Lots of things are addictive in this life. Gambling. Sex. Booze. The Internet. But some are more addictive than others.
Marijuana, for example, falls very low on the dependence scale. Heroin, on the other hand, tops the list. Alcohol, methamphetamine, nicotine – all highly addictive. LSD, shrooms, and other hallucinogens – much less so.
But what about caffeine? Can you really get hooked on something so innocuous? And how does it compare to weed?
First, let’s note that addiction is an incredibly complicated beast. Contrary to most public understanding, it has much less to do with genetics or chemical “hooks” than it does with childhood trauma and adult misery.
Even so, addictions of one sort or another are very common. And they range in severity: A smack addiction stands an excellent chance of killing you, while a coffee problem almost certainly won’t.
Caffeine addiction can become problematic
Yet caffeine can become a problem, and for many people it does. Most recent research suggests coffee and caffeine can be very healthy, so much so that many nutritionists recommend at least a few cups each day. But for some folks, a little bit of a good thing becomes just a little bit too much.
Coffee dependence is listed in psychiatric literature (specifically, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as a “substance use disorder.” The definition isn’t always precise, but basically it means a pattern of substance use that causes significant problems in daily life – and that the user can’t stop without substantial effort.
Researchers estimate that caffeine use disorder affects about 30 percent of people who consume the chemical on a regular basis, whether through coffee, tea, soda, or other sources. That’s a very high number as far as addictions go.
Of course, a coffee habit isn’t remotely the same as a heroin habit. The consequences of caffeine abuse are almost always minimal. The consequences of a smack addiction could be deadly.
Affecting your sleeping pattern
Still, getting hooked on joe can have negative effects. It can mess with sleep, making it harder to function during the day. It can get in the way of daily routines, ruining events and plans by sending addicts in search of their needed fix while they ignore other priorities.
And yes, a caffeine problem can, on rare occasions, kill. Pound 10 espressos in an hour and your heart may give out. Probably not, but it is a risk.
By comparison, a cannabis addiction is decidedly mild. No more than 10 percent of pot smokers, legal or otherwise, get hooked, and while the consequences can be worse than they are with caffeine (lost productivity, chronic coughs, social impairment), they are never fatal.
Just as important, it’s relatively easy to quit weed. Giving up caffeine, on the other hand, can be a very unpleasant proposition, with intense irritability, anxiety, severe headaches, even nausea and vomiting. None of these are likely to happen to any great degree when you stop marijuana cold turkey.
In the end, it’s not really possible to draw a perfect comparison between marijuana and java. Any addiction can get out of hand. But all things being equal, you’ll probably have an easier time letting go of the green stuff than the black.
What do you think? Would you have a harder time quitting weed or caffeine? Post a comment below.
SEE ALSO: Why We’re Wrong About Addiction