Caffeine dependency is real and dangerous

Teresa Mull

 This article is not politically charged. But you clicked on it, so you must be interested. Also, there may come a day when caffeine is banned along with large sodas and smiles, and when that day comes, a good many of you may be suffering more than you think.

I drink a cup of coffee or, if I’m feeling extravagant, a latte, once a day. Not first thing in the morning – but usually as a pick-me-up after lunchtime. It energizes me and comforts my nearly-always frigid bones (it’s snowing as I write this).

coffee_small Caffeine dependency is real and dangerous

I’ve never been one of those, “I need caffeine to get out of bed,” kind of people. I simply enjoy the flavor, pep, and ceremony provided by a cup of Joe.

The other day I did without. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I just got too busy to fix myself a mug, or maybe I wasn’t in the mood, or maybe it was a balmy 45 degrees outside instead of 35. I don’t remember, and it doesn’t matter.  That same afternoon saw me starting with the sniffles. My body temperature was elevated, and I had the distinct sense that I was coming down with something.

I cursed the germ-infested Gold’s Gym I had visited the day before and went home to rest. I drank liquids and took Vitamin C, but did not improve. The next day I felt as though I had been beaten up. I had a headache that felt like sinus pressure, and a stuffy nose.

As a young, healthy person, 12 hours of sleep usually banishes whatever is ailing me. When the magic cure failed me, I considered, and on a whim, Googled “caffeine withdrawal symptoms.” Headache, sleepiness, lethargy, irritability…these did not surprise me. Lower down on the list, however, was “Muscle pain/stiffness,” and “flu-like symptoms.” “Stuffy nose, blocked sinuses, and even vomiting have been reported by people withdrawing from caffeine.”

Ahhhhhhh! Even with low to moderate daily caffeine consumption, I have been turned into a monster! According to the Wall Street Journal, “Quitting caffeine is now listed as a mental-health disorder.” People become addicted to it and go to rehab to detox. I knew caffeine was powerful, but I guess I didn’t know how in-control of caffeine I was until I went without.

I decided I didn’t want to be sick anymore. I needed to do my job well. This morning I caved and had a latte. I do not feel comfortable being reliant on a stimulant to function healthily, so tomorrow, after I’m back to 100% (I’ve begun feeling better already), I’m going to transition to half-caf, then tea, then probably chocolate for emergencies.

It could happen to you. You have been warned.