would come in, purchase something expensive, and then leave. But that is not how people act for the most part.
People treat coffee shops as meeting places. They spend hours there studying, chatting, working on business presentations, or “writing” (AKA wasting time online). They are unique places, like a bar but much more relaxed. You can talk to other people, but it’s not expected. And there are probably more people getting actual work done than at the nightclub. The fact that it helps improve productivity is one of the main reasons that caffeine is the world’s most accepted drug, and also one of the reasons that people choose to do their work at coffee shops.
2. It’s Expensive
Illegal drugs are expensive. Many small fortunes have been lost to cocaine and quaaludes… at least that’s what we got out of Wolf of Wall Street. Unfortunately, caffeine is an expensive habit as well, and a much more accessible one. Some desperate addicts spend $5 on coffee per day. In a single day! A coffee habit slowly but surely eats away at one’s savings, eroding the sense of security and ease that was their savings account.
So, why is coffee so expensive? First off, it’s a volatile business, so owners tend to raise prices because of risk. The crops and market tend to fluctuate a lot, which causes uncertainty. There are tons of threats to the world’s coffee supply, and a shortage could really hurt coffee shops. So, the lower the supply of coffee goes, the higher the price will be for the shops and the customers. It’s production also requires lots of different people and organizations. It’s estimated that each coffee bean is handled by 30 different pairs of hands before it ends up in your cup. Most businesses have middlemen, and coffee’s got a ton of them. Coffee is not necessary to life, no matter what you’ve heard people say. It’s a luxury item and is therefore highly priced.
If you want to keep your costs down, stick with the simpler variations, like black coffee. Specialty drinks are bound to be much more expensive. And to make it even cheaper, make your own at home.
1. Governments Have Tried To Ban It Before
Most recreational drugs are banned. Coffee and alcohol are pretty much the only two openly and fully accepted in American society. Alcohol is legal for anyone over the age of 21, and caffeine is totally legal for everyone. 8-year-olds drink soda chock full of sugar and caffeine. There’s no longer any actual cocaine in Coke, but there’s still a lot of white powder that’s pretty bad for you.
In addition to the health dangers of overconsumption, there are also psychoactive effects to caffeine. It is, after all, a drug. And, like pretty much all drugs, governments have tried to ban it before. Banning drugs is like a drug to some people. In the 17th century Ottoman Empire, the consumption of coffee was a capital offense. Sultan Murad IV was fully on board the anti-caffeine train, prescribing death for coffee drinkers. That’s right, death. And he didn’t stop there. He would dress up as a commoner and walk around Istanbul trying to catch people defying his law. He carried a freaking sword around with him and when he came upon anyone sipping a latte, he would chop off their heads. Ironically, despite his anti-drug rhetoric, the Sultan didn’t heed his own warning: his death was caused by alcohol poisoning.
The coffee hate wasn’t limited to one country. In England, The Women’s Petition Against Coffee argued that coffee was to blame for tons of problems, particularly regarding men. They even blamed coffee for causing impotence. They knew they had to fight back, for The Devil’s Cup had ruined their husbands. This sounds somewhat similar to the Women’s Temperance movement. And these sorts of ideas continue into the present day, in a more restrained way. Just last year, New Jersey was considering banning people from driving after drinking coffee. But, try as they might, coffee will rebound. Despite this resistance and it’s side effects, we fully expect caffeine to continue to be the world’s most popular drug.