Caffeine addiction: myth or not?

Caffeine has many followers. It is consumed every day by many Canadian people, some of whom admit that they find it difficult to do without. Can coffee be considered an addiction?

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    The virtues of caffeine

    Caffeine was discovered in 1819 by a German chemist. It is extracted from the seeds of the coffee tree and is chemically identical to guaranin (Guarana), mateine (Maté), and theine (Tea). In reality, these molecules are all synonyms, only the origin differs. The use of caffeine goes back to the first men who already used it to reduce fatigue and stimulate alertness.

    Caffeine is the second most traded commodity in the world after oil and the most consumed after water. Every minute, more than 2 million cups of coffee are drunk. 72% of Canadian people consume it daily.

    Many virtues are attributed to caffeine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system and the cardiovascular system.

    Scientists agree that it activates alertness and attention, and reduces fatigue and drowsiness. Various studies also agree that it would have a beneficial role in the preservation of memory and could delay the cognitive decline related to ageing.

    Consumed in moderation, caffeine would normalize blood pressure and thus reduce the incidence of cardiovascular diseases, and prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain liver diseases.

    Finally, caffeine is also said to have an analgesic effect against pain and headaches.

    The myth of addiction

    1,000 Canadian people were surveyed about their caffeine consumption in 2020. 40% of them spoke of an irrepressible need to get a dose of caffeine. To consume coffee, the Canadian are also ready to:

    • Sacrifice their cultural purchases for 3/4 of them;
    • Do less shopping for 60% of the people questioned;
    • Go less often to the hairdresser or the cinema for 50%.

    Although the coffee withdrawal syndrome is real, the term addiction is somewhat exaggerated. Indeed, the 10% to 20% of the population who will suffer from a sudden stop of coffee will feel slight disorders such as headaches, weakness, and possibly a malaise, so far from a real withdrawal syndrome to hard drugs.

    According to the statistics, addictive behaviors are caused by hard drugs, nicotine, sugar, but not coffee! The manifestations would be present only because of the social representation made around the coffee. To verify her theory, the researcher tested the activation of certain brain areas when an individual is told that he or she is going to receive coffee. In the end, the same structures are affected regardless of the drink ingested, coffee or placebo.

    Finally, we can talk about a “drug” for coffee, because the consumption can be important and the need to obtain it is sometimes irrepressible. On the other hand, to speak of a real dependence on coffee would be a myth. Heavy consumers will be reassured to learn that it is possible to escape the unpleasant symptoms, essentially of psychosocial origin, in the event of a sudden stop.