Single sip of latte and you're hooked

By Sarah Hurring

MARIJUANA. P. Heroin. Ecstasy. Life-destroying drugs that control your body and your brain.

They are illegal, and for good reason.

But there is another drug, hidden in the thick brown liquid consumed by people all over the world that we call coffee. Caffeine is a drug that has just as much ability to control your life as the frowned-upon drugs of today.

Caffeine comes from the leaves and seeds of 63 plants, some being cola nuts, cocoa beans, guarana berries and, of course, coffee beans. Although it has been declared a safe food product by the US Food and Drug Administration, it makes you wonder how safe it really is when it is used as a pesticide with the ability to paralyse and kill insects.

How many of us have drunk a soft drink, V, Red Bull, coffee or tea, or eaten chocolate? We have all felt the positive effects of caffeine on our moods, our energy. It quickens the connections between body and brain and, for 30 minutes to an hour, we feel like we could conquer the world.

But what our conscious brain doesn't pick up on is that our body can begin to rely on this addictive drug.

When caffeine enters the bloodstream, it quickens our heart and nervous reactions and generally makes us feel better.

It also thickens our blood, irritates the stomach lining, makes us produce more stomach acid, slows down the digestive system, makes it hard to sleep and overworks the organs.

Yet people don't know about these hidden side effects. So they start the day with a coffee.

They have another at morning tea.

They wash down their lunch with a Red Bull. On the way home, they nip into the dairy to grab a chocolate bar.

And for their final drink of the day, they have a "relaxing" coffee while watching Desperate Housewives. They are then surprised when their heart rate increases and they can't sleep.

Many people feel they can't function properly without coffee and some people complain of headaches until they have their daily dose.

And those are only the effects on yourself and your life. Coffee in society has changed our social interactions so much that the most common place to meet friends is the local Starbucks or other coffee shop.

Since 1683, when the first coffee shop was opened in Venice, coffeehouses have been popping up on street corners and in malls at an alarming rate.

And because of this people's lives have changed to meet the needs of their coffee addiction.

Coffee-drinkers who get a cup-to-go from a local coffee shop before work will wait in line nearly 45 hours each year, and some will spend thousands of dollars a year on coffee.

Most people our age are just beginning to discover coffee and its feel-good effects, which is why I am warning you about it.

Before you let your body get hooked on caffeine, consider what it could do to your body, your lifestyle and your wallet.

Yes, anything in moderation is fine, but once you start drinking that delicious hot drink that rule disappears from your mind.

You want another and another.

Then you're hooked, and it's just like being addicted to other drugs that can also control your body and your brain. Like marijuana, P, heroin, ecstasy. Maybe we should add caffeine to this list?

Sarah Hurring, Year 11, St Cuthbert's College

- NZ Herald

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