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When a Daily Cup Isn’t Enough: Study Defines “Caffeine Use Disorder”

How much caffeine is too much.One cup of coffee in the morning used to suit me just fine. Years ago when I worked in Manhattan, there was one particular coffee cart I frequented, and that became my morning ritual. For a long time I thought of coffee as more of a warm drink to start my mornings than a caffeine boost.

Then my husband started to snore, waking me up throughout the night.

Then I had kids.

Then I started a website.

Then I had to start waking up before dawn in order to make a dent in my daily to-do list. Now I can’t get my day started without two cups of coffee in the morning. Well, at least two. Sometimes I switch over to caffeinated tea.

Sound familiar?

It’s a good thing my morning ritual didn’t morph into a dependency until after having children. A study released in January found that more and more people are becoming dependent on caffeine. So much so that they suffer withdrawal symptoms and have serious difficulty reducing their caffeine consumption, even if they have another medical condition that may be impacted by caffeine use. Pregnancy, heart conditions, and bleeding disorders can all be impacted by caffeine.

We live in a caffeine-infused world now. Coffee joints have become our cubicles, our conference rooms, and our living room sofas. Big deals are made, and friends are reunited all over cups of coffee. We don’t even have to brew at home anymore. Just throw a pod in a machine, and within seconds you have coffee.

Our caffeine fix goes beyond coffee and tea, too. We get it from chocolate, soda, sports drinks, and even in some pain relievers. Because the amount caffeine in a product does not have to be labeled, we generally have no idea how much caffeine we are actually consuming on a daily basis.

Those of us with a lower caffeine consumption (around two cups of coffee per day) will generally feel an improvement in mood and alertness. Without our caffeine, we could be sleepy and probably lethargic. People who consume more caffeine on a regular basis may experience more serious side effects, like increased anxiety, jitteriness, and an upset stomach.

This phenomenon of dependency, known as “Caffeine Use Disorder,” has been dubbed a health concern in need of more clinical research by the American Psychiatric Association. Each person may vary in their sensitivity to caffeine and their withdrawal effects, but more than half of regular caffeine users said they had difficulty quitting or reducing their caffeine consumption.

Where do you fit into the caffeine mix? Are you a casual consumer or someone who needs a cup (or three) of Joe to make it through the day?

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