The Most Influential drug in the World No one Cares About
So what defines a drug? While we might use the word drugs for medication or sedative, drugs are usually colloquially referring to a narcotic. A narcotic is: a drug or other substance affecting mood or behavior and sold for nonmedical purposes, especially an illegal one. By that definition, narcotics can be defined as follows
- Depressants, lowering response time and awareness, slowing breathing and pulse while also causing confusion and lack of coordination, including things like Zyprexa, Seroquel, and Haldol as well as sleeping pills and alcohol.
- Stimulants, which increase alertness, energy, getting you "up" and "high" followed by a crashing "down" and "low" and encourage hyperactivity like cocaine and amphetamines.
Antipsychotics which manage psychosis, characterized by delusions, hallucinations, paranoia or disordered thought, which cause many side effects when abused
- As well as hallucinogens which, true to the name, cause hallucinogenic anomalies, many changes in mood and consciousness as well as delirium
Now that you know what drugs are and how they are classified, you probably have a pretty good idea of what the most prevalent ones fall into. Alcohol for depressants, cocaine and meth for stimulants, as well as various pills for antipsychotics and shrooms and acid. However, chances are you didn't put together the world's most important and widespread drug and its category because the world simply doesn't think of it as a "drug".
That drug's name is caffeine and it is used by over half of America's population, with about one tenth addicted to it. The newly developed caffeine energy drink industry is already at a market of 35 billion dollars, and the coffee industry is immeasurably large.
Just how big of a problem is caffeine addiction, and what can we do to control it? Let's find out, shall we?
Caffeine, Poorly Regulated and Widely Abused
In the present day, countless people rely on their morning coffee to start their days off right. Coffee is America's drink if the British and Chinese have tea, then the Americans have coffee. America first gained a taste for the bitter water during the War of 1812, when the British put an embargo on tea, and they have never turned back since. Perhaps that's a good thing, signifying the fact that Americans are early to rise and work hard, but
Perhaps that's a good thing, signifying the fact that Americans are early to rise and work hard, but in times where people don't work from daybreak to sunset, is it still a good thing to have people consume that much coffee and caffeine on a regular basis?
Let's take a look at the facts, the nutrition facts. Coffee brewed solely with water has almost no nutrition whatsoever just like any beverage that is water based. The only benefit to it is its caffeine amount, which is quite significant, considering that the concentration of caffeine in coffee is nearly 10 times that of tea. That noted, caffeine is quite the energy booster, getting many through the day, many have started to rely on coffee for their daily morning energy.
And that there is the problem. First of all, relying on something that has no nutritional value besides caffeine for the first 'meal' of the day is ludicrous, cravings will hit you later in the day and your health will suffer. Secondly, having to rely on something for your everyday functions that isn't water, sleep or food can be very dangerous. Some levels of reliance can be considered actual addiction.
As stated before stimulants increase activity, alertness, and energy while giving you a high followed by a low. Sound familiar? Caffeine is a stimulant narcotic and can be found on every store shelf in the US. Other drugs like marijuana and cocaine can go for thousands of dollars per pound on the street, but that price in it of itself can limit or disincentivize the amount consumed by any individual. Coffee doesn't have this problem, however, and can be bought for less than 10 dollars a pound, letting people buy and drink as much as they want, addicting themselves quickly.
Although the benefits of high energy in a relatively quick and painless way may seem very alluring, caffeine addiction, with the rise of energy drinks and shots has gained the attention of the medical field. The amount of hospital visits due to caffeine overdoses has increased tenfold in the last ten years and doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon.
This may be the result of the very little regulation of caffeine labeling and consumption control. When people consume energy drinks or coffee they may not even know they are consuming caffeine, because no one tells them. Unlike other drugs or alcohol, people aren't conditioned to know the adverse effects of caffeine, and since there is an immense amount of people who drink lots of coffee on a regular basis who are considered normal, there is nothing to tell them otherwise.
The combination of the lack of a cultural stigma towards caffeine, as well as the lack of warning and dosage regulations are part of the reason caffeine is so widespread and so important to the overall health of the country.
Although when you drink coffee you aren't necessarily looking for the sort of "high" you would expect with a traditional narcotic, the withdrawal symptoms are all too similar. After going off of coffee for a period of time, people tend to experience mood swings as well as irritability and depression, similar to the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol and other drugs.
As stated above, it is incredibly easy to obtain all the coffee with all the caffeine you need to get addicted to it, but worse yet kids are getting addicted and not only does it have consequences with addiction in the future, brain development may be altered with the consumption of too much.
With the consumption of caffeine, adolescents may experience a lack of sleep and a change in daytime function and routine. With too much caffeine, however, adolescents can experience lapses in cognitive function throughout the day as well. Our generation's culture (myself included) is one that emphasizes social media interactions and the internet as one's main form of expression.
The ritual of "checking the facebook/Instagram before bed" has turned into not just something you do before gong to sleep, but something you allocate time to do during the day. With this included in a student's schedule, they are bound to have less sleep, and some may turn to energy drinks and coffee to stay awake. With less sleep and energy 'artificially' given by caffeine, many students are without energy during the day.
This sleepiness during the day ,in turn, leads to more caffeine consumption in the morning, leading to a consumption habit that will likely persist until adulthood. The dejected, out of it, lazy and disrespectful stereotype of the Millenial/generation Z might've been influenced by the kids who drink too much coffee and get irritable, moody and lazy when they don't have their fix.
It's not all bad however...
With all that addiction talk and seemingly bleak future for this generation, you'll be happy to hear that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Firstly, caffeine isn't all that bad, in small amounts it has the stimulant effects, without any of the addiction problems. Secondly, coffee is vitally important to the world economy, and the US, by consuming and demanding so much of it, it providing a livelihood for over 25 million people. Fair trade coffee products, although quite small in scale compared to the whole industry, are the most demanded fair trade products and it shows that we value the people growing the coffee as well as the coffee itself. The economic effect of exuberantly high prices at Starbucks actually makes a bit of difference in a place like Ethiopia, and other countries with agricultural economies.
Fair trade coffee products, although quite small in scale compared to the whole industry, are the most demanded fair trade products and it shows that we value the people growing the coffee as well as the coffee itself. The economic effect of exuberantly high prices at Starbucks actually makes a bit of difference in a place like Ethiopia, and other countries with agricultural economies.
The coffee industry in Ethiopia employs one in four of its citizens and about 60% of the profits made off of exports are from coffee. One in four people in Ethiopia also directly depends on coffee for their livelihoods and the government takes a lot as well, with coffee accounting for more than a fifth of the government's revenue.
Brazil has also come to benefit from the coffee trade, being the largest producer worldwide has allowed them to start developing the country and its infrastructure. It has helped them earn a place among other strong developing nations such as Russia, India, and China. (We'll see if they can handle the Olympics, however) Coffee has promoted relations with the US, and exports to the US are tariff free, encouraging a little sense of 'continental unity'.
These are a few of the reasons that the consumption and demand of coffee cannot just stop in an instant. Although I am fairly certain demand won't go down anytime soon, the over 100 million coffee drinkers in the US provide the livelihood of 25 million and making 125 million people unhappy and irritable is not good.