Caffeine Craze

Students debate whether caffeine is a drug

Harris Jones- “If you need the extra push, don’t be afraid to pick up that cup of coffee.”

Everybody including myself indulges in energy drinks when we need an extra push, but is anyone actually addicted to caffeinated beverages? I say no.

Graphic by Harris Jones

Most adults and teens in today’s time drink beverages containing caffeine — that’s just a fact. But, that doesn’t make it an addiction. Even though many people experience the side effects of drinking less caffeine such as tiredness and headaches, and people often joke about being addicted to their caffeine, according to the NIDA or the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it is not an addiction.

Addiction is all about dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that controls motivation, movement and of course what it’s more commonly known for — emotions. So right off the bat, we know that by definition enhanced dopamine levels do cause people to feel more observant and awake. With caffeine enhancing dopamine it should qualify as an addiction, so the case is closed right? Well believe it or not, it’s actually not that simple.

While caffeine is considered a stimulant like many drugs, caffeine does not create near the rise in dopamine that drugs like methamphetamine, a prescription drug or even tobacco would have on the brain. A much larger change would have to happen to unbalance the dopamine chemicals in your brain.

Now you may be wondering why people still have withdrawal-like symptoms if caffeine isn’t a drug, and if it’s not then what is it? According to the NIDA caffeine is what is referred to as a dependence. Which despite its similarities to an addiction is not one.

So what is the difference between the two? A dependence is typically referred to as more of a physical attachment to a substance. It will usually have the symptoms of tolerance and withdrawal, much like an addiction. However addiction is different in the sense that the  substance actually takes root in your brain, changing the chemical balance to become hooked on the feeling the substance gives you. A dependence is simply when your body becomes used to the effects of your substance of choice, in this case caffeine, which is why your body goes through withdrawal-like symptoms if you suddenly stop ingesting it.

So, no, caffeine is not actually addictive, regardless of how commonly the word is thrown around. The difference being that someone who drinks caffeine and stops, will go through withdrawal-like symptoms but will not engage in the self destructive behavior someone with a drug addiction would as a result.

Of course like the saying goes, too much of anything is bad for you, but caffeine does so little compared to what an actual drug would do to alter your brain chemistry. So, if you need an extra push, don’t be afraid to pick up that cup of coffee or Monster energy.


Stephania Kontopanos- “Next time you go to make your third cup of coffee, maybe think of scheduling a power-nap into your day instead.”

I have a confession. I am terrified of energy drinks. But then again, what is there not to be afraid of? They’re loaded with caffeine, and caffeine is an addictive drug.

According to the Better Health Channel government website, caffeine is a drug “that stimulates your brain and nervous system.”

Like any drug, consuming caffeine comes with side effects. MedlinePlus lists several of these: headaches, insomnia, restlessness, shaking, rapid heartbeat, heart palpitations, dehydration and anxiety are among the most common ones.

Coffee is also mildly addictive, just like other drugs. So many people say “I can’t function without my coffee” or “I need coffee to start my day.” They start their day off, typically on an empty stomach, with a few cups of coffee before starting anything. Like other drugs, people need to drink more and more of it in order for it to help them feel awake, making a caffeine overdose more likely.

Additionally, people who try to go decaf after consuming a lot of caffeine typically feel the symptoms of withdrawal, such as headaches, tiredness, irritability, nausea and difficulty concentrating, according to MedlinePlus.

Graphic by Harris Jones

There are also issues I have with specific caffeinated products: pre-workouts and Monster Energy drinks.

Despite negative side effects of caffeine, many use it as a performance-enhancing drug, including avid gym-goers who pump pre-workout and energy drinks into their routines before intense physical exercise.

Lots of regular gym-goers like to use pre-workout powders for an extra energy boost. Besides the typical side-effects that come with caffeine, these powders have potential to do much more damage.

Some of them are poorly regulated, containing dangerous supplements like yohimbe. Many people who use pre-workout don’t know that it’s supposed to be used before weightlifting and not aerobic exercise. Doing so can cause severe stress on the heart, sending several people to the hospital with a heart attack or newly-discovered heart condition. The new fitness trend of “dry-scooping” powder is also extremely harmful, sending a load of caffeine straight to the bloodstream.

Monster energy drinks have high levels of caffeine, and come in pretty big cans. They’re marketed toward teens, with their edgy logo and fun flavors and colors. Teens especially, who are more prone to addiction and high anxiety, should not be having so much caffeine. Not to mention, they contain caffeine and guarana, which is also caffeinated. That’s double the caffeine — those two ingredients shouldn’t be mixed together.

So, is caffeine an addictive drug? Let’s look at the evidence.

Alters your nervous system, causing physical side effects? Check. People become codependent on it? Check. People develop an intolerance to it? Check. Withdrawal symptoms? Check. Check. Check.

Next time you go to make your third cup of coffee, maybe think of scheduling a power-nap into your day instead.