Drug education: Caffeine

Following on from that last post, I wanted to make it clear that I have no problem with drugs either medicinally or recreationally. My main problem is with a dominant debate about drugs that says that if they are sold to you by some black guy on the corner (and, lets face it, that’s who the bad guy drug dealer is pictured to be) you should “just say no” but if they are sold to you buy a medical doctor who had them sold to him/her by someone in a suit representing some big company with a multi-part name reflecting a solid history of corporate mergers, then this is a good thing and you don’t need to know any more. This is BS. Both sides.

So, as many folks pointed out in the comments, Ritalin and other drugs prescribed for ADHD and whatnot are stimulants. And there are perfectly good stimulants in most of our kitchens and, if not, easily available in a grocery store near you. Now technically, caffeine is not a drug. It’s a food. And anyone who tries to tell you that social construction is a crock should try to explain why that is without reference to the fact that it is because the government says so. The distinction is all about how the stuff is regulated. From the point of view of whether it has a particular kind of impact on the chemical and electrical processes in your brain, caffeine is in the same group as Ritalin. But it’s an amateur drug. No prescription required.

As comments on the last post pointed out, however, it can be highly effective in helping folks with ADHD concentrate and focus. In fact, unless I am mistaken, the pros cut their amphetamine with a bit of caffeine when they make their prescription remedies. Now it is up to you whether you decide to medicate your kids with caffeine (just like it is with the pro drugs) but if you do, I suspect you want to give them some safety tips. It is also socially acceptable (and legal!) to take caffeine recreationally. Lots of people do it. You may need to get used to the taste of your source of choice but experiment and see what you like. There is plenty of advice available. And the price covers quite a range so you should be able to find something good in your price range.

Different sources of caffeine contain different amounts/doses. You might want to start with something light like tea. Dark roast coffee apparently has less than mild roast. Sugar is also a stimulant so be aware that you are combining drugs when you put sugar in your tea/coffee or when you drink cola.

Don’t take more than you need. That might mean that you don’t want a whole can of cola which is a drag because it only seems to come in large containers. But coffee/tea cups come in different sizes and, if you brew your own, you get to fill them. So start with small cups. Heck the Italians traditionally use really small cups.

Common symptoms of a mild overdose include a jittery feeling. This will go away on its own. Try not to take so much the next time. If you get heart arrhythmia you might want to really cut back. (personal experience; it also goes away but I now drink half-decaf) If you drink way too much you might end up with stomach problems. Really 12 cups a day is a problem however you slice it. (that was my dad’s personal experience during the period immediately after he quit smoking) Despite what others will tell you, caffeine and high stress environments don’t usually add up to good things.

Some folks find that their sleep is disrupted if they take too much. This might mean that you can’t take any after about 2 p.m. Or it might mean that you have to reduce the dose more radically. Experiment until you figure it out. It is a bad idea to complement your stimulants with depressants to help you sleep. And the long term effects of sleep deprivation are not good.

All the normal rules about food apply. Think about the source. How well are the workers treated? Has this stuff been treated with pesticides and whatnot that might still be in the final product? Too much sugar rots your teeth (important consideration if cola is your preferred source).

My personal principles include: don’t drink instant coffee; buy fair trade; organic is probably good, too; drink the best stuff you can afford; half-decaf is a good way to limit the caffeine dose but keep the social aspect.

If anyone has further tips to add, chime in in the comments.


3 thoughts on “Drug education: Caffeine

  1. Well, I;ve mentioned before how much tea I normally drink. And yes, I’m ADD. I also find it does not really keep me up.

    That’s a good test, actually. If you can fill your kid up with caffeine and they can fall asleep, it’s likely they’re ADD.


  2. One other coffee/caffeine buying tip from those of us in the boonies: find a brand that works with your well water, and don’t fret overly if it’s not fair trade or organic. It needs to be drinkable.


  3. Yup. I’m with you on all this – and be aware of the potential benefits and problems. Try to get from a reliable source. Apply your brain to these decisions.


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