April 11, 2010

Caffeine: Gateway Drug To The Fast Life

"Widespread caffeine use explains a lot about the twentieth century."
- Greg Egan

One of my 2010 resolutions was to quit caffeine, coffee in particular, and I have been largely successful in meeting that goal. But try not buying any caffeine in our energy-obsessed culture, and you will discover that it is more difficult than you imagine. 90% of North American adults consume caffeine on a daily basis - we love the stuff!

It is no wonder. We need a substance to help us fuel our full tilt 24/7 lifestyle because no one wants to be left behind like they're in slow motion. Slow is the enemy so grab a coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cola or energy drink. Boost your competitive edge and launch yourself firmly into the established order of consuming so much more than just a drink. Caffeine is the perfect (legal) drug to act as a gateway to the glittery, sparkly fast life of endless buzz, stuff and excitement.

Caffeine can also increase your motivation to do tasks and work. The half life of caffeine in the body is four hours so "coffee breaks" have been conveniently scheduled into your work day in order to keep up your dose and your motivation. I have observed that malls frequently have coffee shops, obviously to help motivate you to do what people do in malls.

Caffeine is humanity's favourite psychotropic drug, and it finds its way into a variety of beverages. A dose as small as 10mg can cause behavioural changes in sensitive individuals, including increased heart rate, agitation and anxiety.

A standard brewed cup of coffee contains about 180mg of caffeine. Decaffeinated coffee can have anywhere from 5 to 15mg (that's right - caffeine in decaffeinated coffee), a standard cola beverage about 35mg, a Starbuck Grande Coffee about 330 mg, and a Jolt energy drink about 280mg. Japanese green tea has about 25mg (if you dump the first infusion and immediately brew a second, the second infusion will be decaffeinated - it is not necessary to purchase decaf green tea).

The website energyfiend has an excellent list of the caffeine content of beverages, many that are popular with children. The highest caffeine content on the list is the jitters-inducing 500 mg found in 5150 Juice. Although they do recommend 83mg servings, such a delivery vehicle makes abuse likely. The advertising proclaims that 5150 is good for a variety of (vulnerable, young) target groups such as bodybuilders, students, night shift workers, and all night partiers. It is, apparently, the answer to all your energy needs.

What about getting a good nights sleep, eating properly and living a low stress lifestyle? What happened to these natural and healthful ways of ensuring an adequate energy supply to get you through the day? Seeing this socially sanctioned method of inducing dependence in the populace makes me even more resolved to quit using caffeine.

About 300 mg a day is thought to be somewhat of a threshold at which point the benefits of coffee (temporary mental alertness and increased physical performance, and antioxidant properties) are overcome by the negative aspects associated with this drug (rebound fatigue, shakiness, anxiety, panic attacks, irritability, insomnia, and decreased motivation for tasks/work). It is possible to overdose on caffeine (just ask Foo Fighter front man Dave Grohl). In severe cases, death may result from convulsions or an irregular heartbeat.

Not only do we form a physical dependence to this stimulant, but we become psychologically addicted as well; we feel we NEED our favourite beverage or there is going to be trouble. There is truth to this as if you quit cold turkey you are likely to at least experience a mild to severe headache. Other symptoms include nausea, fatigue, anxiety, and depression lasting several days.

One way to quit caffeine is to decrease the amount you ingest by 50% each day, while another is to keep ingesting the same amount, but gradually increase the amount of decaf until it reaches 100%.

For me dependence is the key word, whether we are referring to drugs like amphetamines, cocaine, caffeine, or consumerism. We all depend on other people, but problems occur when we become dependent on things such as drugs, products, or corporations. That leaves us open to being preyed upon and we risk becoming drug and stuff-addled zombie serfs going through the motions for the benefit of the elite. I am working at reducing my dependence on things whether drugs like caffeine, or corporations and the stuff they push. Such dependence is unhealthy, and increases our feelings of angst and unease.

I have to wonder about a legal drug that increases your motivation to get your job done like a proper drone, plus enables all your fast life proclivities including consuming, being high energy and sparkling brighter than all the sloths you are leaving in your dust. Is what everyone is getting hyped up for worthwhile?

Drugs that induce users to relax or question authority (like The Truth) are not universally condoned, and certainly not at the workplace.


I say, "No" to the fast life and its lubricant, caffeine, and this has freed me from the mass artificial speed mania that prevails in mainstream society today.
Quitting caffeine has made me feel more awake, alert, and aware. I have more energy through the day than when I was using caffeine. You too may come to realize that you feel much better after you break your dependence on the caffeine habit.

Caffeine is all about an artificial non-stop go, go, go, and fitting in to the established order of things. The alternative life of living with less is about slow, slow, slow, and living according to your dreams, ideals and values - naturally. Good riddance caffeine, and your promise of eternal energy.

Try quitting the fast-life gateway drug. Who knows where such a change in your life would lead?

1 comment:

  1. What about tea? I am adopted some of your lifestyle, -- living with minium material, eating less, and not buying & eating out.

    I would like to know what do you think of orange pekoe tea, or black tea with milk?

    Although best substitute for coffe/tea -- at least for me -- is just pour hot water into the coffe/tea cup and drink it like it's tea or coffee -- I also find this quite soothing.

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