The drinking of caffeine began as early as 2700 B.C. Records indicate that the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung often brewed hot tea. Around A.D. 575, coffee made its appearance in Africa where Arabs drank it on a regular basis.

The Aztec ruler, Montezuma, later introduced coffee to Mexico in 1519. Tea was the caffeine beverage of choice in America until the eighteenth century. Shortly after the Boston Tea Party in 1773, Americans began their love affair with coffee.

It's estimated that 90% of Americans consume caffeine in various forms, including coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate, candy and dairy products (such as coffee-flavored yogurt and ice cream). Many people rely on caffeine to provide them with a temporary "boost of energy." It is also an ingredient in many over-the-counter drugs such as NoDoz, Midol, Anacin and Excedrin.

Caffeine is the most popular controlled substance in America.

Caffeine stimulates the brain in the same way as amphetamines, cocaine and heroin do by manipulating dopamine levels. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that affects the brain processes that control a person's ability to experience pleasure as well as pain.

Like any drug, when you consume caffeine, your body craves more. If you feel as though you have to have coffee or chocolate every day, then more than likely you're addicted.

The Body's Response
Unlike amphetamines such as cocaine and heroin, caffeine mildly stimulates the central nervous system. One short-term effect is that it causes brain cell activity to speed up. As a result, individuals receive a burst of energy and feel rejuvenated. This is why so many people are drawn to caffeine.

Unfortunately, this only lasts a short time before drowsiness sets in.

This rise and fall of energy levels interrupts sleep patterns. For instance, it takes six hours for half of the amount of caffeine ingested to leave your body. If you were to consume an average-size cup of coffee around 3:00 p.m. (containing about 200 mg. of caffeine), by 9:00 p.m. about half (or 100 mg.) of the caffeine would still be in your system.

The remaining amount of caffeine prohibits you from experiencing a deep, sound sleep. To remedy their fatigue, many people grab a cup of coffee to get them going. Thus, a dangerous cycle has begun.

In addition to being irritable, this insomnia (inability to sleep properly) can make you anxious and depressed. It also appears that a continual lack of sleep can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to catching colds.

Other long-term effects include elevated blood pressure, frequent urination and heartburn. Excessive users often suffer from heart palpitations, nervousness (also known as the "jitters"), tremors, depression and nausea.

Research reveals that those who have become addicted often experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, restlessness and irritability. To avoid these symptoms, steer clear of trying to quit "cold-turkey" and instead gradually decrease the amount of caffeine you consume over a period of days or weeks.

Because it is difficult for most people to refrain from ingesting caffeine, the American Medical Association has stated that it can be consumed in moderate amounts. However, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. As such, use wisdom in regard to the things you consume.

Be sure not to overindulge in anything that can be harmful to your health. Depend on God and His Word to give you the strength and rest you need for the successful completion of your daily activities.

First published in the January 2004 issue of
Changing Your World Magazine
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