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Addicted to Coffee - Can you get through a day without caffeine?

Updated on October 27, 2015

Coffee - nectar of the gods - that rich, heady aroma that gently summons us from sleep on a perfect sunshine-y morning. One coffee company advertises it's brand of coffee as, "The best part of waking up... " We can't start our day it seems, without a fresh, steaming mug of our favorite brew, whether it's a latte, mocha, cappuccino, espresso, double-shot-double-soy-non-fat-no-foam-vente-latte-macciatto, or just straight-up 100% home-perked "joe." I know my day is a bit dull without my morning dose of coffee goodness.

Caffeine is one of the most widely used drugs in North America - some would say, perhaps in the world. Caffeine occurs naturally in coffee berries, tea leaves, and the cocoa beans from which we derive chocolate. Caffeine is added to an ever increasing range of beverages as a mild, or not-so-mild stimulant. What puts the zip in *Zippy Cola? Caffeine - at a whopping 400+ milligrams per liter in some "energy" drinks.

Caffeine is also present in significant amounts in many over-the-counter remedies such as cough and cold medications, diet products, wake-up pills, and common analgesics (pain relieving medications), as well as in candy bars, and many popular soft drinks.


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A Very Brief History

Our fascination with caffeinated beverages has its roots in several ancient civilizations. Beloved by many for their stimulant and yet calming effects, these beverages have been in use for centuries around the world, by many cultures in formal, religious, and ceremonial settings long before the Europeans happened upon them.

Some ancient Central and Southern American civilizations so valued the cocoa bean that it was used as currency. The ancient Mayans brewed up their spicy chocolate from cocoa beans, often flavoring it with vanilla, and chili pepper. Mayans and Aztecs consumed their chocolate beverage before ceremonial sporting events, and other royal and religious events. Their priests offered cacao seeds to the gods and served chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies.

Early travelers to Southeastern Asia and the Orient brought back knowledge of a fragrant, restorative drink that had been enjoyed there for centuries, an infusion made by steeping tea leaves in hot water. Ascribed restorative and medicinal powers, intricate ceremonies have sprung up around brewing tea - such as the formal and beautifully contemplative Japanese Tea Ceremony.

The first European travelers to Arabia found more than spices, Persian carpets, and intricate brass and copper work - they discovered a delicacy in the sweet, hot, and strong brew enjoyed by the locals - coffee.

These beverages were all adopted with alacrity by the European populations. Each country has its own history of tea trade and coffee houses. In Regency England, coffee houses, which also featured tea and chocolate beverages, were popular gathering places for nobility and the wealthy. In the America of the 1950s, the coffee house was also a favorite gathering place of the elite, who came to hear the provocative poetry and songs of political protest penned by its own "beat generation."

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Soda Can
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What is Caffeine?

Caffeine, also known by the names guaranine, and mateine, is a naturally occurring, psychoactive drug that can be found in varying strengths in the beans, leaves, and fruit of some plants, such as the tea bush, the coffee plant, the cocoa bean, and the kola nut. Other sources include yerba mate, guarana berries, and the Yaupon Holly.

In nature, caffeine acts as a natural pesticide that paralyzes and kills certain insects that feed on the plants. The caffeine in coffee bushes also inhibits the growth of nearby plants, thus ensuring the coffee plant seedling have little competition for space and nutrients.

It is most commonly consumed by humans in infusions of roasted or dried beans of the coffee plant, the leaves of the tea bush, and extracts of the cocoa bean, as well as from a variety of foods and drinks containing products derived from the kola nut.

Effects of Caffeine:

In humans, caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, temporarily warding off drowsiness and restoring alertness. Caffeine is the world's most widely consumed psychoactive substance, but, unlike many other psychoactive substances, the inclusion of caffeine in food and beverages is legal and unregulated.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists caffeine as an additive that is "multiple purpose generally recognized as safe food substance."

Caffeine has mild diuretic properties in non-regular users, but regular consumers of caffeine soon develop a strong tolerance for that effect.

Depending on body mass and an individual's unique body chemistry, it can take as little as half an hour for caffeine to begin affecting the body, and a mild dose usually wears off in three to four hours. Consumption of caffeine does not eliminate the need for sleep; it only temporarily reduces the sensation of being tired. Caffeine consumption also temporarily enhances the capability for mental and physical work. Caffeine's effect of increasing alertness is credited with decreasing mistakes made due to tiredness in shift workers.



Caffeine Overdose

Despite it's seemingly beneficent nature, caffeine can have some distressing side-effects.

Can a person overdose on caffeine? Yes. Can an adult overdose on caffeine by consuming too much tea, coffee, or chocolate? That is doubtful, unless the adult has had no previous exposure to caffeine. This is not true in the case of a child, though.

As you can see from the chart at the right, caffeine has a wide variety of side effects, ranging from the milder but usual "coffee jitters," common in non-users, and common signs of overuse in regular users, right up to cold sweats, muscle tremors, and heart palpitations.

In pets and small animals, caffeine can be deadly. Even a small piece of chocolate or soft drink can be fatal for a small dog or a cat, and giving your pet even a sip of your energy drink is just begging for a trip to the vet.

We wouldn't dream of exposing our pets to the deleterious effects of caffeine, yet we watch as our children consume gallons of sugary, caffeinated beverages. There is less caffeine in a cup of coffee, yet we refuse to share our coffee with our children, saying, "Oh, no - coffee is bad for you. Only grown-ups can drink coffee."

What were we thinking?

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Caffeine for Kids

As you can see from the comparison chart below, that "harmless" glass of soda, or pop, as it is most often called here, carries about a quarter the amount of caffeine as a cup of strong, black coffee.

If your child has a chocolate bar, a ready-to-eat pudding, and a glass or small bottle of cola for a snack, they have just consumed as much caffeine as if they had drunk a cup of strong black coffee - to say nothing of the excess sugar and sodium packed into each serving.

Yet we think nothing of feeding all those empty calories and stimulants to our children each and every day.

Comparison Between Some Well-Known Items

Serving size
Caffeine per serving (mg)
Caffeine tablet (reg strength)
1 tablet
100 mg
Hershey' Dark Chocolate
1 bar (43 g)
31 mg
Milk Chocolate Bar
1 bar
27 mg
Cocoa powder
3 tsp (1Tbsp)
5 mg
Chocolate pudding (ready-to-eat)
4 oz (1 serving cup)
9 mg
Drip Coffee
1 cup
115 - 175 mg
Black Tea
1 cup
50 mg
Green tea
1 cup
30 mg
Coca-Cola Classic
12 fl oz
34 mg
Mountain Dew
12 fl oz
54 mg
Diet Coke
12 fl oz
46.5 mg
Sunkist Orange
12 fl oz
42 mg
Dr. Pepper
12 fl oz
42 mg
Red Bull
8.2 fl oz
80 mg
Jolt Cola
23.5 fl oz
280 mg
1 tablet
65 mg
1 tablet
60 mg
Comparison Between Some Well-Known Items


Symptoms of caffeine withdrawal are generally more severe where a higher tolerance (or consumption level) has been developed. Symptoms can include severe headache, irritability, inability to concentrate, drowsiness, and insomnia. Pains in the stomach and joint pains are also common withing the first 12 to 24 hours after caffeine use is discontinued. These symptoms usually peak in the first 48 hours, but rarely last beyond the normal 1 to 5 day range. Analgesics, such as A.S.A. or acetaminophen, can be taken to relieve the pain, or a small dose of caffeine.

Historic Precedent:

Though not previously viewed as a harmful drug, caffeine use can create a physical dependency, and its abrupt withdrawal does trigger withdrawal symptoms.

Partly because it has been used so widely as a food additive, the general public has become desensitized to the perils of caffeine consumption. True, no-one has died from caffeine withdrawal, and no-one has ever committed a serious crime to feed their coffee habit, however, researchers are compiling acompelling body of evidence against its widespread use.

Caffeine was introduced at a time when such research was not available, and it continues to be widely used because it has, so far, not caused any proven terrible or lasting effects in studied populations - aside from being a contributing factor in a growing epidemic of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and a burgeoning list of societal plagues and ills which can only add to the already heavy load carried by our increasingly expensive and already over-burdened health care programs and facilities.

Caffeine continues to be added to many products because it is cheap, easy to make, and a guaranteed, non-regulated additive that causes us to buy and use much more of their products.

Money may indeed make the world go around, but hopefully, it won't take some terrible tragedy to final open our eyes to the need for more control over additives and drugs in the products we feed to our children, and put in our own bodies.

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What can we do?

I have learned to limit my coffee consumption somewhat. A good friend once told me that women, after the age of 40 years, should limit their coffee drinking to two cups a day. "Any more than that, and you are peeing away your bones," she says.

She is referring to studies that have shown that caffeine leaches calcium from your bones. Though other studies have not upheld these results, it is still a popular idea circulating on the internet. I limit my coffee because I have developed a particular palate as far as coffee goes, and I just don't need that much caffeine.

I am one of those fortunate individuals who are not bothered by caffeine, either early in the  day, or late at night. I used to mainline coffee while at school, to meet deadlines for class projects, but rarely ended up with coffee jitters. Fortunately, I rarely have to resort to such extremes these days. Should I drink a whole pot of very strong coffee after my evening meal though, I do notice that I take a bit longer to get sleepy.

So where does that leave us possibly-addicted, coffee drinkers, tea drinkers, or cocoa lovers? I don't plan to give up coffee any time soon, nor tea, nor cocoa, for that matter. I do, however, plan to read labels a lot more carefully on everything I buy. I prefer my daily dose of caffeine hot, with two cream, in my coffee cup.

Archival video from 1961 - too much fun!

© 2011 RedElf


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    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

      I can go without, but am not at all bothered by caffeine, one way or the other - lucky me. I do love my coffee, though.

    • Joe Macho profile image

      Zach 5 years ago from Colorado

      Redelf - Well presented hub. There was so much information it's almost hard to digest it all in one sitting! Writing for Hubpages introduced me to the world of coffee. All was fine and dandy until the grounds ran out. Couldn't focus, couldn't write and definitely couldn't keep a good mood. It was for sure the withdrawals. Still enjoy a good cup a few times a week, but never as a crutch for higher productivity.

      As for your friend, she just might be right. I haven't looked at any studies, but I do know from a gardener's standpoint that coffee is acidic. I spread used grounds all around my acidic-loving plants to keep the soil pH low. Since calcium is an alkaline mineral, it would make since that coffee would dissolve it, and cause you to "pee out your bones". Great work.

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

      I love my coffee, too, Stephanie! I am one of those lucky people who's not bothered by caffeine, but I prefer to confine it to my coffee. I can manage without my coffee if necessary, but don't cut in front of me in the coffee line :D:D:D

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 6 years ago from USA

      Coffee! Love it and love your hub! I'm not so sure about people not committing crimes in order to get their coffee...I've been almost that desperate now and then. :)

      I was surprised to see how much caffeine is in soda and diet drinks. Your example of giving a child chocolate pudding and a soda for a snack was eye opening. Thank you for a very interesting hub, and thank you for not making me feel guilty about loving my coffee!

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

      Yes... not so easy to do :D. Thanks again, carcro.

    • carcro profile image

      Paul Cronin 6 years ago from Winnipeg

      Certainly not me! As parents we have to set good examples for our kids, and also guide them as much as possible. Easy to say...

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

      Yes, it gives you pause, doesn't it, carcro? Adults can make their own choices, but those caffeinated sweets are part of the obesity epidemic - and who wants their kids to have a cola addiction that could lead to adult-onset diabetes?

    • carcro profile image

      Paul Cronin 6 years ago from Winnipeg

      Wow, that's a lot of info about my favorite beverage year round. Its hard to imagine a day without coffee, it really is the one thing I am addicted to, funny thing is I don't drink a lot of coffee every day, just 1 or two cups, but I must have it none the less. Thanks for sharing all your expertise on coffee, I have lots to read now while I drink mine!

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

      Thanks so much, Lucky Cats - and I must say your rescued felines certainly are lucky to have found such a good home with you and Al.

    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 6 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      Amazingly detailed, informative and addictive hub! My answer to your title...NO! There is NO WAY I can get through the day w/out, dark, bold, pungent and STRONG freshly ground and dripped. The old fashioned way w/my faithful Melitta "manual" model! I must re read this as there is so much it and I will NEVER give up, nope..never! Love this hub and love the subject matter! UP AWESOME USEFUL and should be an INFORMATIVE!

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

      celeBritys4africA, thanks so much for commenting. I am one of the lucky ones, I guess, as coffee doesn't bother me at all. but I do agree that the taste is ambrosial. :D

    • celeBritys4africA profile image

      celeBritys4africA 6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I am addictive to coffee. I like the taste. MOre than 3 coffee mugs per day makes my heart go crazy...but the taste, the taste is unique.

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

      I don't plan to stop either, Peter, I enjoy my coffee too much. :D

    • Peter Owen profile image

      Peter Owen 6 years ago from West Hempstead, NY

      I drink a lot of coffee every day, though most of it is decaffinated after the first two cups. No plans to stop.

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

      So I've been told, Avamum. You are doing well.

    • Avamum profile image

      Sarita Harbour 6 years ago from Yellowknife, Canada

      Great hub! Canadians are some of the heaviest coffee drinkers in the world, so at just 2 cups a day I am considered a lightweight. One of my favourite things to do when I visit a new place is to sample the local java. From the Blue Mountain Coffee in Jamaica to the roasted chicory coffee at the Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans, coffee holds a special place in my heart!

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

      I'm with you, Lynda!

      Ah, yes, the restorative powers of a good brew :D:D: Thanks for stopping by to comment, Lynda D.

    • LyndaD profile image

      LyndaD 6 years ago

      I can't get through my morning without at least one cup. THe girls and I used to brew pot after pot following a really great saturday.

    • profile image

      Lynda 6 years ago

      A morning isn't complete without a nice cup of coffee!!

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

      That's quite a story, dstarek - though I have gone off several times by accident, I do enjoy my coffee too much to quit it on purpose.

      Marie, good for you! Caffeine can be really hard on some people.

      You are most welcome, Mrs asif

    • Mrs asif profile image

      Mrs asif 6 years ago

      i love your hub .nice one and i love coffee but i am not addicted.Thanks for this hub.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks for this well-presented and informative hub about Caffeine. During December I’ve increased my coffee-consumption from 2 cups per day to 8, and found myself four weeks later sick and extremely anxious with all those symptoms of caffeine overdose. I knew it was the coffee, so I quit. And now I am hyper-sensitive to caffeine.... and I will have to quit my most favourite treat, chocolate, too :(((

    • dstarek profile image

      dstarek 6 years ago

      Great hub! I have been caffeine-free for 6 months now. I have not had one drop of coffee or caffeinated teas. I went through 11 days of withdrawals including very bad leg cramps at night. I don't miss it and I plan on staying caffeine-free! Another benefit of quitting coffee was taking my first fasting blood test after kicking the habit. It was a breeze since I don't need that first cup of coffee to function anymore! I still enjoy the smell, but I don't crave it.

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

      Thanks so much, Gal. I love my coffee too ;) - on my way!!

      debbie, so glad you were able to cut down without committing mayhem :D:D:D

    • debbiesdailyviews profile image

      debbiesdailyviews 6 years ago

      I loved reading your Hub. This struck a cord with me, as I really was addicted to cofffe some time ago now.

      I loved the bit about, recodnising people can be adicted without going out to commit a crime to kill the craving hahaha

      Even I wasn't that bad. Although even today, if I have instant coffee, I drink it strong, and black. So yeah, I still get my fix, but I have cut down some .

      This Hub is very interesting, I really enjoyed the history lesson.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

      redelf, Great hub, lots of information. I love coffee and I most likely always will. I try to stay to two cups only. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes not. I have started to drink a lite brew 1/2 caf and 1/2 decaf. I hope nobody ever asks me to give it up completely.

      Drop on over and have a cup when you have a chance.

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, friend Hh!

      lyndre, yes remembering where you are is always a good thin!

      fucsia, I found comparing things very interesting, as well - it's amazing how much stuff we may not be aware of that is added to what we eat and drink.

      Me, too, FP - not that I am ready to give up either one, LOL

      CMH, it's the thought that counts :D - not how much coffee is in the mug. Some of my friends prefer stronger coffee, too. I certainly agree about soft drink additives, though.

    • CMHypno profile image

      CMHypno 6 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      A morning without coffee? Horrendous thought! Fascinating hub on coffee and caffeine, RedElf, I know I should try to drink more water but its now an ingrained habit to put the kettle on and make coffee (though it has been said that what I actually make is hot water and milk with a few coffee granules sprinkled on top!). I do think that we should be more carful what we give kids though, there are so many nasty chemicals in a lot of fizzy drinks, that they should be restricted to occasional treats, and not everyday consumption

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 6 years ago

      Have never managed to completely give up chocolate, it has a mysterious hold on me! :D

    • fucsia profile image

      fucsia 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing the chart "Comparison Between Some Well-Known Items" , is very interesting! I take a cup of coffe in the morning and rarely another one in the afternoon, But I never tried to eliminate them. Very interesting Hub, about a substance that we are not accustomed to consider as an addictive substance

    • lyndre profile image

      lyndre 6 years ago from Scotland

      Very informative hub RedElf.

      Since I gave up drinking alcohol my coffee intake took off.I drink about 7 mugs a day.Sometimes I think I just make a cup for something to do.

      But hey at least when it,s coffee and not vodka I can remember who and where I am :lol:

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for your detailed information. I am a coffee addict.

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

      jantamaya, I hear you - love coffee, too! Thanks for commenting!

      paraglider, how nice of you to stop by! Sounds like a New Year's resolution to me. too :D

      Hey, carrie! Thanks so much. I drink a lot of water, too. Still love my coffee, though!

    • carrie450 profile image

      carrie450 6 years ago from Winnipeg, Canada

      Even though I love coffee I had to limit my intake also RedElf from 6 cups to two. the rest of the time I try and drink as much water as possible because coffee dehydrates.

      Well written hub and very informative.

    • Paraglider profile image

      Dave McClure 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      It's very easy to let coffee consumption creep up, isn't it? I deliberately start every day with a single cup of my favourite Arabica (making this is a ten minute ritual!) But it's the free coffee and chai, very strong and oversweet, that is almost forced on us (typical Middle East workplace custom!) that really I could do without. This feels like a new year resolution :)

    • jantamaya profile image

      Maria Janta-Cooper 6 years ago from UK

      I love coffee, I always loved coffee, and I always will love coffee. Period. Loved your article too.

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

      Nice of you to stop by and comment, David Alderson - I would stay out of the sink, Mr. Kitty - people can be very careless bout what they leave lying around sometimes :D:D:D

    • David Alderson profile image

      David Alderson 6 years ago from Cat Lovers, Indiana

      I have tried this coffee drink from a cup one of my people left in the sink. It could replace cat nip as my stimulent but I dread the withdrawal. This is a great article....

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

      Hey, thanks, Enelle! Always nice to hear from you. We had a pot just like that one, too. :D:D:D

    • Enelle Lamb profile image

      Enelle Lamb 6 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      What a great hub! Loved the video :D, and recognized the pot that sat on our stove for years LOL...