Java Junkies

I realize I am writing this post a day late. Things were crazy at work yesterday…But I’m still determined to write two more blog articles for the letter K today.

A while ago, I decided I wanted to start a cafe. This cafe would have a strong community focus, because there was a survey done saying that Vancouver lacks a sense of community. I took a 3-month business class to learn how to open a business, with the cafe as my main focus. The class ended at the end of March, but I still have the intention to open the cafe at some point. During my class, we had a “Market Research” module, in which we looked at the markets we were hoping to go into. It turns out, coffee is a huge market…and quite addictive as well. (I realize that coffee starts with a C, but I’m writing about it under J as in “Java.”)

Back in 2010, a press release was published claiming that the organic coffee market in North America tops $1.4 billion. That’s a lot of money. That’s even more than the markets for certain diseases out there…And caffeine is probably just as addicting, if not more. But, according to WebMD:

Caffeine is a stimulant to the central nervous system, and regular use of caffeine does cause mild physical dependence. But caffeine doesn’t threaten your physical, social, or economic health the way addictive drugs do. (Although after seeing your monthly spending at the coffee shop, you might disagree!)

They say if you stop drinking coffee abruptly, you will have symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, irritability, depression, difficulty concentrating…But only for a day or two.

I’m no medical professional, but I beg to differ, based on my own experience, and my observation of others. How many of us see our colleagues at the office drinking cup after cup? Coffee to them is like air, and they can’t get through the day without it. Some people, myself included, cannot function in the morning without at least one cup (luckily, I usually only need one per day and if I have more than one, I get nauseous). And when we stop drinking it, we turn into crabby, horrible, sleepy individuals. I tried quitting coffee once, and I had a week of withdrawal symptoms. The next time I tried to quit, I decided to wean off of it by cutting the caffeinated coffee down bit by bit and adding more and more decaf. That worked pretty well, until I started drinking coffee again. I just couldn’t stay away from it. And this article’s author agrees – cut it down slowly so you can still enjoy coffee, but the decaf version.

Give me coffee and no one gets hurt! Haha...Mwahaha...MWAHAHAHA.

Give me coffee and no one gets hurt! Haha…Mwahaha…MWAHAHAHA.

Just how addictive is that java? This paper, by a student at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, says:

The body develops a dependence on caffeine which is very obvious; stop drinking coffee for a day after being a regular drinker and get a headache, then drink coffee and it goes away. Some call this an addiction, coining terms such as “caffeinisme” and “caffeine withdrawal syndrome,” and classify caffeine as a mind-altering drug. […] The fact that caffeine is a drug cannot be denied. It effects the entire body in many ways, many involving chemical interactions in the central nervous system.

(And yes, she does cite her sources.)

In addition, my father, who is a Harvard-educated doctor, recommends medical marijuana for patients with severe chronic illnesses in Colorado. He talks at events around the state, and even around the United States. He likes to open one of his talks by saying, “There is a drug on the market which has horrible withdrawals, such as headaches, fatigue, concentration problems, and depression. What drug is this?” (Pause for dramatic effect.) “Coffee.” Then he goes on to say that marijuana has no addictive properties. (That’s a topic for another time.)

Not to mention, caffeine, cocaine, and heroin all increase dopamine levels in the same way. Apparently, they all “manipulate dopamine levels by slowing down the rate of dopamine reabsorption.”

Then again, that java you slurp every morning has good health benefits as well:

  • Regular coffee drinkers were 80 percent less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.
  • Two cups a day reduced subjects’ risk for colon cancer by 20 percent.
  • Two cups a day caused an 80 percent drop in the odds of developing cirrhosis.
  • Two cups a day cut the risk of developing gallstones in half.

(I have to wonder about that last one. I can’t help thinking, “Of course it cuts the risk of developing gallstones. It’s really acidic!”)

There seems to be some contention on coffee. Some say it’s healthy for you, some say it’s not. Everyone agrees that it affects the levels of dopamine in your brain. Like many things we ingest, no one agrees on whether they’re good or bad, safe or unsafe. But one thing is for sure – most people in the developed world have turned into java junkies. This can be witnessed by the number of Starbucks you find in a given city (there are 20,891 in 62 countries). I recently found out from a friend that Helsinki, Finland only has one, and that’s in the airport. I was astonished.

I think someone had a bit too much caffeine when they attacked this cup...

I think someone had a bit too much caffeine when they attacked this cup…

Should you stop drinking coffee? Should you keep drinking it? Should you start if you don’t? I’ll leave that one up to you. Just know that if you want to stop, you might have a pretty hard time doing it.

***This post is part of the Blogging from A-Z April challenge. Starting with A, every post in April will be about a topic starting with a letter of the alphabet, consecutively. For more information, please visit the official page.***

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