Euphoria Cup of Joe, java, speedball, Demitasse, picker-upper, Crema, cup of cake, Frappuccino, liquid heroin call it what you like, regardless the name its coffee and it’s an addiction. Coffee is more than a beverage it’s a way of life. Coffee is not just a beverage, it’s a drug. If caffeine can be labeled the world’s most popular drug, Starbucks are the major drug dealers distributing this drug through chains of coffee shops across the world. According to the George Boeree of the INA, there are actually 16,943 locations of Starbucks coffee shops across the globe with 4 new locations opening daily. Hundreds of thousands of law abiding citizens are physically addicted to coffee. But there’s nothing wrong with that is there? There is some apprehension however that coffee could the addiction to coffee really so serve as experts say it may be, as well as how one corporation takes over the globe one cup at a time through dependency of coffee. It is the caffeine in coffee which makes it addictive, so addictive in fact that it’s the most addictive substance known to mankind. The caffeine it contains accounts for most of the known adverse effects of coffee. Overall this paper will go in depth both good and bad sides of America’s favorite drug letting people find out coffee is more than just something used to make the most of “waking up in the morning”.
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Why do people take coffee? The first answer that comes to mind is – for stimulation. Coffee is supposed to boost energy levels and increase mental alertness. Chemically speaking, caffeine has been found to increase the secretion of andrenaline and cortisol, which increase wakefulness and to decrease the levels of serotonin and GABA that have a calming effect on the nerves. It is commonly known that people who consume coffee in copious amounts sleep less. This makes it very tempting for students who have to study overnight and for workers on night shifts to consume caffeine in the form of a respectable drink called coffee. In Islamic countries where alcohol was forbidden, caffeine was considered a useful substitute for alcohol and coffee shops substituted for taverns. It even earned the name of “Islamic wine”. With increasing awareness of the evils of alcohol, in Western society, there seems to be a general drift away from strong intoxicants and towards milder ones like caffeine. Starbucks has capitalized on the idea that coffeehouses are much more socially respectable places to meet and converse than the barroom and coffee is much less of an intoxicating drug than alcohol. Hence Starbucks sells its caffeine loaded by focusing on the “experience” – creating the right ambience, providing the right service and having the right variety of products for people to come, sit and relax and take their doses of caffeine.
However, all things come at a price and so does the caffeine. Caffeine is actually listed as an actual drug sharing the same categories as heroin, cocaine, and amphetamines. At just three and a half dollars for a mocha latte cappuccino it is probably the cheapest drug to get a person banned at the Olympics. But it must be said that the allowed limit at Olympics is way above the generally considered beneficial dosage of 300 milligram (Johnson-Cane and Glickman, p. 31). Caffeine can cause gastrointestinal problems, and drinking too much coffee can make a person jittery. Caffeine is also a diuretic and can lead to dehydration. There are possible links between caffeine consumption and benign fibrocystic breast disease (Johnson-Cane and Glickman, p. 32). According to the article “Hooked on Coffee” written by Donelson Forsyth, caffeine is a carcinogen and more dangerous chemicals are released by the high heat of roasting, such as creosote, Pym dine, tars and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The darker the roast, the greater the potential hazard. Studies that Scotts has done linking coffee consumption with cancer are conflicting and inconclusive at this point, but there is a suggestion of a higher incidence of cancers of the pancreas, ovaries, bladder, and kidneys in coffee drinkers. Recent finding shows that the quality of sleep is affected by caffeine as well. Regular coffee drinkers are found to sleep less restfully (Challem and Werback, p. 32).
Kids are today bypassing milk for caffeinated drinks like Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew and Sunkist bought at school pop machines or served at the fast-food franchises set up within school campuses (Cordes 11). It is amazing to see teens and kids just out of elementary schools hang out at the local Starbucks. Sodas have caffeine added to them but the caffeine content is not regulated making them all the more dangerous. One can see caffeine becoming popular on the playground as well. Parents are bringing along high-caffeine drinks or packets of the new carbo- and caffeine-packed “sports goo” to help give their young athletes a winner’s edge. If caffeine is such a harmful substance, how come Starbucks are dealing with it officially in a global manner? Why is coffee not banned by the government? Why are even children encouraged to be customers at Starbucks cafes?
To find the answers to my questions, I thought I could ask Stacy who works at Barista. I asked her what she thought about caffeine being a drug. Well she looked at me in blank stare for a couple seconds before saying “yeah, coffee is a fuckin drug and if it isn’t sure as hell got me hooked[sic]” as she sipped on her Frap. She said that usual customers generally keep coming back for more coffee as days go by and they also increase the strength of the coffee they drink. During the entire conversation with Stacy she was puffing on her Newport brand cigarette and had jitters in her hands. From her looks, I could see she was being slowly eroded by caffeine. I was confused. If caffeine could do so much damage to a person, why have cafes become a vital part of our culture? What is it that is so very attractive about coffee that people would go for it despite knowing about its harmful effects?
I, being a non coffee drinker so far, decided to drink coffee and see just what all the fuss of coffee was about. I went to my local Starbucks in the morning and on the recommendation of a friend, chose to have the Brazil Ipanema Bourbon. I took it in black just like my parents so that I could know exactly what the coffee charm was all about. I was shocked and surprised to find that it did not taste enjoyable. It was bitter, sour and the after taste was extremely pungent. But after taking it, I felt rejuvenated and vitalized. So I drank it throughout the day and picked up another one after I got out of work. I decided to try different cups each day I’d go. I went to Terraza blends to dark mocha roast, to Arabian hazelnut after about a week of my coffee in diver I was happy with the results for the most part. The rush was great I remember just being on point and so awake regardless how I fixed the coffee, the flavor or even when I got it the euphoria was amazing. I could also honestly say that I was hooked. I finally knew what it was to be dependent on that extra something to get me through the day. I didn’t feel right having this addiction but it didn’t hurt me or anyone else, which is the mindset of every coffee drinker across the world.
If the present day Starbucks was founded on the model of the Italian cafes why are not Italians jumpier? Italians have healthy coffee drinking habits. In the morning they take a cappuccino of modest size which has normal caffeine content. In the afternoon they take expresso, ristretto or lungo or caffe macchiato, which is less in caffeine content. They also use smaller cups to drink coffee and hence their overall caffeine intake is much reduced (Kummer, p. 52). Mr. Eric Sterling, member of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Substance Abuse (2001) in an interview has said that caffeine can cause psychosis even at low levels of 500 milligrams for some people depending on how sensitive they are to caffeine (ACLR, 1537). He further discloses that a cup of coffee from Starbucks has about 100-120 mg of caffeine. As reaction to caffeine varies from person to person, he says there can be no one single solution to the problem of coffee – it cannot be totally banned. I like this view of Mr. Sterling. If a person finds coffee addictive or creating physical problems, he or she must stop going to Starbucks as it would be equivalent to a drug store. For people like me, who can enjoy coffee with no side effects, Starbucks is a wonderful place to chill out with friends, provided the amount of coffee and its caffeine strength are wisely considered.
- ACLR (American Criminal Law Review) (2001). The War on Drugs: Fighting Crime or Wasting Time? American Criminal Law Review, 2001, Vol. 38, Issue 4, p. 1537
- Challem, Jack and Werback, R. Melvyn (2008). The Food-Mood Solution: All-Natural Ways to Banish Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Stress, Overeating, and Alcohol and Drug Problems–and Feel Good Again. John Wiley and Sons, 2008
- Cordes, Helen (1998). Caffeine Is the New Drug of Choice for Kids. The Nation, 1998, Vol. 266, Issue 15, p. 11
- Johnson-Cane, Deidre and Glickman, Joe (2002). The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Weight Training: Illustrated. Alpha Books Publishers, 2002
- Kummer, Corby (1994). Coffee Talk. New York Magazine, 1994, Vol. 27, No. 21, p. 52