Can Coffee Consumption Lead to Caffeine Addiction?

A person's hands holding a coffee cup and pouring cream into it.

Caffeine is, by far, the most heavily used drug in the world, with 75% of it being ingested via coffee. In fact, one cup of coffee has about 100 mg of caffeine, with the average US adult drinking about 2 cups per day. Caffeine is generally harmless in moderation, but overconsumption can lead to addiction. This substance stimulates the central nervous system, which increases the body’s levels of dopamine and serotonin. It also increases your metabolism, body temperature, and blood pressure. Heavy caffeine users can become dependent and have long-term health problems. 

Caffeine dependency does not cause significant social and occupational problems, so it is not something most people associate with addiction. Most people only experience a decrease in appetite and a burst of energy/alertness when they consume caffeine. However, there are people who are diagnosed with caffeine use disorder. Frequent users can develop tolerance and undergo withdrawal if they stop ingesting the drug. They may require several cups of coffee in the morning to feel normal and may experience significant headaches, fatigue, and anxiety if they do not consume it. 

Caffeine intoxication and dependency are rarely diagnosed. The DSM-5 specifies that a diagnosis of caffeine and toxication should be given only if an individual experiences significant distress or impairment as a result of the symptoms. Someone who drinks too much coffee for several days in a row might become so agitated that they become anxious and shaky. 

Symptoms of caffeine intoxication can include restlessness, nervousness, and hand tremors. Users may also experience an upset stomach and rapid or irregular heartbeats. They may have difficulty going to sleep at night and need to urinate frequently. Extremely large doses of caffeine can cause extreme agitation, seizures, respiratory failure, and even cardiac problems. 

Coffee is one of America’s favorite beverages, but caffeine is a drug that can cause harm. Users do not experience the same intensity regarding the withdrawals and behaviors that occur with street drugs or alcohol, but frequent use can trigger unpleasant effects, including dependency. Recovery from any addiction, be it caffeine or any other substance, is attainable. Valiant Living, located in Denver, CO, offers a number of outpatient programs to treat drug and alcohol abuse. Our outpatient treatment programs can help you overcome your addiction and lead a healthier, happier life. If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, contact us at (303) 952-5035.