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What Makes Coffee so Addictive?

What Makes Coffee so Addictive?

Do you ever find yourself craving another coffee after having one in the morning? You’re not alone and you’ll find out why by the end of this article!


As we all know, coffee contains the substance called caffeine. Caffeine is a psychoactive substance; it changes the chemicals in your brain. More specifically, as a stimulant, it increases the level of activity in your nervous system.


As you consume coffee, the caffeine is quickly taken up and absorbed into your blood stream and makes its’ way to your brain. Once it gets there, it stops adenosine from being activated and increases the release of dopamine.


In simpler terms, caffeine does the following:

  • It stops you from getting tired and sleepy by blocking adenosine, giving you that sensation of being alert and awake.
  • Encourages feelings of pleasure and reward by promoting the release of dopamine. This is why you feel a temporary boost in mood and feeling of well-being.


If you’re drinking coffee daily, your body becomes reliant on these chemical changes to function. Your body also becomes more resilient to these changes and you may start getting stronger coffees and/or consume coffee more than once a day. As you can imagine, caffeine can become quite addictive due to those chemical reactions.


Surprisingly, caffeine sits in the same category as other stimulant drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall and Cocaine. Common side effects of too much coffee include:

  • Jitteriness
  • Sleep problems
  • Headaches
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Trigger of heart arrhythmias


Despite the varying effects on the body, there have been multiple scientific articles that have found moderate coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of death from heart and neurological diseases1.


Just like any substance available, not everyone becomes addicted to coffee, and some people may be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others. Additionally, caffeine addiction is typically mild and is not as severe as addiction to drugs like nicotine or opioids.


If you’re someone who finds themselves really reliant on coffee to get through the day, you might benefit from taking a step back from coffee and let your body become self-sufficient again. It’s completely normal to experience the following symptoms with caffeine withdrawal:

  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea
  • Muscle pain
  • Irritation2


These symptoms can last two to nine days, depending on how reliant you are on coffee. Switching to decaf may help you slowly get off it, if you can’t handle cold turkey.3


If you’re someone who also treasures their sleep you should be wary that caffeine peaks in your blood about one hour after consumption and remains at this level for a number of hours. It only becomes halved after about six hours and then ten hours for it to be completely removed from the blood stream3.


As with anything else, trial and error is the best way to decide how much is too much coffee and when you should having your last coffee. Personally, I have one coffee day and won’t have a coffee after 1:00PM to make sure it doesn’t affect my sleep.




  1. MD, M.M. (2016). Can your coffee habit help you live longer? [online] Harvard Health. Available at: [Accessed 21 Apr. 2023].
  1. Medline Plus. Medicines in My Home: Caffeine and Your Body. ( [Accessed 21/04/23].
  1. NIH: National Institute on Drug Abuse. Is caffeine really addictive? ( [Accessed 21/04/23]. 
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