Many people are addicted to their daily (or 3x daily) cup of coffee. You know when to avoid that person who is trying to reduce their caffeine intake. They are irritable, tired, anxious and just an all round horrible person to be around.
Why does this happen and is coffee really truly addictive?
Prepare once more to… SCIENCE!
As we touched on briefly a few weeks ago – when you drink coffee the caffeine takes the places of that beautiful sleepy adenosine and means you have to eventually work harder and drink more coffee to keep your caffeine taking their place.
However, caffeine also helps increase the production of the dopamine and adrenaline inside your brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, which basically makes you feel good and stimulates you. It works to control your brain’s reward and pleasure centres.
Because caffeine produces this good feeling inside of you, it means you just want to feel this way again and so you keep wanting to have it.
Dopamine is what helps coffee act as a stimulant as well. This acts as a stimulant to the central nervous system. However, there are other drugs that also work as stimulants, which lead to far bigger problems, like the drugs meth and ecstasy.
Caffeine is not a large enough producer of dopamine, which is why coffee is not actually seen as scientifically addictive but you will get negative withdrawal effects.
I mean think about it, going a day without coffee may suck but it isn’t going to threaten you physically, socially or economically.
NIDA describes addictions as “the uncontrolled (or compulsive) use of a substance even when it causes negative consequences for the person using it”.
So, you may get some negative effects but you can rationally go a day without a cup of coffee and not undertake destructive behaviour to get your next hit.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dopamine2.svg (dopamine structure)