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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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The Issue of Coffee, Caffeine and Addiction

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Oct 30th 2013

The Issue of Coffee, Caffeine and AddictionHave you noticed that there are an increasing number of articles discussing the possibility that coffee consumption and caffeine intake can cause a serious addiction problem with many physical symptoms?  In the DSM 5, there is even a category of disorder having to do with caffeine addiction. Well, it seems we have just one more thing to worry about.

Not so, according to clinical psychologist, Jeremy Dean and founder of the website, PsyBlog. In fact, he discusses the many benefits of caffeine and tries to explode many myths about caffeine. Dean asserts that much of the impact that coffee has on human beings is a result more of what they expect to happen rather than what it really does. If you believe you will not be able to sleep after the intake of caffeine then you probably will not. Dean goes so far as to say that there is little proof that caffeine interferes with sleep. Of course, as he points out, if you have a double espresso before bed then sleep could be a problem so just don't do it.

Of course, like everything else in life, it's important to use moderation and common sense when drinking coffee. Drinking five cups a day will probably make people feel bad while two makes more sense. A lot depends on whether or not a person has a sensitivity to caffeine, which, with time, can probably be overcome.

In addition, there is research and speculation that caffeine may reduce pain. This is especially true when using a pain killer such as acetaminophen with coffee. The combination is supposed to work really well in reducing a headache or other such pain.

According to WebMD, caffeine be addictive is a myth and Dr. Dean agrees. There might be a mild dependence but that is overcome in twenty four hours of coming off of drinking coffee. Yes, people might experience mild irritability and even a headache but these soon pass. One way to avoid any side effects of withdrawing from coffee is to do it gradually rather than all at once.

Many people believe that caffeine raises blood pressure to dangerous levels. While it is possible that caffeine may cause a slight rise in blood pressure it is best that people with this problem speak to their doctor about coffee use. This is true for anyone with cardio vascular disease and is concerned about caffeine intake. However, for healthy people there should be no problem so long as coffee is used moderately. As stated above, two cups is usually considered safe.

There are benefits to caffeine consumption. It improves alertness, concentration and energy. There are even suggestions that caffeine may prevent or slow the development of dementia in many people.

Speaking for myself, I will continue to enjoy my two to three cups of coffee each day. There are just too many prohibitions. Smoking is dangerous, fatty meats are unhealthy, drinking poses all types of dangers and being a couch potato is no good for health. Well, in the case of coffee, I will continue to indulge and without feeling guilty or that I am harming myself in some way.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

It affects us all differently - VBI - Oct 30th 2013

Great info here:

For some people with a variant in the GRIN2A gene, coffee may lower the risk of Parkinson's by almost 60 percent.

I happen to be a slow metabolizer of caffeine, but I still love my morning cup of joe.

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