"I'm a bear without my morning cup of joe," and similar phrases are an increasingly common proclamation in today's busy world, and an alarming assertion of the state of affairs when it comes to the world's widely growing caffeine addiction.
Caffeine addiction is arguably the most widespread drug addiction in America, and perhaps the world. Although often used to add flavor and taste to drinks, caffeine is also commonly consumed for its stimulant properties. It's this latter widespread usage which has created a caffeine addicted nation where the proverbial "morning joe" is a typical American ritual.
Even for those who don't drink coffee -- which accounts for roughly 9% of the population according to an unscientific poll of MSNBC readers -- a caffeine fix usually comes in the form of either sodas or energy drinks which are growing in popularity, particularly among younger teens.
And it only takes a small amount to start the addiction. Consuming as little as 100 milligrams of caffeine per day (about a half cup of coffee) can result in a physical dependence that results in withdrawal symptoms -- the hallmark of physically addictive products -- if discontinued.
So why such a strong need for caffeine?
To begin with, caffeine is nearly unavoidable. Whenever you eat out, the availability of non-caffeinated drinks is slim. Secondly, because of its widespread use we are exposed to it at a very young age when we are given our first taste of Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, or a myriad of many other popular drinks. The prevalence of caffeine combined with exposure at a young age has resulted in rampant caffeine addiction.
Caffeine's Addictive Hooks
Like any drug addiction, the majority of the addicted tend to experience withdrawals after refraining from consumption of the drug. Withdrawal symptoms often include headaches, insomnia, nervousness, increased stress, and exhaustion just to name a few.
And as we grow older, our dependence grows. Faced with decreasing energy as we age, caffeine rich substances, such as coffee and tea, come to be a regular inclusion in our morning rituals. While the stimulant properties of caffeine do give us a temporary boost to get us going, the reality is we are feeding an addiction that actually takes energy away from us in the long run.
While we blame this decreasing energy on our age, thus justifying the necessity of caffeine, in truth caffeine increases the stress levels on our bodies. Because we put out bodies into a near-continuous state of stress without giving it a chance to rest, exhaustion consumes us, thus creating the perception that caffeine is required to keep us going when in reality we are feeding the very thing that is the true cause of the exhaustion.
Caffeine also acts as a diuretic, which contributes to dehydration, thus exacerbating the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. The fact that many people get their caffeine fixes from sodas -- where the carbonated water is an additional diuretic -- adds to the problem. Because continued consumption of caffeine essentially multiplies the withdrawal symptoms, addicts are placed in a vicious cycle where they believe the only resolution is to consume more of the drug. Proverbially, addicts are trying to put out a fire by adding more fuel to it and are left to wonder why the fire keeps getting bigger.
Caffeine Addiction Leads to Pediatric Osteoporosis
But withdrawal symptoms and dehydration are far from being the worst effects of a caffeine addiction. A 1988 study published by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians shows that caffeine consumption, thanks in part to its diuretic properties, increased urinary calcium excretion by 25% while adding sugar to the mix (via a soda drink) nearly doubled calcium loss.
It is believed that widespread caffeine consumption and addiction has lead to osteoporosis, once the near-exclusive domain of older women, becoming a pediatric disease effecting teenage boys and girls both.