Caffeine Use Can Lead to More Serious Psychological and Addiction Issues
- The New York Attorney General has subpoenaed three large energy drink makers about concerns over the drinks’ caffeine content and the health risks they can pose.
- More people in the world are addicted to caffeine than all other substances combined.
- Lighthouse Network, suggests that caffeine use – especially in the form of energy drinks – can begin a cycle of inadequate and unhealthy coping skills and for some, progressing to substance use and abuse that caffeine drinkers never expect.
- Healthier alternatives to help combat energy or motivation slumps – such as more sleep or exercise with other psychologically and spiritually enriching activities – are more productive and do not pose as many health risks.
Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York state Attorney General, recently subpoenaed three large manufacturers of energy drinks to testify as part of an investigation about the caffeine content of the drinks and the associated health risks that they may pose. While the investigation and information it will provide is important, in my opinion, the focus is misplaced.
Lighthouse Network suggests that easy access and availability of caffeine-laden drinks and supplements has dramatically elevated caffeine use in adults as well as teens and accelerates a dangerous trend that moves people toward quick fixes for common issues like sleeplessness, a lack of energy, or a negative mood state, rather than seeking more substantial and less dangerous help. A significant danger is the potential to start a trend toward more dangerous substance use: when caffeine users find themselves agitated, excited, or unable to sleep, they often see a doctor, who prescribes a tranquilizing or sedating medication to ‘treat’ these symptoms. This can, in turn, can cause a spiral effect where the caffeine user finds himself or herself addicted to prescription sleep aids, tranquilizers, or pain killers, or else mired in the depths of anger, agitation, or depression.
Caffeine is at every street corner, every office, most teens backpacks, and the majority of churches, not to mention all the ‘natural’ supplements that have significant doses of caffeine added in the small print. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant, having significant impact on our heart and cardio-vascular system, but more importantly, caffeine easily enters the brain, constricts the blood vessels and interferes with the supply of oxygen and nutrients the brain will get. With our brain compromised in many areas, including emotions, energy, agitation, and cognitive skills, many will seek their family doctor’s quick-fixe assistance for such problems, never realizing that the caffeine, or caffeine withdrawal, is to blame for their symptoms in the first place. We suggest turning to safer, natural alternatives to combat the symptoms in the first place, like stop the caffeine, get more sleep or exercise, improve nutritional habits, so a dangerous cycle of drug use does not have the opportunity to form in the first place.
While New York’s move to investigate the contents and potential health risks is a step in the right direction, for many the damage will be done by the time changes are made. Energy drinks that provide high, non labeled, and concentrated doses of caffeine have acute, intermediate, and chronic dangers. In Maryland, a 14-year old girl lost her life due to cardiac arrhythmia related to caffeine toxicity after ingesting two 24-ounce energy drinks in a 24-hour period.
We want both drinkers of these substances as well as loved ones to understand how dangerous and serious caffeine use is and be aware of both the physical and psychological symptoms of use and withdrawal. People are tricked into using more caffeine to ‘treat’ their symptoms of low energy, increased irritability, low frustration tolerance, cognitive dulling, distractibility, and impaired motivation, and low and behold, their symptoms get worse. For some, turning to another quick fix, but more potent substance to ‘treat’ their symptoms is the next step on the dangerous slippery slope in the addiction downward spiral.
As a doctor, I am always preaching, ‘Protect your brain.’ God gifted us a complex and wonderful mind and we need to take care of it because it is where our decisions are determined and carried out. The addiction treatment programs we develop show people how to renew their mind by applying Biblically-based, Christ-centered principles to bring joy and peace in today’s stressors so they don’t reach for the quick fix and ephemeral high that caffeine or other stronger drugs provide.
Those who are concerned about a friend or loved one who struggles with caffeine, depression, anxiety, insomnia, drugs, alcohol or any life-interfering or -endangering behaviors should reach out for help with a trusted Behavioral Health specialist, a local hospital, or their pastor. Remember, the most effective help will incorporate God into the healing process, because without Him, no amount of rehab, treatment or medication can bring true hope, deep healing or lasting life transformation.