Is caffeine a drug?
Caffeine is the lifelong drug of choice for most Americans and is legal in all fifty states. It is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive substance. The USA is the largest coffee-drinking country in the world. In some form, 90% of Americans use caffeine daily. As a mood-altering central nervous system stimulant, it is highly physically addictive. An addiction is “a compulsion to repeat a behavior regardless of the consequences.” Most Americans are unaware of the effects of caffeine, although it directly affects the same neurochemical channels as cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin. Caffeine is a psychoactive drug in the same category as nicotine and marijuana. It induces the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain. This stimulates feelings of pleasure, a key factor in all addictions. Regular coffee consumption results in dependency. Caffeine is a drug and acts like one. Any addicting substance promotes this rollercoaster cycle of behavior:
A. a craving for more of the drug
B. an increasing tolerance of the drug
C. withdrawal symptoms in the absence of the drug
D. a craving for more of the drug
Coffee drinking is continuously promoted by its increasing popularity as a social drink. This is evidenced by millions of coffee shops. Many choose to run their bodies on caffeine rather than the natural God-given energy of their hormones. Those who over consume often believe they do not have enough natural energy to make it through the day. An early morning joke frequently heard is, “I haven’t had my coffee yet.” This is a sign of addiction. Some become anxious or nervous before they have their morning fix. This powerful motivation to consume “the bean” causes stress only relieved by consumption.
What Caffeine Is and Does
Caffeine was first discovered, isolated and named “kaffeine” by a German scientist in 1819. It is a bitter, white crystalline alkaloid found in many plant species. It is so strong in some plants, it kills insects which feed upon them. Caffeine is absorbed by the stomach and small intestine within 45 minutes of consumption and distributed throughout all tissues of the body. (The articles on http://www.wikipedia.com concerning the dangers of caffeine are highly informative.)
Caffeine does not provide energy; only chemical stimulation. The perceived energy is actually the body’s struggle to adapt to increased blood levels of stress hormones. Caffeine initiates uncontrolled neutron firing in your brain and this excess neutron activity triggers your pituitary gland to secrete a hormone that in turn tells your adrenal glands to produce adrenalin. Adrenalin gives an athlete that final burst of winning energy or motivates a fireman to rescue a child from a burning building. Although your pulse, respiration and alertness increase, caffeine actually constricts blood vessels in the brain. This why chronic coffee drinkers often report dizziness when they stand after sitting.
By stimulating your adrenal glands with caffeine, your entire body is actually put on full alert. Caffeine sets off a stress response. The liver begins to emit stored blood sugar. Your muscles tense and your blood sugar elevates for extra energy. Insulin is released and blood sugar levels drop below normal, causing an increase in respiration and pulse. You feel mentally sharper because you are on an adrenaline high. Your entire body is energized, alert and poised for action while you are sedentary behind your computer. Every coffee drinker should ask themselves if the small amount of mental stimulation is worth the detrimental effects on the body.
Sipping caffeinated drinks throughout the day makes your adrenaline glands perpetually pump out stress hormones. Caffeine works by mimicking a hormone that forces adrenaline glands to overproduce and thus become depleted of important vitamins. Caffeine forces the body to produce more hormones. It stimulates the adrenal glands and releases both adrenaline and cortisone. These two hormones shut down digestion, releasing glucose into the bloodstream which increases heart rate. This process uses up vital nutrients.
Caffeine causes the body to lose chromium, which is necessary to maintain blood sugar levels. It increases acid in the stomach. Over 95% of the coffee you buy off the shelf is already chemically “stale.” Coffee brewed in the morning and consumed in the afternoon has high levels of acidity that eat your stomach lining. High doses of even freshly brewed coffee can lead to peptic ulcers, erosive esophagitis, and gastro esophageal reflux disease. It also depletes the body of vital minerals, such as iron, zinc and potassium.
Caffeine acts directly upon your central nervous system. It is ironic that those who drink coffee “because they need the energy” do not realize caffeine is a major cause of fatigue. One cup of coffee may take up to twelve hours to detoxify. When the adrenal high subsides, you can become tired, confused and irritable. As coffee continues to be consumed throughout the day, this state of “caffeineism” is characterized by mood swings and depression.
Caffeine consumption, like any other drug, urges your body to drink more to get the same result. When the artificial energy boost subsides, many people reach for another cup. The daily fluctuations in energy levels, caused by caffeine, can lead to eventual chronic adrenal exhaustion. This continual stimulation/fatigue cycle weakens the adrenals and prompts the desire for more caffeine to stay alert. The adrenals eventually burn out from continuous over-stimulation. The body then develops an inability to handle stress and sugar intake. At this point, caffeine is powerless to offer any benefits. This condition in many ways parallels post-traumatic stress disorder experienced by combat veterans.
Side Effects of Caffeine
Caffeine is the “Trojan Horse” of the yuppies. Caffeinism is a subtle and often imperceptible psychophysical disorder. It promises to deliver energy, but instead delivers sleep disorder. Many drink coffee because they feel the stimulus will help them achieve “The American Dream.” If they ever do, they will be in a state of adrenal exhaustion, chronic toxicity and stress when they arrive. Youthful bodies are more susceptible to the effects of caffeine. The young execs that must have their quadruple shot at Starbucks before driving in rush hour traffic put themselves and all the drivers around them at risk. When they reach the office, coffee drinkers are more apt to become irritable. The brief feelings of alertness can quickly be followed by agitation.
At low-energy times, people become hungry. Caffeine consumption can make you nervous and cause you to overeat. On the other hand, chronic coffee drinkers can also suffer from malnutrition. When one is agitated and nervous it is difficult to prepare and eat balanced meals. Caffeine can also affect the sexual strength of both men and women. As blood circulation and nerve sensitivity become impaired, muscles are weakened. At the end of a daily caffeine high, irritability, fatigue and depression impact sexual desire in negative ways. After a rollercoaster ride of fluxional energy levels induced by caffeine, a person is often physically and mentally exhausted. One might imagine that, in this condition, they will sleep better. Not true. Caffeine does not quickly work through your system. Because it is absorbed into the body, it can bite you at night and cause insomnia. Tranquilizers to calm down in the evening and sleep aids at night can also become habitual, thanks to caffeinism.
Side effects can include, but are not limited to, nervousness, panic attacks, anxiety, palpitations (irregular heartbeat), impulsive behavior, forgetfulness, distractibility, insomnia, and hypoglycemia. It is destructive to one’s metabolism and can damage the thyroid. Caffeine promotes prostate cancer in men. Caffeine has been implicated in heart disease. Because stress hormones are pumped out in excessive amounts, immunity is suppressed while the risk of cardiovascular disease is increased. Any substance that causes the heart rate to accelerate can be dangerous. Coffee drinkers with heart problems should view caffeine as a deadly poison.
Medical science has proven breast cancer is more prevalent among female coffee drinkers than women who abstain from coffee. Caffeine stimulates the development of breast lumps and cysts. While it reduces the chances of pregnancy, it can also be harmful to pregnant women. Caffeine is detrimental to the fetus, because when mama drinks coffee, so does the baby. Caffeine lowers the production of DHEA, a hormone critical to the normal function of the reproductive system. Women who consume more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day have twice the risk of miscarriage than women who consume none.
Caffeine depletes the body of B vitamins essential for proper nervous system and brain function. It prevents the absorption of iron, which leads to anemia. Over time, adrenal glands become “tired” and need more stimulation. At this point, the body craves caffeine. This long term over-stimulation leads to chronic fatigue.
You Can Quit Caffeine
About half of all who suddenly deny their bodies caffeine experience withdrawal symptoms which can last up to two weeks. The sudden drop in blood pressure often results in headaches. Those who quit “cold turkey” often report headaches that aspirin will not relieve. This is due to the fact that caffeine withdrawal causes blood vessels in the head to dilate. Headaches result due to an excess of blood in the head. Benefits of decaffeination include more energy, improved mental focus, good health, and a better night’s sleep. “Yea, thou shalt lie down and thy sleep shall be sweet” (Pv. 3:24).
Caffeine Free at Last
Although caffeine is not mentioned in the Bible, Paul urges moderation in all things (Phil. 4:5). Christians who would never dream of smoking are often oblivious to the fact they are hooked on “the bean.” I was. For thirty years I drank coffee, willingly ignorant of the damage to my health. Finally I had a wake-up call. Although I had been doing weight training and aerobics for the past several years, I simply could not lose the final pounds to reach my physical goals. I was following a good diet and drinking my quota of water. But caffeine was the culprit. Starting my day with 400 calories of gourmet coffee (with the matching milligrams of caffeine and the accompanying sugar) stifled my body’s ability to progress any further. A good Christian friend challenged me to ask God to remove the desire for caffeine. The Lord did this instantly. As a result, I became caffeine free for life. When I went cold turkey on caffeine, the pounds began melting away. As of this writing, I am nearly 60 years of age…but feel like I’m 30. Deliverance from this drug has freed me to live, work, pray, and sleep better than ever. God’s grace eliminated my desire for caffeine.
If you feel you are not a caffeine addict, ask the Holy Spirit about it. Try giving it up for a week and let the results speak for themselves. A body that has been abused by this addictive stimulant must recover its natural energy supply. Eliminating your dependence upon caffeine is essential to good health. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19). The Bible teaches us that strength comes by having confidence in God, not the coffee pot (Isa. 30:15).
Sources consulted include the writings of:
Phyllis A. Balch, CNC
Stephen Cherniske, MS
Selene Y. Craig
Mary D. Eades, MD
Dr. Robert M. Giller
Ralph T. Golan, ND
James Gordon, MD
Letha Hadady, DAc
Elson M. Hass, MD
Virginia Hopkins, MA
Mark Hyman, MD
Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD
Mark Liponis, MD
Barnet Melzer, MD
Earl Mindell, RPh, PhD
Gary Null, PhD