There is some troubling information about a beloved morning ritual. According to the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders version 5 (DSM-5), caffeine is the most widely used behavior modification drug in existence.

It’s a drug. Yeah! It’s essentially an over-the-counter medication that is used to modify human behavior. If you are skeptical, think about it medically.


When you ingest it, caffeine heats up the central nervous system, blocking a neurotransmitter called adenosine which regulates transmission between neurons. This causes increased dopamine and epinephrine release. It increases metabolism and cause a number of other psychological and physiological effects. Does that not sound like a drug?

Caffeine can even cause the mental disorder called “caffeine intoxication” which is characterized by restlessness, nervousness, excitement, red face, gastrointestinal distress, muscle twitching, rambling in speech, sleeplessness, rapid and irregular heartbeat, and other symptoms. Now this isn’t really new. The DSM-4 also had caffeine intoxication included, but now there’s an addition, caffeine withdrawal.

The funny thing is that caffeine withdrawal is something anyone who drinks a lot of coffee has experienced. When they come down off of their “caffeine high,” heavy users usually experience headaches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and even a depressed mood. Seriously! The effects of withdrawal are relatively short-lived but they can last up to a month. The symptoms are real!

So why now? Well, DSM-5 was just released and they called out caffeine as an increasing self-medication. Even the FDA has gotten in on this action, promising to research the effects. I’m thinking they might consider regulation of the drug.

And yeah, your grandpa may have drunk four cups of black coffee a day, but his paper filter removed the LDL cholesterol and his cup was only eight ounces while the tall cup at Starbucks, 50 percent more than that (12 ounces). We have put caffeine in soda, gum, candy, as well as alcohol.

Doctors say that more than 500 to 600 mg of caffeine a day can start to affect systems all over the human body. A can of coke has 35 mg, a shot of express has 75 mg, a red bull has 80 mg, a tall Starbucks cup of coffee has more than 250 mg of caffeine, and 5-hour energy more than 200! Let’s not even talk about the crap in there once you’ve consider the chemicals, flavorings, sugar, or whatever else fills up those caffeinated drinks.

There are some benefits to caffeine: increased fat burning and metabolism efficiency, mental acuity, it’s also considered a performance enhancement drug after all for a reason. But like anything, moderation is best. More coffee doesn’t mean more fat-burning or more attentiveness. It really just means your body has to work a lot harder to clean all of those drugs out of your system, not to mention the prolonged effects like sleep disruption.

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