Caffeine = Addictive?
Caffeine doesn’t seem like a very harmful substance, but it actually can be physically addictive. If you’re in the process of recovering from addiction, certain substances like drinks that contain caffeine might give you pause. While it is technically addictive, it doesn’t automatically cause health problems like some other drugs do. Should you use caffeinated drinks during recovery or not? Here’s what you need to know.
Why Using Caffeine During Recovery Is So Controversial
Before getting into all the pros and cons of using caffeine, it’s helpful to understand why the topic is so debatable in the first place. The idea of drinking caffeine during recovery becomes an issue because of the concept of addiction. When you’re dealing with a substance use disorder, the idea of being addicted to anything is understandably concerning. Since caffeine is an addictive substance, it’s no surprise that some people feel uncomfortable with the idea of using it. However, caffeine has some unique properties that make it different from other addictive drugs like heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamines.
Is Caffeine Addictive?
Whether or not caffeine is addictive depends on your definition of addiction. Caffeine is certainly a mood-altering substance that you can develop a physical dependence on. As a stimulant, it can cause alertness, focus, and some other alterations to your mental state. Just like many other drugs, frequent use of caffeine disrupts some processes in the body. If you quit using caffeine suddenly, you can experience cravings, headaches, fatigue, and other signs of withdrawal.
While caffeine does technically have the physical signs of an addiction, it doesn’t quite qualify as a form of mental addiction. Medically speaking, substance use disorders are defined as an uncontrollable use of a substance even after the substance causes negative consequences. Because caffeine doesn’t cause major dopamine spikes like other drugs, it doesn’t tend to cause the same intense mental imbalances. Most doctors do not qualify caffeine use as a type of substance use disorder. People with a caffeine addiction can usually quit using it with some minor discomfort, and they aren’t likely to harm themselves or others in the pursuit of caffeine usage. Furthermore, since caffeine has such a mild impact, it doesn’t cause extreme mental confusion, unconsciousness, aggression, or other problematic symptoms.
Is Avoiding All Addictive Substances Necessary?
Now that you know about caffeine’s unique effects, it’s a little easier to see why some people don’t like the usage of caffeine during recovery. Some worry that caffeine is technically physically addictive while others don’t want to do anything to alter their current mental state. However, there are no strict rules about the ideal way to manage your health during recovery.
The reality is that recovery is very personal. Some people want to entirely avoid touching anything that alters their mood. They may feel like these substances could hurt their self-control or make them crave other drugs. Meanwhile, other people feel that it might be okay to use mood-altering substances as long as they are not using the substance they have a problem with.
Keep in mind that quite a few medications can alter the mood or cause physical dependence. Commonly used recovery tools like methadone can be even more addictive or mood-altering than caffeine. Therefore, for some people, using caffeine can be entirely safe.
Can Caffeine Help During Recovery?
Despite being somewhat controversial, caffeine is still a very popular choice during recovery. Many people enjoy caffeine because it provides some unique benefits. Depending on your situation, drinking caffeinated beverages may make recovery a little easier.
One of the most common complaints during recovery is feeling fatigued. Depending on the drugs you used, fatigue might be a part of withdrawal. Even after detox, many people still struggle with feeling unpleasant. This is typically due to an issue called post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). After a lengthy period of using drugs, your body may be stressed, overtired, and exhausted. It can take months to start feeling like your old self again.
During this stage, caffeine can give you some much-needed motivation and energy. A caffeine beverage can help to clear out some of those mental cobwebs, so you can focus on your recovery. In addition to helping with that foggy feeling, caffeine can also give you the energy to get moving again. Since exercise can be a great way to start healing, caffeine can be quite helpful in dealing with physical exhaustion.
Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.
Depending on the caffeinated beverages you prefer, you could get some additional health benefits. Coffee and tea are filled with helpful substances called antioxidants. These compounds inhibit dangerously unstable molecules, called oxidants. When you consume antioxidants with your caffeinated beverage, you can reduce the amount of oxidative damage your body deals with. This is associated with a broad range of useful benefits. Antioxidants have been linked to less inflammation, lower cancer risks, and reduced risk of disease. Since your health is so vulnerable during recovery, anything that can have positive effects is a good idea.
In addition to damage from the drugs themselves, many people with substance use issues also deal with associated problems like chronic malnutrition. A few cups of antioxidant-rich coffee or tea can be a helpful tool for rebuilding your strength.
Protective Effect on the Liver and Heart
Depending on the drugs you were previously taking, you might be dealing with some heart problems or liver problems. If you’re worried about these essential organs, caffeine might be able to help. Though randomly consuming high levels of caffeine can cause blood pressure spikes, consistent low dosages may have the opposite effect. Regularly drinking coffee can help to reduce hypertension risks.
In addition to having a positive effect on heart health, coffee and other types of caffeine can also help with liver health. Some research finds that consuming low amounts of caffeine can reduce the risk of liver disease. This may be due to its calming effect on blood pressure, or it might happen because of the protective antioxidants in certain types of caffeine beverages.
Reduce Weight Gain Risks
Many people find that they gain weight after starting to recover. This can be a good thing if you’ve been neglecting nutrition for a while. However, if you’ve replaced drugs with sugar, weight gain can be a little more problematic. Though it is certainly healthier than using drugs, obesity is still quite damaging to your health. Studies have shown that regular coffee drinkers tend to have fewer problems with obesity. There are a few ways that coffee can help you maintain a healthy weight. Some research indicates it might help to slightly boost metabolism. More importantly, it tends to reduce cravings for food. This can help you keep from mindlessly snacking on junk food during recovery.
A New Ritual
For many people, the benefit of caffeine comes from the stability of preparing the beverage. Thoughtfully making a cup of tea or coffee and then sitting down to sip it can be very mentally reassuring. Especially when you are struggling to rebuild your life after addiction, this can be a welcome distraction. Many people in recovery report that caffeine can feel like a safer substitute for their old habits. For example, if you always sat down to watch the news with a beer, coffee can provide a similarly strong taste without intoxicating effects.
Caffeine is also associated with daily tasks like waking up, having breakfast, or exercising, so it can help you feel more grounded. As you find ways to live without drug abuse, it might be a helpful addition.
Is It Dangerous to Use Caffeine During Recovery?
Though some people find that caffeine makes recovery easier, others find that caffeine use is challenging. There can be a few mental and physical effects of caffeine that impair recovery. Keep in mind that these disadvantages worsen with high doses. People who might be fine with a cup of coffee or tea each day may find that a few energy drinks cause far more problems.
Since caffeine is a stimulant, it can cause some issues with anxiety. Especially when taken in high doses, caffeine can make you focus on negative thoughts and stress over them. In fact, research has found that excessive usage can mimic the symptoms of some anxiety disorders.
This can be a big problem for people in recovery. Not only are you in a fragile mental state, but you might also be dealing with anxiety that results from withdrawal. Taking caffeine during this stage of recovery often makes anxiety worse. For many people, the pleasant mental boost of caffeine isn’t worth the intense anxiety that it may cause.
Disrupted Sleep Patterns
Many people consume caffeine because it makes them feel alert. However, this can also be a downside. After you get the initial burst of energy, you can end up feeling just as tired as you were before. Since caffeine lingers in your system for roughly eight hours after consumption, you might find it hard to fall asleep. Even those who can sleep after consuming caffeine tend to have more restless, low-quality sleep. This is a problem because sleep is essential to repairing the brain. In the weeks and months after you get sober, you need to rest and heal.
If you are barely able to sleep at night, you end up stressed, fatigued, and more likely to make poor decisions later in the day. Especially if your withdrawal is causing insomnia, caffeine might be a bad idea. This is particularly true if you are drinking it at night.
Substance Abuse Trigger
For some people, issues with caffeine go beyond physical impacts. Though its effects are mild, caffeine still has a significant effect on your mental state. This can be quite challenging during the early days of sobriety. Since caffeine isn’t a necessary substance, there’s no reason to use it if it impairs your ability to stay sober. It is very common for people to feel like any addictive substance stresses their sobriety. For some, the ritual of having a substance every day can remind them of what it felt like to use drugs. Others may notice that the impacts of caffeine remind them of the stimulants they abused. In some situations, it can even be a trigger because a person used to have a cup of coffee with their favorite drug. In any situation where it is making it hard to stay sober, it’s best to avoid it.
How to Decide If Caffeine Use Is Right for You
As you can see, whether or not you use caffeine is mostly a personal choice. Some feel like it’s a helpful tool while others feel like it impairs their relationship with sobriety. If you’re considering caffeine usage, it’s a good idea to consult with a professional involved in your recovery. They can help you make an informed decision on whether caffeine is right for you. It’s especially important to talk to your care team if you’re in inpatient rehab because some facilities may not allow caffeine usage on their grounds.
At Granite Recovery Centers, we specialize in personalized addiction care. Our team meets with each new patient to discuss their situation and recommend a custom treatment plan. Depending on your needs, we might suggest one of our partial hospitalization programs, inpatient programs, or outpatient programs. We can discuss your current health care regimen and help you figure out whether you still want to drink caffeine or not. To learn more about our services, give us a call today.