Cautious glances have turned upon the growing consumption of caffeine and the effects of caffeine addiction and withdrawal. Psychologists believe caffeine addiction – also known as caffeine dependence – should be classified as a mental disorder, just like alcohol and drug abuse have been classified as mental disorders, due to the fact that the caffeine withdrawal syndrome, shows the psychological effects of abstaining from caffeine intake and the effect of abstaining from caffeine after long periods of consumption can cause functional impairment.
Medical professionals and scientists define caffeine as a mind-altering drug – specifically a stimulant – that changes the central nervous system, used by consumers to increase their alertness, improve their thinking and decrease their drowsiness of the consumer. In America alone, the average daily consumption of caffeine is 280 milligrams and about 20% to 30% of the American population consumes more than 600 milligrams daily .
No matter the substance, the definition of addiction remains the same; the inability to quit or cut down on a substance . The reasons as to why people consume caffeine cause much disagreement between researchers, psychologists, and medical professionals. Some say the taste and smell of caffeinated products cause consumption. Others consume caffeine to avoid withdrawal symptoms and because they simply cannot stop the consumption.
Equal evidence proves the addictiveness and non-addictiveness of caffeine. Yet, research has proven that caffeine consumers with past problems dealing with substance abuse have a when a person abuses one substance, such as drugs or alcohol, his or her chances of abusing or becoming addicted to another substance greatly increases. The need to keep up with the fast-paced culture of America forces Americans to take measures to improve their alertness and thinking, and to decrease any drowsiness that they may suffer from.
Once a caffeine addict (or dependent) has chosen to give up and abstain from the consumption of caffeine, their body goes through a hard period called caffeine withdrawal syndrome. If a person does not allow himself or herself to quit consuming caffeine, he or she will not know the strength of his or her dependency upon caffeine. Another reason for not knowing the dependency strength could be that the person does not consume enough caffeine. The person will therefore not proceed into the caffeine withdrawal syndrome period.
A survey study conducted by telephone showed that 40% to 70% of the individuals surveyed have experienced withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit caffeine use . The most common withdrawal symptoms are: “headache, tiredness/fatigue, decreased energy/activeness, decreased alertness/attentiveness, drowsiness/sleepiness, decreased contentedness/well-being, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and feeling muzzy/foggy/not clearheaded”. Usually, the effects of the syndrome, begin after a day of not consuming caffeine and last from an average of two to nine days. After the first 24 hours, the most common symptom that occurs has been recorded to be a headache.
The severity of caffeine withdrawal syndrome depends on the person, the amount of caffeine that he or she consumes, and when and how he or she decides to refrain from consumption. In order to reduce the occurrence of such strong withdrawal symptoms, doctors recommend not giving up caffeine abruptly or all at once (cold turkey). The rest of a person’s health risks must also be taken into consideration. For instance, some people have a higher sensitivity to caffeine than others, meaning they have the possibility of suffering from more severe caffeine withdrawal symptoms or having a severe reaction to the caffeine.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV) of the American Psychiatric Association proposed a diagnosis for caffeine withdrawal and determined that the symptoms caused by it, give proof of a substance dependence of the body on caffeine. The authors only proposed a diagnosis so more research could be conducted in order to prove that the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal cause a person to have the inability to function daily.
Dr. Roland Griffiths’ analyzed studies performed by other researchers to determine the clinical significance of caffeine withdrawal syndrome. His analyzation produced statistics that showed 13% of the subjects in the studies suffered symptoms where they could not function daily. In order to further prove that caffeine causes substance dependence, experimenters conducted a double-blind caffeine withdrawal trial where each subject received a different amount of caffeine and the experimenters charted the functional impairments of each subject after the consumption of caffeine.
Multiple studies similar to this one have further proven that a substance dependence caused by caffeine does in fact exist. One cannot ignore all of the studies that coincide with the criteria denoted in DSM-IV. Even if the debate on the true addictiveness or non-addictiveness of caffeine cannot be agreed upon, “those who feel that their caffeine use is problematic and have been unable to quit on their own” have a right to receive help in order to quit.
Psychologists and researchers cannot avoid the fact that caffeine addiction affects thousands of people around the world and has the evidence to be classified as a mental disorder.
Countless studies, surveys and experiments have been conducted to prove these theories. It does not take a large amount of caffeine to become addicted, and with today’s fast-paced societies, one can only imagine how many people suffer from caffeine addiction, since some do not allow themselves to stop consuming caffeine long enough to feel the withdrawal symptoms.
Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. “Information About Caffeine Dependence”. CaffeineIndependence.org
Lloyd de Vries. “Caffeine Withdrawal Is Real”. CBS News.
Betty Kovacs, MS, RD. “Caffeine”. MedicineNet