Listen now: I can quit my coffee anytime

October 06, 1994|By WILEY A. HALL

My coffee machine has an automatic alarm which I set for 6 a.m., and every day I am awakened by the sweet, sweet aroma of coffee wafting through my home and I rise with my eyes closed and my arms outstretched and I make my way to the kitchen just by following the scent and no time is wasted, I waste no time, I mean I get right to work, pouring my first mug of steaming coffee, sweet coffee, coffee pungent and strong, and the indicator on my brew machine says that I am having six cups -- which I admit would seem excessive before breakfast -- but I do not drink my coffee in cups, but mugs, and it takes just three of those, which is reasonable, but even six cups would be OK because I don't need my coffee, I am not addicted to my coffee, I mean, I am telling you, I can quit my coffee anytime I want . . .

So, I say: Take that, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine!

Researchers at Johns Hopkins say they have found that some people may be addicted to caffeine in coffee, tea or soft drinks in the same way that others are addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes, or to alcohol or intravenous drugs.

Caffeine addicts find it nearly as difficult to kick their habit as other drug abusers, the researchers said in an article published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. And caffeine addicts sometimes continue to use it even when their doctors warn that the substance may harm their health.

"Caffeine creates problems that are similar to those produced by classic drugs of abuse," said Dr. Roland R. Griffiths, one of the authors of the study. "People should recognize that caffeine is a drug and give caffeine appropriate respect as a drug."

Personally, I find the notion of caffeine as an addictive drug impossible to believe and accept. The researchers at Johns Hopkins should be censured and punished -- maybe deprived of coffee for life.

. . . I live about a mile from the office and I drive to work but usually I swing east so that I pass by a McDonald's where I stop off at the men's room and when I come out the sweet aroma of coffee, coffee pungent and strong, hits me and I order a large cup with cream, no sugar because I am health conscious and I sip it as I head to the car and when I get to work I stop off at the men's room again and grab a cup from the office machine, and our machine is really neat because you can pour yourself a cup even while the machine is still brewing which I usually do because the people in my office consume so much coffee that half of the time the decanter is empty and by now it is 10 a.m. and I have had the equivalent of about eight cups which is only about two cups an hour which could hardly be described as excessive, but so what if it is, because I don't need my coffee, I am not addicted to my coffee, I mean, I am telling you -- listen to me now -- I can quit my coffee any time I want . . .

So take that, Johns Hopkins!

In their study, the Hopkins researchers used the American Psychiatric Association's definition of drug dependence to measure addiction.

The researchers looked at four criteria: withdrawal symptoms, development of tolerance over time to the effects; use of the substance in spite of aggravation of medical or mental problems; and repeated unsuccessful attempts at quitting. A person would have to meet all four criteria to be classified physically and psychologically addicted to caffeine, the researchers said. They added that many coffee, tea and cola lovers are physically dependent on caffeine, and will suffer temporary headaches, lethargy and depression when they stop using it. But of the millions of Americans who like and use caffeine, only a small but as yet unknown percentage are true addicts.

. . . Which is what I've been saying all along, and so what if I've been drinking coffee even while I write this, I always have three or four cups while I write . . .

And I can quit. I don't need my coffee. In fact, I quit my coffee every day. Every day, I reach a point when my hands start to shake and my head gets light and I feel as though I am floating, floating, whirling out of control and then I stop. I put my coffee down until 6 a.m. when the automatic alarm on my coffee machine kicks in. So, listen, don't you tell me my coffee is addictive, it is not addictive, it is not . . .

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