Caffeine’s a Drug Too

Tchaikovsky's_Tea_Room

Creative Commons license, SiefkinDR 2 July 2011

Despite writing many tales involving desperate murder plots and assassination attempts, I’ve never actually had anyone hire an assassin to make an attempt on my life. I’m thinking, after this post, that may change. I can already envision the coffee lovers of the world starting a gofundme account to raise the assassin fee.

But I’m still going to say it. Caffeine is a drug too. It falls into the stimulant drugs category along with cocaine and meth, only, of course, much, much weaker. And more legal.

And drugs, even weak drugs, affect your brain chemistry. As a mental health counselor, I see a lot of patients who have some kind of anxiety disorder. Panic Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, these are all anxiety disorders. Guess what is one of the worst things possible for any kind of anxiety disorder?—a stimulant drug.

The amygdala region of the brain regulates the “fight or flight” response and decides when is an appropriate time for your brain to dump adrenaline into your system. For example, rabid mongrel coming your way, good time for your brain to dump adrenaline into your body and give your feet the swiftness of wind as your heart pounds. Have to present notes at your work meeting, not such a good time for your brain to dump adrenaline and make your heart gallop out of control. The reason people experience anxiety disorders is that, for whatever reason, their brain has started making poor choices concerning when to dump adrenaline.

Since caffeine stimulates the adrenaline-dumping portion of your brain when there is not a deadly threat such as a rabid mongrel coming your way, caffeine weakens that part of your brain and, with long-term use, can affect your brain’s ability to make the correct choice about adrenaline dumping. Now, of course, some people are less sensitive to caffeine than others and may be able to get away with putting massive amounts of caffeine into their body for years. And I shan’t say I’ve never had a single cup of coffee since I earned my master’s degree in 2011.

Still, given the choice between coffee and tea, I chose non-caffeinated herbal tea every time. Nothing against the coffee lovers of the world. I love the smell of brewing coffee too. But if you’re ever having trouble with anxiety, or sleepless nights, or just overall stress–I’m raising my hand here–dump the coffee down the sink and reach for some Celestial Seasonings tea bags.

And while we’re talking caffeine, can I just say Red Bull comes straight from the pit. Hyperbole, perhaps. But seriously, if you’re suffering from anxiety and want to save some money at the counselor’s office, choose tea. You could always buy some scones to go with it.

Complete the prompt below for an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments.

When’s the last time your body’s dumped adrenaline into your system? Was it useful, or did you wish your amygdala had kept that adrenaline to itself? 🙂

5 thoughts on “Caffeine’s a Drug Too

  1. I am a coffee lover! How would assassin be listed in the yellowpages…..just kidding. I agree with you about it being a drug and I didn’t need all the smarts behind that statement to know that. I find your information very interesting and didn’t know any of that. Knowing it however, will stop me from heading to the pot soon to make my third cup this morning. As for the prompt, the last time I remember an adrenaline dump was about a month ago. We have recently bought some land that is very wooded, very secluded and teeming with various creatures. My daughter and nephew came running into the house leaving her 3 year old brother outside screaming about a wolf. While I never thought there was a wolf, the thought of an unfamiliar rabid dog crossed my mind. My husband and I immediately drew our sidearms (we carry most everyday) as we ran outside to find a scared harmless dog. In this case, while some may find the drawing of our weapons ridiculous or hasty. I’m glad for the experience because once it was over and our weapons reholstered I found that I had drew and reacted by the “big book of safety” when drawing. I drew quickly, kept my firearm pointed to the ground and the muzzle was never pointed at anyone and I kept my finger off the trigger the entire time. This would be the first time i have drawn in a real world scenario, so in the case yes it was useful. A little background on me, I have been bitten many many times by dogs and once as a very tiny kid I was attacked by a pit bull several times my size. He bit at my face and neck and knocked my to the ground. To this day I can see his huge head trying to rip at mine, I can feel the weight of him as stood on my small underweight body…(if not for my sister….) I would not wish this on anyone!

  2. I have never thought about a link between anxiety and caffeine before! I suffer from mild anxiety which always seems to get much worse from October – May (probably a little SAD mixed in, I’m guessing). And I currently try to manage it with supplements and vitamins. But my daily cup or two of coffee probably isn’t doing me any favors! I’m going to have to quit it and see if that helps. Thank you for the advice!

    • Best of luck. And yeah, grr, seasonal affective disorder is the worst. I enjoy living in Colorado now where we have sunshine all year round. Definitely does improve the mood. I highly recommend epsom salt baths (for their high magnesium, a muscle relaxant, content. Low magnesium in your body can trigger anxiety) for anxiety as well.

      • I’m just in South Dakota but coming from Florida, the days seem so much shorter in the winter here.
        Magnesium is one of the supplements I take, actually. Though recently I’ve been thinking I should see a doctor to have my levels checked – could be I need significantly more (and vitamin D3, too) but I wouldn’t want to overdose! I also take a tincture of passionflower, lemonbalm and lavender. Tea would be a good addition!

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