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Caffeine, is a drug from the Rubiaceae family of flowering plants. It's a drug without which 99% of its users would be completely and utterly unable to complete the simplest of tasks. Caffeine acts as a powerful central nervous system stimulant. Emphasis on the word "nervous". It is found naturally in coffee, many teas, and chocolate and is an ingredient in
cola drinks soda pop and many sport drinks. It is also an incredibly deadly poison which quickly kills you from liver (or the equivalent organ) failure if you happen to be an insect (which is why plants evolved to produce it, and why one species then evolved to be immune to its effects) or any number of animals, including cats and dogs; metabolism of caffeine wildly varies from species to species, even in ones which are very closely related. It is also the only drug that has social stigma attached to not consuming it in near-addict fashion.
The powers that be have deemed caffeine unworthy of the lavish attention they give to other drugs. The reason for this is unclear but it could have something to do with them having to throw about 98% of the population in prison if they did. Not that the U.S. hasn't tried something like that before. Of course, it could just be the fact that it doesn't cause people to go into homicidal rages, doesn't seem to harm work productivity, doesn't induce violent fits of gibbering paranoia, and, while not impossible, is exceedingly difficult for most people to overdose on. It's also possible that it stays legal partly because it's not a particularly fun drug, so religious/moralistic groups don't feel compelled to keep people from indulging in it. In September 2015, the US FDA has warned manufacturers against selling pure powdered caffeine directly to consumers, after at least two deaths were reported from consumption of 1 tablespoon of pure caffeine.
Association with enlightenment
While coffee has been consumed in its botanic origin, Ethiopia, for centuries and was introduced into most of the Arab world in the early centuries of Islam, Europe did not have caffeine until well into the modern era. Some scholars associate coffee with the Turkish sieges of Vienna, which would make 1688 a likely starting point of the European coffee craze. Regardless of the actual date of first introduction, coffee soon became associated with 18th century philosophical ideals and the coffee houses that sprang up all over Europe usually offered newspapers to patrons to entice them to spend a lazy morning there perusing the caffeine and reading up on and debating the day's events. Some philosophers even pointed out that coffee replaced a slightly alcoholic beer broth as the standard morning drink and thus replaced a slightly buzzed society with a slightly more awake one.
Because people are increasingly lazy, so lazy as to think even instant coffee is too much hassle, caffeine has become more popular as an "energy drink" or pill. Tablets such as ProPlus and drinks like Relentless and Red Bull contain concentrated caffeine and sugar. Combined, these make people go, more or less, totally mental for an hour before crashing.
A popular craze with these is to mix them with alcohol such as vodka or tequila, and some drinks manufacturers have latched onto this by producing alcoholic energy drinks. It is often claimed that this caffeine-alcohol combination makes getting drunk more exciting, or even dangerous (a reputation that other caffeinated alcoholic beverages such as Irish Coffee have somehow never earned). Due to these concerns, along with the popularity of these drinks with underage drinkers, pre-manufactured alcoholic energy drinks are now effectively banned in the USA. Forcing you to buy the caffeine and the alcohol component separately and mix them on your own. We know. Working to get drunk? Blech!
Just drink it!
In a large study (reported in 2012 in the New England Journal of Medicine) of 402,260 participants, unlikely to be superseded by another coffee study anytime soon, it was found that people who drank more than 2 cups of coffee/day were 10-16% less likely to have died than nondrinkers during a 13.6 year period. Coffee has a protective effect against several ailments, including liver disease and liver cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, dementia, depression, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases. Once upon a time, naturopaths thought that coffee contained poisons and coffee-drinking was an evil habit — oops!
- Slugging It Out with Caffeine by Janet Raloff (3:44pm, June 26, 2002) Science News.
- FDA issues new warnings to distributors of powdered caffeine, calling products 'dangerous' by Brady Dennis September 1 at 2:19 PM Washington Post.
- Or perhaps they just don't like the taste of coffee — which makes you wonder how they can tolerate the flavor of some of those energy drinks.
- Coffee gives jolt to life span
- Coffee reveals itself as an unlikely elixir: From liver disease to diabetes, coffee compounds protect against an array of health conditions by Nathan Seppa (12:02pm, September 18, 2015) Science News.
- Universal Naturopathic Encyclopedia, Directory and Buyers' Guide: Year Book of Drugless Therapy for 1918-19 by Benedict Lust (editor and publisher) page 25.