As a child, I used to think of coffee as something adults drank to make them less tired and boring. I decided that I would never drink it because I didn’t want to be dependent on a stimulant to think clearly and get things done. I thought that surely there would be downsides to drinking caffeine, and that it would be silly to sacrifice my health just to feel more awake.
However, I had completely misunderstood coffee, caffeine, and their effect on the human brain. While most drugs, stimulant or otherwise, offer minimal benefits in comparison to their overwhelming side-effects, coffee is a bit of a convenient miracle. Caffeine, apart from helping you feel awake in the morning, has also been shown to improve memory and focus. Like most stimulants, it can generally improve your mood and even go so far as to help combat depression.
The unusual thing about caffeine is that while most mind-altering substances, even tame ones, can be tied to negative effects down the road coffee, however, has no known serious repercussions, so long as it is not consumed in excess. Large amounts, perhaps more than 4 or 5 cups per day, may cause stomach problems or jitters, but such experiences are not so much dangerous as they are mildly unpleasant, and can be easily remedied. While caffeine overdose is possible, the amount needed to do so is over 750 mgs, which is far too much for a person to realistically consume through simply drinking coffee. As a result, coffee is arguably the safest stimulant, and available to the average person with little hassle involved. In fact, there is more evidence to support potential health benefits as a result of coffee consumption than health risks.
While definitive evidence is difficult to obtain, studies show that coffee can potentially lower the risk of heart disease, defend against dementia, reduce a person’s risk of cancer, improve cases of patients with heart rhythms, lower the risk of stroke, and also reduce the risk of a person having type 2 diabetes or Parkinson’s disease. While such studies do not necessarily indicate that these health benefits occur as a direct result of caffeine intake, there is a correlation present, and considering most stimulants have a reputation for causing heart problems rather than helping to defend against them, coffee is a very effective method of improving mental performance with very little backlash.
While coffee may be incredibly convenient as far as stimulants are concerned, there are some downsides to regular consumption. In particular, a sudden drop in caffeine intake can cause uncomfortable sensations, such as headaches, nausea, and general lethargy. This sort of withdrawal is expected of a sudden halt of the intake of any stimulant. Luckily, in the case of caffeine, only small amounts are needed to effectively combat the withdrawal, making it easier to give up than most substances if needed. A gradual decrease in consumption should be more than effective to make sure a person can stop drinking coffee without feeling sick as a result.
Overall, coffee is an effective way to get your brain working more quickly without having it come back to bite you in the future. The way caffeine works, explained in simple terms, can be compared to removing tolls from a highway. While the brain usually has a natural sort of monitoring system charged with the task of evaluating your actions, causing pauses in your thinking process, caffeine keeps the involved receptors occupied, allowing the rest of your brain to move freely and quickly. In my humble opinion, the ability to think uninhibited is definitely worth the risk of a potential headache down the road, especially if I may be reducing my risk of heart disease in the process.