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Coffee and Cigarettes: Comfort Drugs Not So Comforting After All

August 10, 2010

I’m sure that I don’t need to lecture you about limiting your coffee and cigarette intake, but I came across some interesting info about these habits today that I had never heard before.

1. Smoking does not relieve stress – at least not in the long-term. A recent study suggests that quitting reduces stress levels by about 20%.

2. Coffee may not increase alertness. Evidence suggests that caffeine does not improve ability to focus.

It seems that what both of these drugs have in common is the soothing effect on withdrawal symptoms for those who are addicted. Smokers think they are relaxed by cigarettes because smoking alleviates the discomfort between fixes. Likewise, coffee drinkers do feel tired when they don’t get their cup – because their body goes through withdrawal including drowsiness and an inability to concentrate.

Everyone knows how easy it is to become addicted to smoking – and how difficult it is to stop. It turns out that caffeine addiction is pretty quick as well; it can happen in a week with just a cup of coffee a day.

Another complication is that caffeine dosage seems to vary wildly by coffee type and even by pot. The same kind of Starbucks coffee was found to contain between 259mg and 564mg depending on the day it was made.

So beyond the health risks presented by nicotine and caffeine, they both create a dependency that has to be fed to avoid withdrawal effects which make the user feel icky enough to increase consumption. While users may think they are being comforted by their cup or smoke, it is really just the relief of staving off withdrawal symptoms for a little while. Of course there is no safe dose of nicotine, but I think this also shows that caffeine should also be limited – both in quantity and in frequency – to avoid developing a dependence.

If you are already chugging or puffing away, take steps to cut back. There’s lots of advice out there from others that have dropped coffee and cigs successfully.

Do you smoke to relax or reach for a cup of coffee to wake up in the morning? What tips do you have to help others quit for good?

photo: vince42

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 10, 2010 6:02 pm

    Also, for the record, I smoked for 10 years and loved every minute of it. I know how hard it is to stop but there’s just no choice if you want to protect your health. If they ever make a healthy cigarette (ok, any cigarette that isn’t lethal), I will be the first to light up.

    Until then, please do what you can to quit or minimize your habit.

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