Is Caffeine a Drug?

To understand whether or not caffeine is a drug, we must first define what constitutes a drug. A drug is considered a prescription medication that improves or diminishes a symptom and or illness. Another reference to a drug is any mind-altering substance that causes abuse and addiction. The second reference is most applicable to caffeine, although medication drugs use caffeine to treat headaches. 

Can We Consider Caffeine as a Drug?

Still, the issue of whether caffeine is a drug is simple. If it is abused for its effects and causes negative consequences of any type, it is a drug. However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse does not entirely consider caffeine a drug. 

Caffeine is a mild stimulant and not a drug, so its use isn’t regulated like prescription drug use is. Still, consuming too much caffeine can make you feel jittery or jumpy—your heart may race, and your palms may sweat. If caffeine is taken in combination with other substances, like alcohol, it can be dangerous because mixing a stimulant and a depressant like alcohol confuses the brain. (NIDA)

Is Caffeine a Drug

Mixing Caffeine with Other Drugs

Mixing caffeine with other substances, whether to potentiate the effects or instigate a new type of ‘high,’ puts caffeine into the drug addiction circles. The problem of mixing substances to get a specific effect is ongoing. Polydrug use is on the rise, and since caffeine can be bought as a beverage, pills, or other mixtures- it is safe to say that caffeine is a drug. Additionally, caffeine cases physical tolerance. Anyone who drinks lots of coffee will know about caffeine withdrawal headaches. The physical detox symptoms from caffeine are considered a medical diagnosis and cause the following: 

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Mild Depression
  • Low Energy
  • Shaky hands
  • Irritability
  • Mood Swings

Mild Withdrawal Symptoms of Caffeine

Since caffeine is a part of almost everyone’s morning routines, it is widespread for many people to develop an addiction to the effects and the physical need to use it every day to avoid the onset of caffeine withdrawal symptoms. The National Institute on Drug Abuse further discusses whether caffeine is an addictive stimulant like methamphetamine or cocaine or prescription stimulants like Adderall or Ritalin. They point out that caffeine releases dopamine like those other drugs but not as much, making it less concerning for outright addiction.

The world’s caffeine obsession can be described as a “dependency” (because when you have less of it, you go through a mild “withdrawal,” with the symptoms listed above), but it is not an addiction. It is true that—like many drugs—caffeine enhances dopamine signaling in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical that helps control movement, motivation, and emotions, so enhanced dopamine signaling makes a person feel more awake and alert. Because caffeine produces that alert feeling, it’s classified as a stimulant. (NIDA)

Large Caffeine Intake Can Lead to More Significant Dopamine Excretion

Some people ingest so much caffeine that it is like binge drinking or heavy drug use. But, again, because caffeine does not release as much dopamine that addictive stimulants do, a large caffeine intake can lead to more significant dopamine excretion. Caffeine addiction could inspire other drug use once the stimulant effects from it are not enough. 

Caffeine and Stimulant Addiction Help in Connecticut Addiction Resources

To help someone who struggles with caffeine or other stimulant drug use or addictions, it is imperative to get professional help from a specialized treatment program for stimulant addiction. We make admission to a drug or alcohol treatment program simple. To learn more about evidence-based simulant rehab, please reach out to one of our representatives.


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