Coffee: America’s favorite drug

March 10, 2009 — by Shannon Galvin and Andy Tsao

Forget the back alleys and tinted cars, the biggest drug deals today happen in cozy cafés as jazz music streams through the speakers over the grind of coffee beans. The regular customers defy the stereotypes as well—soccer moms, high school students and business people on their way to work line up for their drug of choice. Throughout the country, hundreds of thousands of law-abiding citizens are physically addicted to it. Welcome to the biggest drug dealer in town—Starbucks.

Addicting, mild-altering and readily available at every street corner, coffee tops the charts as America’s favorite drug. The average American adult drinks 26 gallons of coffee every year. At 50 cents for a cup of homemade coffee, that’s $1,664 in a year. At Starbucks, where coffee costs about $3 per 16-ounce cup, 26 gallons would equate $4,992. Spread that over 10 years, and the average American could buy a decent car. In 20 years, he could pay the entire tuition for a very respectable college. The culprit in his addiction? Caffeine.

By itself, caffeine is a serious poison. Amazing Discoveries claims that one drop of pure, concentrated caffeine, injected into the skin of an animal, is enough to kill it within minutes. The amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee is relatively small and largely diluted, but it’s the reason people will drink a cup day after day. Like nicotine, caffeine keeps its users consistently coming back for more.

Negative effects of caffeine can range anywhere from stomach ulcers to increased likelihood of hip fractures to infertility. Evidence shows links to cancer with coffee drinking, such as an increased chance of bladder cancer.

According to Canada’s National Post, an overuse of caffeine can lead to psychological disorders, potentially culminating in insanity. With only five cups of coffee a day, a person is “more than twice as likely to exhibit adult antisocial personality disorder, and abuse of alcohol, cannabis or cocaine.”

Although coffee cannot be viewed in the same light as heroin, coffee in large amounts does produce similar negative effects. Both heroin and coffee are addictive and tolerance to both evolves over time, resulting in higher and higher quantities. Repeated usage of either drug can cause infertility, damage to vital organs and pulmonary disease.

Just like any other drug, when users try to quit drinking coffee they feel withdrawal symptoms. According to the Johns Hopkins Medical Department, those addicted to coffee may experience headaches, irritability, anxiety, diarrhea and light-headedness if they try to quit. Addiction is extremely common—a mere cup of coffee a day is enough to produce caffeine addiction.

Some might argue that because coffee is less toxic than narcotics or alcohol, it is less of an issue, but just like other drugs caffeine can leave its users with crippling conditions and life-threatening diseases. Coffee may seem harmless, but caffeine leaves a powerful and horrific effect on the body.

Besides caffeine, coffee also contains several hundred other chemicals. The darker the roast, the greater the possible dangers become. Carcinogens—cancer causing agents such as creosote, pymdine and tars—come from the high heat required to produce coffee. The roasting of the coffee creates tars that are characteristic of coal tar which are similar to those found in a cigarette.

Unfortunately, very few people realize the danger they put themselves in when they drink one to two to four to six cups of coffee a day. The information is kept in the dark to benefit the rising profits of coffee shops around the world. Large coffee shop chains, like Starbucks, need to take responsibility for their products and let their customers know the danger of too much.

Looking at health studies, it’s hard to ignore the blatant truth—coffee is a drug.

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