Caffeine is considered a drug, since it acts by modifying the state of the nervous system, in particular it increases the activation of the organism. Now… does that mean that by consuming this substance one can become addicted?
In this article we will talk about the existence of caffeine addictionwhat disorders related to this substance exist and what advice can we follow to avoid problems when consuming products such as coffee.
What is caffeine?
Caffeine is a substance classified in the group of xanthines, a category that also includes theobromine, related to cocoa, and theophylline, related to tea. On the other hand, caffeine has psychoactive effects, which means that it acts as a stimulant for the body, especially the nervous system. It is found in various foods such as tea or soft drinks, although the best known and most important is coffee.
It has also been used as a component of medicines, with the aim of performing different functions: stimulating the nervous system, producing vasoconstriction or acting as a diuretic. The specific action of caffeine is to act as an adenosine receptor antagonist. Adenosine has a sedative and inhibitory action on the central nervous system. For this reason, caffeine, acting as an antagonist, limits (inhibits) the action of adenosine.
Is there really a caffeine addiction?
Caffeine is considered a drug, being one of the most consumed in the world. Indeed, it is estimated that between 80 and 85% of adults consume it. Taken in moderation, this substance can have positive effects on the subject; the most notable is the increase in concentration and alertness, given its stimulating function, and is also useful as a diuretic, as it helps reduce fluid retention.
The problem arises when caffeine is consumed in excess, which can lead to intoxication and withdrawal syndrome.and even lead to mental disorders such as altered mood or eating behavior, psychosis or anxiety.
Symptoms associated with caffeine poisoning vary depending on the amount of substance consumed daily: after consuming 100 mg per day, you may experience restlessness, nervousness, restlessness, insomnia, intake disorders and diuresis, which consists of urinary incontinence; by increasing the intake to 1 g per day, the symptoms become more intense and we can speak of muscle twitching, logorrhea, described as verbal incontinence and acceleration of thought, increased heart rate, psychomotor agitation and no feeling of tiredness.
The latest version of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Manual (DSM 5) has described two caffeine-related disorders: intoxication and abstinence. Think of intoxication as the symptoms produced after recent consumption of caffeine (an amount greater than 250 mg), although this may vary depending on the characteristics of the subject and the frequency with which they take caffeine. To make the diagnosis, you must experience at least 5 of the symptoms already mentioned such as agitation, diuresis, logorrhea or tachycardia. As well, Psychological or behavioral changes that are maladaptive, dysfunctional for the subject must be present.
Another disorder we can diagnose is caffeine withdrawal, this can occur when you stop consuming caffeine or reduce the dose after prolonged consumption of the substance. Typical withdrawal symptoms are the opposite of the symptoms caused by the substance. Thus, three or more symptoms must be encountered to diagnose caffeine abstinence, such as fatigue and drowsiness, low mood, or difficulty concentrating, among others.
Despite the aforementioned caffeine-related symptoms, this drug cannot be considered to cause a substance use disorderwhich consists of maladaptive patterns that cause discomfort or deterioration in the person’s quality of life.
For this reason we will say that caffeine can be classified as a drug of abuse, but the risk that the subject’s life will be affected by an addictionthat is, its consumption is reflected in its obligations or responsibilities, is low.
Signs you might be addicted to caffeine
Now that we know better what the main symptoms of intoxication and abstinence are, Let’s see what signs in our daily life can indicate that we are addicted to caffeine. These can be seen after 24 hours without consuming the substance. In other words, if we show symptoms of abstinence after stopping ingestion, we can consider that we are showing an addiction.
In many cases, abstinence, the discomfort of stopping using the drug, is what indicates that we have an addiction, being harder to identify while we are using.
A characteristic symptom of withdrawal syndrome is headache. Upon entering the bloodstream, caenin works by constricting blood vessels. For this reason, when we stop consuming caffeine, As the vessels widen, one may notice a feeling of tension and tingling in the head, linked to migraines and headaches. This discomfort can be variable, in terms of duration and intensity, but it is estimated that after about 2 or 9 days it subsides.
2. Increased feeling of fatigue
As mentioned earlier, the influence of caffeine activates the nervous system, which makes subjects who consume it more active. The effect of caffeine as an antagonist of adenosine, linked to the feeling of fatigue, means that after stopping its consumption, the body finds it hard to get used to the new state and you feel more and more tired. It will take a few days for the body to re-regulate and act normally without the need for caffeine.
3. Decreased concentration
The decrease in caffeine and, consequently, the greater action of adenosine which generates in the subject a greater feeling of fatigue, this can cause concentration problemsgreater difficulty staying alert and able to focus attention.
4. Mood swing
As we have seen, caffeine is a nervous system stimulant, leading to a greater feeling of energy and vitality in the individual which may be linked to a more euphoric mood. When you stop consuming caffeine, the more nerve activation decreases with the resulting feeling of fatigue they can lead to a more depressed moodduller and more irritable to see the changes that have taken place there.
5. Greater nervousness
Although stopping the consumption of caffeine often leads to a greater feeling of fatigue and exhaustion, we can also observe a more anxious behavior, since the subject will feel the need to consume. The person will want to take caffeine to try to reduce withdrawal symptoms.
How to reduce the discomfort of caffeine withdrawal syndrome?
Considering the discomfort that withdrawal symptoms can cause, it is advisable to take certain measures in order to reduce their intensity and try to relieve them more quickly. We will see how most of the proposals made to overcome abstinence more easily agree to point the finger at the need to lead a healthy life, good lifestyle habits.
1. Have a varied diet
A symptom that can be observed during abstinence from caffeine and that we have not mentioned yet, is greater constipation. For this reason they can help us eat foods that contain fiber or that help us digest better.
Sport has many benefits both physically and mentally. It allows us to speed up the metabolism, thus also helping to reduce constipation and providing more of activity and energy about. Paradoxically, sport increases our energy level, thus fighting against the greater feeling of fatigue seen in caffeine withdrawal syndrome.
In the same way, it will also promote a better mood, since endorphins are released during sport, linked to a lesser sensation of pain and a greater ease of feeling. pleasure.
3. Drink water regularly
It is generally recommended to stay hydrated. With regard to withdrawal symptoms, especially headaches, Drinking water regularly can help reduce this discomfort.
4. Replace the caffeine with another energy drink
In order to be able to replace caffeine, we can try drinks such as juices, smoothies or smoothies that provide vitamins and nutrients to the body, while helping to reduce constipation.
5. Sleep the necessary hours
A habit that people who drink coffee or caffeinated drinks often use is to try to reduce sleep or fatigue by increasing the dose of caffeine consumed, but this way we only make the problem worse. The right intervention would be to devote the appropriate time to sleep and rest.
- Álvarez, M. and Santos, JL (2018) CEDE PIR Preparation Manual: Clinical Psychology Vol.1. CEDE: 5th Edition.
- Budney, A. and Emond, J. (2014) Caffeine addiction? Caffeine for young people? It’s time to act ! Addiction.
- Jain, S., Shanker, A., Prasad, R. & Maggu, G. (2019) Caffeine addiction: Need for awareness, research and regulatory action. Asian Journal of Psychiatry.